Archive for June, 2010

Are you a wait until it breaks type of person?

If your fleet manager has a “wait until it breaks” approach to vehicle maintenance, it may be time to change the oil, filters and the fleet manager.  A solid preventive maintenance program will help keep vehicle repair costs and down-time to a minimum, but an inefficient, poorly designed program can cost time and money.

What is PM anyway?. Preventive maintenance, also called planned maintenance, is a program through which functioning equipment receives regular maintenance and inspection according to a well thought-out plan and process.  Key aspects involve what and when you engage in preventive maintenance on your equipment or vehicles.

First of all, never let cost get in the way of maintaining your equipment.   If you are currently running a fleet of trucks and do not have a maintenance program in place, the first few months of implementing a good program can be expensive. However, keep in mind, it will pay off.   The cost of a good preventive maintenance program will always pay for itself in the long run.

So what is a good PM Program?

PM programs vary in many aspects due to the equipment, the type of work and the conditions that your equipment works in.  Front load and rear load trucks that drive on city streets all day would not require the radiator to be blown out, or the air filter to be changed as often as a roll off truck working in dusty construction sites all day or a loader working inside a transfer facility.  It’s important to keep some flexibility in your rigid program, and always include common sense.

Most PM programs work on an hour or mileage clock, and some on a days or month calendar.  For example every 250 hrs or 1,500 kms, the vehicle is brought in for an “A” service to be greased and inspected.  The truck should be completely inspected, chassis and body greased, drive lines checked, brakes adjusted, if needed, and all fluid levels checked.   Level B service is when the fluids and fuel filters are changed. Level C is everything on Levels A and B plus hydraulics servicing, and Level D (typically done annually) is everything plus the transmission service.  Along with each service any and all small repairs that are found are completed (lights, fittings tightened, leaks checked etc) and any larger repairs are made note of and scheduled in for completion, unless it’s a safety related issue which is done right away.  The scheduling of larger repairs allows parts to be purchased, shipped, and received without the truck being out of service waiting for parts to arrive.

Servicing and inspecting the trucks at regular intervals is the point of every PM program, but just as important and as valuable is the collecting and analyzing of information.

There are several areas to evaluate whether your preventive maintenance programs are optimized.  Are you tracking enough of the right information to make informed maintenance decisions? Simply recording that “front-end work” was completed on a vehicle does not give you enough information to detect failure trends for individual front-end components.  Records should indicate the make and model of vehicle, date and mileage at time of service, and services performed to specific components.

Once you start collecting the data, it can’t help unless you analyze and understand it.  Examine any unexplained incidents of maintenance that were required between scheduled preventive maintenance intervals. Look for trends. If a number of particular failures occur on certain vehicles, determine if it’s possible to adjust your preventive maintenance program to eliminate those failures in the future. Some vehicles will be more prone to problems with certain systems than others.

A good measure of the efficiency of your preventive maintenance program is the number of “touches” technicians have on a vehicle. For example, you may have a vehicle scheduled for preventive maintenance once a month but find that it was actually pulled in six additional times for regularly recurring “other services” — emissions, annual inspections etc.  Proper scheduling would have enabled these inspections to have been handled at the same time as the preventive maintenance “touches”. Every time a technician touches a vehicle, it costs you money and represents possible downtime.  On average, every vehicle “touch” takes a minimum of an hour of labour. Proper planning can minimize these costs.

While the PM Program is the fleet manager’s responsibility, vehicle safety, downtime and client service is everyone’s.  Make sure the drivers are aware of the importance of a well performed pre-trip and post trip inspections and communicate findings or suspicions to the maintenance staff.  Solid communication between departments plays a key role in driving down some of the rising costs of truck maintenance.

The safety of you, your family and others, that share the road with your trucks, is the most important reason for maintaining your vehicles and keeping them it in good, safe operating condition.

Just a hopper full from,

The Trashman

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Buying a truck?  These 5 tips might help if you…..

….aren’t sure about what you‘re purchasing.

If you’re in the market for a used garbage truck your approach should be the same as if you were buying a house – do the research.  If you purchase the right truck for your needs at the right price, that truck will last a long time and make a lot of money.  If you take care of it, there will still be a re-sale value at the end of your use.  If you don’t purchase the right truck, your company will struggle throwing good money after bad into it.

So here are a few things that, over the years of buying and selling trucks across Canada, the US and Mexico, I’ve learned….the hard way – experience is a great teacher!

Application: What are you using the truck for not only now, but 5 years from now – and will that change?

If it’s a rear load, for example, is it for residential or commercial? Does it need a winch or cart tipper?  Would a winch or cart tipper be a useful option a few years from now (when you are expanding into the commercial rear load business)?  Single stream or split body, single axle or tandem, cab over or conventional?

The same type of questions should be asked for a roll off, front load, side load, or transfer trailer.  The more you understand the direction your company will take over the next few years, the easier these questions are to answer.  Once you have them answered, you will know exactly what type of truck you NEED, not want.  Answering these questions may have you searching for a different type of truck than you originally thought, one that can be used in a few different applications of your business.

Condition: This is the important part – naturally!  But how do you really know the condition of the truck?  Without opening up the eng, pressure testing the trans/cylinders etc. – you can’t.  However if you’ve been in the industry for a while you are able to see many of the tell tale signs of excessive wear and tear and a poor PM program.  Take the time you need, for me it’s about 60-90 min, to really see what you’re buying.  Look over the chassis for cracks and welds, the suspension for worn bearings, the engine for blow by, the oil colour, transmission fluid colour, floors of the cab and floor of the body, leaking or pitted cylinders, worn body mounts, rusted cross members, bent forks or arms, slow hydraulics (possible pump problem), tires for cracks, cuts, bulges, un-even wear, same tread across the axle.  Ask to see the maintenance records and discuss the PM program

If you are not sure what to look for, hire a certified mechanic that does know.  Even if you spend $500 on the inspection to get it right – it may cost thousands, if you get it wrong.

Price: So you know what you want, it’s in good condition, and you checked it out.  So what’s a fair price?  There are a lot of conditions that go into a price including season, condition, year-make-model, market demand etc.  The easiest answer is the highest price you’re willing to pay and the lowest price the seller is willing to sell it at.  Negotiating the price can include many factors: the safety, emissions test (Ontario only), financing, delivery, required repairs etc.  Check on-line for similar vehicles and what they are selling for, but keep in mind the chassis and body manufacture makes a big difference.  A quality manufacture‘s product is worth paying the extra money for.

Trust-but check: Most people are honest and trust worthy enough to do what they said they would, but that doesn’t mean they won’t forget some parts of it.  When doing the initial inspection, take a camera and get shots of the tires, cab, body etc.  When you get back to the office it’s nice to be able to review and answer any nagging questions that come up later.  Also, bring a pen and paper with you.  Write down all 17 digits of the VIN# usually on the driver’s door or door post.  Then check the passenger’s side frame around the front wheel.  On the frame the manufacturer will have stamped the VIN#.  These numbers must match the VIN on the ownership (title) of the vehicle.  If they do not, be careful you’re not buying a vehicle with a troubled past.  When you get back to the office you can also call the local dealer and have them run the VIN and even send you a line ticket if it’s available.  This will give you all the information about the truck when it was built, but will not list any modifications that may have taken place after.

Financing/Payment: In the recent economic climate, even good credit ratings may not be enough to get all the funds you need to purchase new equipment.  If you’re buying used it gets even tougher.  Most traditional lending institutions do not understand used garbage trucks, so they’ll steer clear (excuse the pun) and stay with more common equipment.  Call around and find the right company (Weex has partnered with some good finance companies for your convenience) that understands waste equipment and its value.  Make sure you have all the right information (usually the last 2-3 years financial statements), and they should have an answer back within 24-48 hrs, in most cases.  You will be in a better negotiating position when have already been approved for the financing.

Also, consider when you’re negotiating the final price, and the number isn’t dropping as much as you had hoped, what else can you get put into the deal that could be useful  – the winch and cart tipper for instance, a roll off bin, a front load bin, used spare tires, full tank of fuel.  It may only take a couple of small add-ins to make the deal work for both parties.

Just a hopper full from,

The Trashman

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The Top 5 things to consider when selling a used garbage truck are…

…usually common sense items that get over looked by most sellers, but stand out in the minds buyers.

Not unlike selling a home, there has to be some thought put into your approach.  In most cases, once the decision is made to sell a truck, many sellers will walk out to the yard, take a quick picture, send it to a newspaper, or magazine with a dozen words to describe it along with $60-$100 for the week.. Then they will sit by the phone and wait.  The result is a few calls from “tire kickers” wasting your time or bargain hunters offering $1/lb “CASH”.

As general a statement as this is – most people are able to talk about their truck very well, and tell the story of where it came from and how great it is.  The problem is how does the buyer know if it’s a true story, or a fairy tale?

The biggest barrier is TRUST.  In general, most people will not trust someone they just met, unless you can give them a reason to and many times it will take a few reasons.  So how do you get people to trust the story they are hearing…back it up.  Back it up with paperwork, back it up during the inspection, back it up by showing the buyer what you say is true.  If there is a little trust in the transaction, it goes much smoother.

These are my 5 top things to consider:

Condition: It is extremely important to report the condition of the truck as it is NOW – not when you bought it 5 years ago.  If there are problems the buyer should know about, point them out and explain them, they are going to find out anyway.  If you have a preventative maintenance schedule, tell them about it and show them the work orders.  Any repairs that you claim to have made should have an invoice from the garage for the repair, or if you did it yourself, there should at least be a parts invoice and you can point out the new part on the truck.

Cleanliness: Ok this is a no-brainer, but I still see trucks for sale with Tim Horton coffee cups and apple cores in the cab, piles of garbage behind the blade or in the hopper, and a thick heavy coat of mud from the country roads it runs.  Do trucks get dirty? Absolutely.  But when you are trying to sell it, the buyer needs to be able to see the truck under all the dirt and mud.

Before a buyer comes to see the truck, power wash the body, cab, tailgate (if applicable), rails, chassis and take 10 minutes to pull the garbage out of the cab and give it a wipe down.  Want to really get a buyers attention? Detail the truck bumper to bumper, the truck will show so much better and make a great first impression.

Pictures: The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is especially true in selling a truck.  The more pictures you can show the better.  I recommend at least 6 pictures of the truck in the following positions: Take pictures of all fours corners of the truck from about 10-15 feet back so you get the entire truck in each picture and the inside of the cab and the engine compartment.  If you have room in your ad for additional pictures, get pictures of the tires (front and back) show the tread wear, the cross members and chassis, floor of the body or rails in the extended position.

And a quick word on the background.  Pick a location with very little distraction in the background (the side of a building, in front of some trees, etc), and take the picture(s) so there is very little background.  You want perspective buyers to focus on the truck, not what’s going on behind it.

Price: This is the million dollar question:  What price do you list the truck for?  These are just a few things to consider when pricing the truck.

  • Age of the vehicle
  • Wear and tear / condition (hours, mileage) – is it average for the age?  A quick gauge is approx 2,100 hrs per year (40hrs a week X 52 weeks)
  • With or without a current safety
  • Who does any required repairs
  • Season (roll off trucks get a higher price in early spring then late fall)
  • Do you want to sell it locally, or outside of your market – will you deliver
  • How fast do you want to get the truck sold, once you’ve decided to sell it
  • What are other trucks being sold for (not listed for, sold for) in your area.

What we want to sell a truck for and the actual worth of the truck are usually entirely different.  Which means the 1980 International Roll Off truck that has been moving bins around the yard for the last 8 years will not sell for $35,000 – generally speaking.  Try asking yourself this question.  What would I pay for the truck I’m selling if it belonged to someone else?

One other consideration I intentionally left out above: What is the lowest price you would sell the truck for?  Sometimes the truck is worth more to you as a spare then you would get for it if you sold it.

Payment: The ideal transaction occurs when you price the truck higher then you know it’s worth, get full price and get paid in cash.  Those transactions are non-existent, trust me…or call me!

With the economy still feeling the effects of the last recession, banks are a little uneasy (actually, downright tight fisted) when it comes to giving out money, especially for used equipment.  The finance companies, while a little easier to get along with, come with interest rates that can be a little hard to swallow.  So what do you do?

If the ideal transaction is nowhere in sight, keep your mind open to different forms of payment. In the final strokes of a transaction you are trading 2 items of equally perceived value.  The buyer is getting a truck they perceive is worth $30,000.  In return they are giving you legal tender funds in the equivalent value of $30,000.  If a transaction is stumbling due to traditional financing, consider other forms of VALUE you would except.

  • Would you finance the transaction?
  • Would you take instalments over a 3-6 month period?
  • Are there any assets that the buyer is willing to trade along with some cash to reduce the financing?
  • Does the buyer provide a service that you could use in your business?

One, some or all of these or other payment methods can work if you keep your mind open to them.  Whichever way you decide, make sure you have proper paperwork regarding clear expectations of the deal, and make sure you go through the extra step of creating the invoice(s) to track it at the end of the year – the tax man frowns on things that can’t be explained with a proper paper trail.

Just a hopper full from,

The  Trashman

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