A regular maintenance routine keeps equipment working harder and lasting longer.
By Amber Reed
Every utility equipment owner knows preventive maintenance is key to keeping a fleet of aerial devices, digger derricks and cable placers running at peak efficiency. This is especially true in today's economy because the cost of buying new equipment compared to the cost of investing in preventive maintenance programs significantly impacts a company's bottom line.
"Implementing a preventive maintenance program for a company's utility fleet, based on the manufacturer's recommended guidelines, keeps equipment costs low and uptime high," said Bill Kugler, regional service sales manager at Terex Equipment Services in Birmingham, Ala.
Fleet Maintenance Programs
Preventive maintenance is a commitment that owners and operators of any utility truck need to make every day. According to Kugler, utility equipment manufacturers such as Terex provide equipment owners with detailed guidelines on the proper care and maintenance of their trucks.
"A maintenance program should be developed based on the manufacturer's schedule, then customized to fit a customer's working schedule," said Richard Gunderman, director of operations for Terex Utilities. Terex recommends maintenance tasks be completed at regular intervals in the truck's life cycle.
Daily maintenance tasks outlined by Terex include a visual inspection of all the truck's main systems, as well as an operational test of all the truck's main functions. Gunderman recommends that the best people to complete the daily maintenance tasks are the truck's operating crew because they know the most about the truck's particular sounds and performance.
"If any components or functions of the truck are not working properly, then those items need to be brought to the attention of a trained service technician or mechanic and immediately be repaired or replaced to ensure the safety and productivity of the truck and its crew," Gunderman said. "Maintenance intervals are excellent opportunities for the truck's operating crew and the company's service technician or mechanic to have an open discussion about how the truck is being used, the conditions it's operating in and how it's performing."
"If the truck is being operated in adverse conditions, such as in extreme hot or cold temperatures, a utility company's service team needs to know that because there are specific maintenance tasks that should to be done to keep the truck performing in these conditions over time," Kugler said.
A utility company's maintenance program also should include a complete check of the truck's components and functions. Because American National Standards Institute (ANSI) prescribes the dielectric integrity of a utility truck's boom must be tested every year, this is a good time to perform two maintenance tasks at once, reducing downtime and minimizing costs.
"During the annual inspection, everyone involved in the truck's operation and care needs to look at the truck's maintenance records to spot any patterns," Gunderman said.
Outsourcing Fleet Maintenance
If a utility truck has an issue that can't be fixed by the company's in-house service crew, additional trained technicians or mechanics need to be involved. Kugler and Gunderman encourage customers to have a strong relationship with their equipment distributor as another resource to help them maintain their utility fleet.
"Depending on the skill level and availability of a utility company's service staff, outsourcing fleet maintenance tasks may be more cost-effective, as well as convenient, to meet their needs," said Griffin Petranka, Terex Utilities' account manager. "Even with full-time mechanics on staff, capacity may be an issue for our customers' service teams. Customers look to their equipment suppliers to help them keep their fleets safe, reliable and profitable."
Petranka, for example, works closely with Gunderman and Kugler to develop service programs for Terex Utilities' customers that address all the points in a maintenance program, document all maintenance activity, and anticipate future needs including parts orders, warranty work, compliance with industry standards and required manufacturer service updates, as well as emergency service needs and the impact of adding new trucks to the fleet.
"Every 90 days, I sit down with our customers and discuss their needs," Petranka said. "We start by identifying what equipment they have and review the maintenance guidelines for their Terex trucks. Then, we talk about what tasks their in-house crews can handle and which tasks could be handled by a Terex technician. We also look at what the company has spent on costs associated with outsourced service in the last year, including labor and travel, and then we work to build a service program that takes advantage of our expertise and yet is customized to meet their company's budget and unique needs. In the end, we work with each customer to develop a service program that is in line with what is most important to them. This gives them peace of mind knowing their utility equipment is safe, reliable and productive," Petranka said.
One customer who understands the advantages of Terex service programs is Brian Chandler, electric superintendent for the City of Troy, Ala. The City of Troy utilities fleet is made up of several models of Terex bucket and digger derrick trucks that were purchased from the Terex Equipment Services location in Birmingham, Ala.
"We have entered into a regular scheduled maintenance agreement with Terex that has been very beneficial to the City of Troy, not only from a preventive maintenance standpoint but also in cost savings," Chandler said.
Utility companies, such as the City of Troy, can chose to outsource their fleet maintenance for many reasons-to take advantage of equipment expertise, specialized mechanic skills, parts ordering, warranty repairs and documentation of work done. Chandler considered all of these factors as he worked to develop the city's service programs.
"Our service programs enable us to plan our fleet's maintenance needs for the entire year, giving us the opportunity to better plan for downtime and to allocate costs against our equipment budget," Chandler said.
According to Chandler, the service program often detects issues with its trucks when they are minor problems, reducing the city's need to call a specialized service technician for repair work outside the regularly scheduled maintenance checks.
"Taking part in our manufacturer's service programs has meant fewer return service trips, and multiple repairs are not common unless additional parts must be ordered," Chandler said.
To maximize a utility truck's life, invest in a preventive maintenance program. Maintaining a regular maintenance schedule, whether through in-house resources or by outsourcing to a trusted partner, will keep any utility company's equipment fleet up and running longer.
About the author: Amber Reed is a public relations consultant for Signature Style LLC. Reed specializes in working with clients in the utilities and construction industries, including Terex Utilities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.