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Keep the wheels rolling

By Staff | May 13, 2011

Chad Jones, lead technician for O'Halloran International in Fort Dodge, works on a truck engine for preventive maintenance. The company said routine maintenance keeps all vehicles rolling, improves on fuel efficiency, and fixes small problems before they become expensive big breakdowns.

FORT DODGE – While Chad Jones, lead technician for O’Halloran International, in this Webster County community, turns a wrench on a maintenance repair, the general manager, Larry McBride, looking on said, “This is basically what we see a lot.”

A basic lack of preventive maintenance idles trucks causing owners more money than if they had preventive maintenance.

As crop yields have grown, most farmers now haul their grain to markets or on-farm storage in semi trucks. The pressure of harvest is intense by itself, without an otherwise avoidable breakdown.

According to the a 2009 study by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship country elevators, both cooperatives and privates, still get 60 percent of their corn and 66 percent of their soybeans directly from farmers – most of which arrives by semi.

That means a breakdown when its time to deliver row crops will be costly delay.

“Mostly we see emergency repair,” McBride said. And the majority of problems could have been spotted and fixed as a small repair, rather than expensive overhauls.

“Nine out of 10 people who don’t do preventive maintenance pay outrageous tow bills,” McBride said, “from $350 to $800. If they break down with a trailer, he explained, the tow has to take the tractor first and make a return trip for the trailer. “So they have to pay twice.”

McBride said brakes are the most common problem his shop encounters, followed closely by cooling system and electrical issues.

According to O’Halloran statistics, conducting preventive maintenance during slow times, that cost an estimated $225 for a thorough checkup, can save a truck owner upward to $850 per day a vehicle is down.

Another relatively inexpensive procedure, an oil analysis, he said, costs $25 and can find those cooling systems that have too much metal build up or if other engine fluids are leaking into the system.

Either of these scenarios will shut a truck down and usually at the time the delays can be least afforded.

“A lot of people will avoid PMs,” McBride said, “and then say, ‘Gee, I guess we should have done something about that.'”

And even though O’Halloran doesn’t sell or service tires, McBride said, “if we see an issue with tires we make sure the owner knows about it.”

According to Daneille Slifka, director of corporate marketing and outside parts sales for O’Halloran, the company prefers to see customers for routine checkups, not emergencies.

“We want to do everything possible to maximize up-time,” Slifka said, “and save customers money over the long run.

“Of course, we’ll be there for customers if there is a breakdown, although we’d rather see them under better circumstances.”

Certified inspections

Because the federal Compliance, Safety and Accountability 2010 program is now affecting all 50 states, not just pilot programs, Chad Johnson, vice president of fleet management for O’Halloran, urged truck owners to get their vehicles properly inspected by certified technicians.

Johnson said that now a DOT fix it ticket will count against a truck owner’s overall DOT rating.

“CSA 2010 changed the rules of the game,” Slifka said. “You can reduce your chances of being pulled over during busy times by completing annual required inspections and doing pre- and post-trip walk-arounds.

“One missing light can get you,” she said

She added that a safety inspection performed by a non-certified tech is void. Not only are the fines hefty, she added, but drivers can forfeit their commercial drivers license, and a failed inspection could lead to higher insurance rates.

O’Halloran International has four Iowa locations – Fort Dodge, Cherokee, Carroll and Des Moines/Altoona.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453 or at kersh@farm-news.com.

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