Advice on fleet maintenance, mechanic retention and parts issues

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The old adage “preventative maintenance is the only maintenance” has never been truer. Maintenance Interchange founder Kevin Whitworth says there is at least a 10 times greater difference factor when describing the cost between pre-maintenance and post-maintenance.

“What could have cost you $ 1,000 to fix in your store has become a $ 10,000 or $ 15,000 breakdown,” Whitworth said, noting that an outage means passengers cannot participate in the activities that do. part of the trip, from meals to entertainment. “While pre-maintenance can be expensive, it’s always much more cost effective to do it up front. “

Veteran Mechanics Peter Haunold and Sol Miller joined Whitworth at United Motorcoach Association Town Hall on October 21 to discuss everything from general maintenance topics to how to hire and keep good mechanics.

“We do a lot of fluid sampling right now, especially with seating equipment,” said Haunold from its Holland America-Princess (HAP) maintenance shop in Anchorage, Alaska. “There could be contamination of the coolant in your transmissions, there could be contamination in your engines from leaking o-rings and things of that nature, so fluid sampling is beyond critical. , especially with the cost of some of these modern engines. “

Sol Miller works with the Premier Transportation team at

Whitworth, now retired from a successful career in the coach industry, is the driving force behind the ever-popular UMA Maintenance and Service Exchange competition each year at the UMA Motorcoach EXPO. EXPO 2022 will take place in Long Beach, Calif. From February 23-27.

Haunold recounted his first participation in the EXPO. “The first time I attended a maintenance exchange… it was amazing what we learned. My team coined the term “It just paid for my trip”. We come with a lot of questions and we like to think that we can also help with a lot of experiences that we bring. “

The Maintenance Roundtable, which will mark its 24th year at EXPO 2022, is one of the oldest and highest rated educational sessions offered by WBU.

Fleet maintenance

Make drivers part of your preventive maintenance (PM) strategy, suggested Miller, a 33-year industry veteran who works for Premier Transportation in Knoxville, Tennessee. “It is essential to train your drivers on what to look for on pre-trips. We bring in the maintenance staff so the drivers know what they’re looking for.

He also recommends using software to track preventative maintenance, oil analysis, and advance on seasonal preventive maintenance, such as air conditioning or air dryer services.

“These types of items are essential,” Miller said. “I really think the software is a key part for you to be able to track your miles and stay ahead of the program.”

Sol Miller

Haunold says a clean work environment with good lighting and good equipment is essential for quality preventive maintenance for mechanics who need to do in-depth inspections. He also recommends sticking to a systemic routine that goes through the same steps. “Your technicians are getting more efficient and you know the PM will be done faster. “

Haunold, whose shop was audited by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) on the day he attended town hall, offered this advice: When there is a critical repair, we take the ‘Maintenance work order we create and attach work order number up to electronic digital video recorder (DVR) nowadays. This way, from an audit point of view, it is much easier to track and trace these items with the auditor.

Recruitment tips

Haunold says the HAP Alaska operation has thought outside the box when it comes to recruiting. In addition to posting jobs on Craigslist, HAP experimented with posting reviews on Facebook, TikTok, and Pandora.

The team also contacts local tech schools and participates in recruiting events across the country.

HAP offers perks such as payment for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) testing, an annual tool bonus, laptops with diagnostic software, and a generous PTO, Haunold said. For those moving to Alaska for work, the company pays to move their tools and some personal items.

“We are doing our best to do everything we can to make this place a good place to work,” he said., adding that this often means bringing bagels and hosting barbecues. “A a simple thank you goes a long way.

Peter Haunold
Peter Haunold, a 21-year HAP employee, is based in Anchorage.

At HAP, the technician / bus ratio is around 8.5 vehicles per technician. But they also work on medium trucks and highway tractors, which brings the ratio closer to 11.

“During our busy season, we hire two seasonal technicians from the local tech school to help alleviate our workload. It’s a great recruiting tool.

Miller adds that his shop works to create a positive environment for technicians and hosts an annual barbecue with steaks and salmon. The company also offers health and pension benefits and a power take-off, as well as a tool allowance. It also pays for new boots and a uniform every two years, he said. The number of technicians per bus is a ratio of 7: 1.

“If you really want to focus on the little things, seven to one is best. Otherwise, it kind of escapes you. This is what I went through, ”Miller said.

Parts issues

There is certainly an Alaskan effect with regard to the parts problem. Obtaining parts takes longer.

“We end up having a pretty large parts inventory that we keep here at our sites because, in trying to get some of these things here, especially if you have, let’s say an AC compressor broken, you can wait weeks for it. that ”, said Haunold. “The amount of downtime with something like this is brutal, so it’s vital to have one somewhere in our system that we can transfer from one place to another. We kind of rely on each other when it comes to what parts we have on the shelves. “

Over time, the cost of shipping parts is also a challenge.

Maintenance exchange
Kevin Whitworth, who is standing, is the manager and moderator of the maintenance interchange.

“I can order $ 2 of mounting clips and pay $ 36 freight for it, so it’s really important for us to think ahead when we place our parts orders to try and keep our shipping costs down. ” Haunold noted, adding that he tries to anticipate shortages. Lately the shortage has been for batteries.

Add global supply chain issues, and Haunold says he’s already planning spring.

“I’m a little nervous about this because unfortunately with buying local when it comes to this stuff, it doesn’t really exist. It must come from Lower 48 ”, he said.

Miller adds that his Tennessee store has also experienced shortages of parts that slow the pace of work.

“We’ve had more parts out of stock than we’ve ever had,” Miller said, adding that toilet valves and sidelights were rare. “We’re not supposed to receive another shipment until December. We have a bus waiting for a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), and it’s three months away, so I have a 45-foot paperweight.

You can listen to the entire conversation from the meeting in town hall. You can also check out the popular Whitworth Bus & Motorcoach News articles “Under the Bus” at Haunold and Miller.

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