It’s 2 o’clock in the morning. It’s dark and something has happened to your tractor-trailer, leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles from headquarters. Meanwhile, the cargo is waiting in the trailer behind you to be delivered away from that unknown location. This freight may even be perishable and undeliverable if it does not reach its destination quickly. Who are you gonna call?
It may not be a matter of appeal. Calling emergency breakdown services sometimes means logging into an app you already use in your life as a trucker, or jumping to a familiar website that will direct you to much-needed assistance. These services will have roadside assistance for you within the hour, if possible, however you request it. They’re all for truckers and fleet managers who desperately need them, and they’re all designed to get you back on the road as quickly as possible. Availability = good. Downtime = very bad.
And technicians are also in short supply, so fleets are extending service intervals on their equipment, making breakdowns even more likely. As a result, equipment is at risk of failure, so the many services aimed at getting drivers and fleets out of these sticky situations have become more important than ever.
Fewer new trucks and trailers, more costs and breakdowns
In July, the last month of data available, orders for Class 8 tractors were down, according to industry researchers FTR Transportation Intelligence and ACT, with FTR reporting July orders (10,600 units) at their lowest level since November. 2021, i.e. almost 10 months. Both research firms said OEMs have run out of build slots for 2022 and are not yet entering orders for 2023, meaning new equipment will be slow to hit the industry for some time.
According to FleetNet America’s latest vertical benchmarking report for the first quarter of 2022, which FleetNet compiles with the Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations, the pressure on the maintenance industry is high and the need for roadside assistance and unscheduled repairs is higher than perhaps ever in this climate. And the costs for repairs and roadside assistance are also rising.
Inflation, rising labor costs, high fuel prices and supply chain challenges are all driving up maintenance costs, according to the report.
“Clearly, there are inflationary pressures on the business,” said Tim Moore, vice president of TMcare operations at FleetNet America, in the report’s executive summary, which also highlights the need for fleets to redouble their efforts. preventive maintenance efforts (with tires, lighting and brakes in particular) to reduce the need for emergency breakdown services and unscheduled repairs.
The FleetNet report contains revealing data on rising costs. The average cost per occurrence, excluding towing, for the first quarter of 2022 increased by 16.6% compared to the first quarter of last year, according to the report. Electrical and dragging equipment grew quarterly at similar rates until this quarter, when dragging increased 6% from Q4 2021. And the average cost per occurrence, including towing, increased by 19 .1% for the first quarter compared to the first quarter of 2021, according to the report.
See also: ATRI: Trucking suffers “costliest year ever”
Electricity alone, or roadside assistance and repairs for trucks alone, rose 1.9% from the fourth quarter of last year. Overall, the “event cost” for trailers, excluding towing, increased by 19.7% in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2021. The average event cost for units engines, excluding towing, increased by 12.9% in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2021.
Many fleets are retaining their equipment longer than in the past, which has a direct impact on maintenance costs and, therefore, the need for breakdown services, Moore said in the report.
“The older it gets, the more of a problem maintenance becomes,” he said,
adding that the cost of diesel and labor shortages are increasing roadside repair expenses. “For service providers, fuel costs also hit them.”
Emergency road services: how they get there
In this atmosphere where breakdowns are more likely, professional drivers fortunately have more options than ever to reach roadside emergency services. Some of these services are app-based, many are both app and web-based, and all are just a cell phone call away. Truck driving is a particularly difficult job – and all companies that Fleet owner contacted emphasized that their number 1 job was, as painlessly as possible, to get truckers out of stressful situations.
“Speed and urgency. That’s at the top of our call,” said Scott Higgs, assistant vice president of vehicle operations at Dickinson Fleet Services’ Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet Services, which is a “brick-and-mortar operation.” mortar” hailed by the app, website, or phone over 1,000 service trucks that operate in the lower 48 states and 22 service locations with five to 30 service technicians in each location.
Dickinson’s mobile roadside assistance vehicles are available 24/7/365, according to Higgs. Dickinson services over 8,000 fleets nationwide and performs over 500,000 repairs annually. The company does what it calls “dedicated site,” where about 300 of its units go to and stay at fleet terminals to perform scheduled service. Their motto is “Cox Mobility, when speed and urgency matter”, he said.
Meanwhile, ServiCase is more like a middleman – a search tool between service providers and fleets and drivers. It’s like Uber for emergency towing services, said Jeffrey Godwin, president of FTI Groups and vice president of software solutions for FleetNet America, owner of ServiCase. “Tools like this just help us connect better with the service provider community. Our role is really to support service providers,” Godwin said. Fleet owner.
See also: The advantages of on-site maintenance
ServiCase allows fleets to register for free, and it’s a web-based outage management system that offers carriers and small fleets the ability to electronically source vendors, submit curbside recovery jobs route and track events, according to Godwin and the ServiCase website. It provides access to thousands of registered towing, mechanical and roadside assistance service providers and digitally sends the service request when a provider is connected. ServiCase not only provides 24-hour towing and recovery, but also commercial tire repair, maintenance and repair and replacement.
ServiCase is also a free outage management system that allows fleet managers to track ETAs to a service location through job completion, including event status, photos, billing, ratings and private ratings. Service providers upload their locations, rates and insurers, and the service does the rest, Godwin said. ServiCase can even be integrated into mobile apps so carriers can log in and manage their own outage reports, he said.
“It’s something the market has been asking for for some time. The biggest thing these clients need is more real-time information. They don’t want to know the price of an event two weeks later. Everyone is looking for ‘Uber-ization,’ he said, and ServiCase provides such a service to fleets and professional drivers.
Tires, unsurprisingly, are the most common cause of breakdowns Dickinson and ServiCase respond to, both Higgs and Godwin noted.