Utility equipment owners know that preventive maintenance is key to keeping a fleet of aerial lifts, boom trucks, digger derricks, and other equipment running at peak efficiency. This is especially true in today’s economy, when investing in preventive maintenance programs are more important than ever.
“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, says 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 utility trucks need to make every day. A maintenance program should be based on the manufacturer’s detailed schedule, then customized to fit a customer’s working schedule. Most equipment manufacturers recommend maintenance tasks be completed at regular intervals throughout a piece of equipment’s lifetime.
Daily maintenance tasks outlined by Terex include visual inspection of all main systems, as well as operational tests of all main functions. Richard Gunderman, director of operations, Terex Utilities, says that the best people to complete daily maintenance for any piece of equipment are the operating crew because they know the most about its particular sounds and performance.
“If any components or functions of the truck [or other equipment] are not working properly, then these items need to be brought to the attention of a trained service technician or mechanic and be immediately repaired or replaced to ensure the safety and productivity of the truck and its crew,” says Gunderman.
Kugler concurs, “It is easier to deal with things little by little rather than have something fail and face the consequences.”
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,” says Kugler. That’s because adverse operating conditions may require special maintenance to keep the truck performing in those conditions over time. For example, trucks operating in extreme heat or cold may need different engine oils and machinery lubricants.
A utility company’s maintenance program should also include an annual complete “once-over” check of the equipment’s components and functions. Because ANSI prescribes that the electrical insulation of a utility truck’s boom must be tested every year, doing the complete once-over check at the same time as the boom test is a good way to reduce downtime and minimize costs by taking care of two important maintenance tasks at once.
“During the annual inspection, everyone involved in the equipment’s operation and care needs to look at the maintenance records to spot any patterns,” adds Gunderman.
If a utility truck has an issue that cannot be fixed by an in-house service crew, additional trained technicians or mechanics need to be involved. Both Kugler and Gunderman encourage customers to have a strong relationship with their equipment distributor and the equipment manufacturer, as additional resources to help maintain their utility fleets.
Depending on the skill level and availability of a utility company’s service staff, outsourcing fleet maintenance tasks may be a more cost-effective and convenient way to handle preventive maintenance. It’s also a good way to supplement service if your needs exceed your maintenance capacity. To help a customer get the most from its fleet, Terex Utilities can develop service programs that address all the required maintenance points, document all maintenance activity, and anticipate future needs—including parts orders, warranty work, compliance with industry standards, required manufacturer service updates, 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,” says Griffin Petranka, Terex Utilities account manager. “We start by identifying what equipment they have and review the Terex maintenance guidelines for those trucks. Then we talk about what tasks their in-house crews can handle, and which tasks could be handled by a Terex technician.”
During the quarterly meeting, Petranka and the customer also look at what the customer has spent on outsourced service in the last year, including labor and travel. Then, together, they build a service program that takes advantage of Terex’s expertise but is customized to meet the customer’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,” says Petranka.
One such customer is Brian Chandler, electrical superintendent for the city of Troy, Ala. Troy’s utility fleet includes several models of Terex bucket and digger derrick trucks. “We have entered into a regular scheduled maintenance agreement with Terex that has been very beneficial to the city of Troy,” says Chandler, “not only from a preventive maintenance standpoint, but also in cost savings.”
Utilities may choose to outsource fleet maintenance for many reasons, including the provider’s expertise with particular equipment, its specially trained mechanics, or its expertise in parts ordering, warranty repairs, and work documentation.
Chandler considered all of these factors as he developed the city’s service programs. “Our Terex service programs enable us to plan out 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,” explains Chandler.
The program often catches service issues when they are minor problems, reducing the city’s need to call for repair work outside of the regularly scheduled maintenance checks. According to Chandler, the manufacturer’s field service is outstanding, response times are excellent, and return trips or multiple repairs are rare unless additional parts must be ordered.
Terex’s Petranka advises, “To maximize the life of a utility truck, 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 for a long time.”