Commercial trucks and trailers tend to break down at the most inopportune times and at the worst locations. Rarely does your brake pot let go as you are entering the driveway of a truck repair facility. Unfortunately, no amount of preventative maintenance will avoid the eventual roadside breakdown – having a plan in place can reduce the stress and expense of this type of situation.
Having a relationship, or at least starting a relationship on a positive note, with a commercial repair company that can also provide emergency roadside repair services when you need, can save you a bundle, keep your drivers happier and minimize your downtime. Here are some things to consider.
1. Finding a Mobile Truck and Trailer Repair Company
There are a number of ways to locate a mobile truck repair company but starting with a discussion with your current repair facility to see if they provide such a service is a great first step. Why not leverage your existing relationship and deal with the people you already know, and, presumably, trust? Growing your spend with core providers can often lead to lower overall charge-out rates, and, more importantly when it comes to emergency services, quicker response time because you are already an important customer, not just a one-off call.
Of course, there are always the traditional ways for finding businesses - the Yellow Pages. Really, does anyone use the Yellow Pages anymore? Okay, maybe the online Yellow Pages. Online sources, of course, are one of the most common ways you can locate mobile truck repair businesses where you need them. You might consider something like Canada411 or your basic Google search to find what you need.
There are more and more dedicated options popping up on the web that can really streamline your search. One such site is Truckdown.com (also available as an app). The advantage to using a service like this is that they have already vetted companies to narrow down the types of services they can offer, the hours they offer it, and the regions they serve. When your unit is down on the side of the road, this can really speed up the process and eliminate unnecessary calls to companies that can't or don't offer the emergency services you need...right now.
2. What Is the Cost for Mobile Truck and Trailer Repair?
Like every service, this can vary widely depending on the provider and the geographic location where you need it. Finding an available mobile service truck in Northern Alberta during an oil boom, if you can, will likely cost significant money...maybe in excess of $200/hr. Of course, even if you can limp into a shop, the hourly shop rates are going to be high compared to other regions, and you may not get a mechanic to look at your unit for days.
Typically, companies charge out service trucks at a premium of 20-30% above shop hourly rates and may add mileage charges on top.
3. Towing Versus Mobile Truck and Trailer Repair
More and more, OEM dealers are really not interested in providing mobile truck and trailer repair services. Their common response when requesting a service truck is, "Have it towed in". There are many reasons for this, but often these businesses don't have mechanics that are interested in working outside in poor weather, or along the side of the highway. Of course, at the shop the mechanic has access to all of his shop tooling and diagnostic equipment, as well as a parts department, not to mention a dry and warm environment. That may be nice for the mechanic, but it isn’t always in the best interest of the customer who would save time and money by dealing with it where it happened.
Most regions have independent shops or straight mobile mechanics who offer the emergency services you are looking for. If your choices are towing or getting a mobile service truck and the repair is likely to be fairly straight forward (pulling a transmission at the side of the road is not highly recommended), in most cases you will be much further ahead in getting the service truck, even at the premium hourly rate. Here are some of the things where a service truck can save you:
- Save the delay in waiting for an available tow truck;
- Save the cost of towing;
- Avoid the probable delays in actually having a mechanic look at your unit once it's towed into a shop - just because you get it there, doesn't likely put you at the front of the queue;
- Securing a mobile service truck guarantees you front of the line service with that mechanic - after all, he has come to you and there is no lineup;
- Well-equipped mobile service trucks generally have a lot of the tooling and diagnostic equipment that you would find n a modern shop;
- Driver wage costs are reduced and his/her satisfaction goes way up by getting back on the road sooner;
- You are more likely to maintain your customer satisfaction by staying closer to committed schedules.
A mobile service company that also has a shop facility is your best choice. This type of company may be able to get you going well enough at the side of the road to then drive the unit to their shop to complete the repairs. This is really the best of both worlds for more extensive repairs that can’t be completed at road side by giving you all of the advantages listed above, while having some of the job completed at the shop – and, presumably, at a lower hourly rate.
4. Steps You Can Take to Minimize Mobile Service Truck Costs
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Providing good information to the repair company is the easiest way to save costs when using a mobile service truck. Here is what they need:
- Good directions on how to find your unit
- Good information on what your unit looks like (finding your truck amongst 20 at the scales will delay the service truck's arrival if the mechanic doesn't know exactly what unit he is looking for);
- Good contact information both for the Company and the driver and who will be able to approve repairs if further approvals are needed;
- A safe place for the mechanic to be able to work – if you aren’t able to get the unit in a safe spot – opt for a tow truck;
- A very clear description of what the problem is - a little time spent by your driver in helping to diagnose the problem means the mechanic is more likely to bring the right parts and tools the first time out;
- A means of payment that will not delay the company in sending the service truck out - if you don't have a previous relationship, most companies will require a credit card to pre-authorize for the initial estimated cost of repairs.
5. Expectation of Mobile Truck & Trailer Repair Providers
Keep in mind, the side of the road is not what you would call a “controlled environment”. As a result, don’t expect things to go as quickly as they otherwise would in a shop setting. Repairs will generally take longer as the mechanic has to deal with such things as:
- Passing traffic;
- Poor lighting;
- Extra time going back and forth to the service truck for tooling, parts, etc. (they can’t roll their tool chest up beside the job as they might in a shop);
- No extra hand from a 2nd mechanic if they need it.
As well, depending on how well the problem was described (and how many questions the service manager might have thought to ask about the issue) before sending the service truck, the mechanic may have to leave for additional parts, or have a parts truck bring them out. All of this will add to the cost you might expect to pay if the truck were in the shop.
While some drivers are outstanding mechanics in their own right, many drivers today are not necessarily mechanically inclined, so it is not uncommon for mobile mechanics to get to a disabled unit thinking one thing from what they were told, only to find that the problem is something very different. This will be the single biggest thing to increase repair costs.
All of that said, it is very often a significant cost and time saver to use a reputable mobile truck and trailer repair company when you have a roadside break down. Keeping the things in mind above will help to make things go smoothly and minimize the unexpected.