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Opinion: Rust never sleeps, but what’s your biggest truck maintenance headache?

Posted: May 28, 2019 by Rolf Lockwood

What’s your biggest maintenance headache? I actually do want to know because, believe it or not, planning for next spring’s Canadian Fleet Maintenance Summit on April 15 is already underway. It’s at a preliminary stage, for sure, but we’re already at it. We haven’t yet held a meeting of the dozen or so members of the advisory council that helps us devise the program, but individually we’re creating short lists of subjects to cover.

A few weeks back I had occasion to spend a little time with Jim Pinder, corporate fleet director at the Erb Group of Companies in New Hamburg, Ont., and I asked him about his “biggest headache”. He’s been around the maintenance world for years and years, and there can’t be many folks who understand the truck and trailer shop and its issues as well as he does. Way back in 1998 he received the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year Award sponsored by Volvo Trucks. I’m happy to say he’s a key advisor on the CFMS team.

And what’s his biggest maintenance pain? Corrosion, he said with no hesitation at all, somewhat to my surprise.

Corrosion where, I asked? Everywhere, he said. Wiring, body, brakes, you name it.

There’s a small irony here because, as we planned the 2018 Summit, he urged us to put corrosion on the program. He was outvoted at the time, the general feeling being that it might be a little boring, might give rise to yet another PowerPoint presentation that nobody really wants to sit through. Instead, we decided, as we had for the new version of CFMS in 2016, we’d like to study issues like technician recruitment and retention or look ahead and discuss coming technologies.

We didn’t, and still don’t, want a series of PowerPoint presentations that put people to sleep. We’re looking instead for animated discussions by three- or four-person panels or keynote speakers. That formula has worked well in the first two iterations of the summit and I see no reason to change the formula.

That said, I’m re-thinking that corrosion idea and ways to make it interesting, maybe even entertaining. The thing is, if Jim Pinder answered my question as firmly and quickly as he did, then the subject must be a worthy one. Our conversation wasn’t long, and I wasn’t in a position to be taking notes, so it’s one we’ll have to continue soon.

In the meantime I’ve been cruising around the web looking for information on rust, its sources, and possible preventive actions. Oddly, there’s not really that much out there, though the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) has it covered pretty effectively. Does the scarcity of info imply that we’re resigned to watching metal disappear and wheel fasteners fail to fasten?

Among the interesting facts I found is that corrosion costs the U.S. trucking industry some US$4 billion a year (no idea about Canada) in damaged truck and trailer parts, and it’s getting worse, not better. That’s largely because newer – and cheaper — de-icing agents used by road-maintenance departments are particularly brutal on metal. Salt in various forms is still broadly used, of course, and it’s just as deadly as ever.

I also discovered that Pepsi has an aggressive anti-corrosion program in its sizeable fleet in both the U.S. and Canada but still succumbs to rust despite those efforts. I was a little shocked to learn that, of all work orders in Pepsi shops, 25% are related to rust. That’s enormous.

So what do you think? Does corrosion soak up a substantial part of your budget too? If not rust, what else would you like to see on our CFMS agenda?

 

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