National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

As Shortages Continue, Fleets Turn to Maintenance Teams

First it was a shortage of drivers, then a shortage of technicians…now, we face a shortage of trucks themselves.

It seems as though the challenges never end for the trucking industry. Our normal challenges have only been exacerbated by the pandemic which has, besides the human toll, wreaked havoc throughout the supply chain. And this comes at a time when business for our industry is booming.

To be fair, we are not the only industry impacted; however, most industries and individual organizations rely on our ability to deliver goods and raw materials to their end user, whether that be a B2C consumer, a B2B customer, or a manufacturer’s facility. When truck deliveries slow down, so do businesses, large and small.

The very technology that we celebrate (rightfully so) for making trucks safer and smarter has also made us more vulnerable to component shortages. There are estimates that the chip shortage, which is the root cause of so much of the problem, may last until 2023. We all know that OEMs have, for the most part, tightened up taking orders for 2022 while some are only opening slots for 2023!

When new trucks aren’t available, maintenance plays a major role.

My recent IdeaXchange blog encourages you to do a TCO calculation in preparation for when the order boards open up. That holds true regardless of the current situation; you should always be planning ahead. However, right now, we are where we are and that means that maintenance takes on a larger role than ever. It has always been essential that we keep our trucks road-ready all the time but until things loosen up, that may mean additional attention is needed.

But that leads to another issue, since some of the very component shortage that are impacting the manufacturing of new trucks are also affecting ongoing maintenance. At this year’s TMC’s Annual Meeting, which was virtual, discussed the parts shortages affecting maintenance. During a panel discussion, some attendees offered ideas for creative maintenance, including cannibalizing older trucks for parts or lengthening the intervals for filter changes.

One participant made it clear that forethought matters. We all know that the “just-in-time” inventory planning that seemed to be the answer to cost controls and cash flow turned out to be a problem during a pandemic. Now that we know that, it will be essential, going forward, for maintenance managers to assess what parts failures result in downtime and make sure to buy those components before they are needed.

Fleets are going to be faced with shortages, among other issues, for the near future. But we all need to face the reality that a “black swan” event like the pandemic will likely rise its head again. Preparing well ahead of time is the path to business continuity.

Read my IdeaXchange blog for planning ahead for when these shortages abate.

 

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