The National Private Truck Council 2021 Benchmarking Survey Report provides fleets with new industry standards to evaluate performance and identify opportunities for improvement.

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The very nature of maintenance and heavy-duty truck repair work can pose an increased risk of injury to employees. Private fleets that operate a vehicle maintenance facility have most likely experienced the risks and hard costs of hazardous waste, inadequate or outdated tools, and injuries.

Private industry employers reported 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There were also 1,176,340 nonfatal injuries and illnesses that caused private industry workers to miss at least one day of work in 2020. Ten occupations, including maintenance and repair workers, accounted for 38.3 percent of all private industry cases involving days away from work, BLS reported.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance found that the average workers' compensation indemnity and medical cost per lost time claim was $53,700 in 2020. Plus, companies can incur tens of thousands of dollars in indirect costs. Also consider that a single workers' comp claim of $105,000 for a company with a 10 percent profit margin must be matched by an additional top line $1.05 million in revenue just to break even.

However, outsourcing maintenance operations can transfer the risk, along with the cost of maintaining a qualified technical staff, to a third-party provider. Penske can provide on-site management of private fleets' existing maintenance facilities, which enables maintenance facilities to reap the benefits of a cost-efficient, in-house maintenance program while mitigating risks associated with the shop.

Penske operates maintenance facilities for its customers nationwide, giving private fleets the convenience of an on-site shop, along with a well-maintained fleet. Customers also enjoy additional peace of mind because Penske assumes the responsibility of shop safety, compliance, staffing and operations.

With each company's operations unique to their business and culture, Penske's on-site operation is adapted to meet its customers' requirements and goals. Penske also offers a workers' comp risk assessment and professional safety assessments for its customers.

When taking over a fleet's maintenance facilities, Penske partners with its customers on retention and staffing goals, which may include improving the skillset of the current team or adding to the fleet's talent pool. Penske assumes the responsibility of human resources management and offers employees a competitive pay scale as well as ongoing training and career advancement opportunities.

Penske's investment in a fleet's vehicle maintenance facility also includes upgrades to systems, diagnostic tools, and tooling to ensure technology is brought up to date and remains current. That can require a significant investment. Diagnostic tools alone can cost an additional $10,000 to $20,000 a year or more.

Penske also takes on the expense of managing inventory and will purchase existing, usable inventory so customers can free up capital to fund key strategic initiatives.

Partnering with Penske also allows private fleets to take the risk off their own balance sheet and put it on Penske's. Penske's record proves that it's a responsible, safe and preferred fleet maintenance service provider. Penske's team of fleet specialists can work with customers to create a tailored maintenance plan to best meet their fleets' needs.

November 2021

Winter weather and the harsh driving conditions that come with it can be hard on trucks and difficult for drivers, but proper maintenance and the latest safety technology can help keep equipment and those on the road safe.

Inspections and Maintenance

Proper pre- and post-trip inspections along with regular preventive maintenance can keep equipment running. There are certain components that often require extra care in the winter. Penske takes several steps to ensure uptime as temperatures drop, including treating fuel with winter additives to maintain vehicles' performance and having technicians check specific components.

Penske technicians check engine block heaters and fuel-water separators and their heating elements along with alternators, batteries, air dryers, starting systems, and auxiliary power units or diesel fired heaters. Wiper blades should be in proper condition, and windshield washer solvent with de-icer needs to be replenished regularly to ensure drivers can keep the windshield clear.

Technicians also test the battery and clean the connections as batteries can fail under the high starting load they face in cold weather. To ensure the operation of the cab heater and defroster, the engine cooling system and belts and hoses are all examined.

Diesel exhaust fluid systems need to be examined to ensure the heating system is working. Otherwise, drivers could face potential derate issues in the cold weather due to poor NOx conversion.

Tire condition is also essential in icy and snowy conditions, and tread thickness should be a minimum of 5/32 inch for winter driving. If tires are below 5/32, drivers can stop by a Penske location. Drivers should also ensure tire chains are in proper condition if the vehicle is equipped with chains, and that they have working flares and triangles.

"Also, if the unit is parked, we recommend that you plug it in to ensure that the vehicle will start," said Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance design and engineering for Penske Truck Leasing.

Fleets and drivers need to pay special attention to their fuel when temperatures drop. Diesel fuel behaves differently than gasoline because it is a middle distillate containing paraffin—a wax—that causes fuel to gel as it cools. If that occurs, it can clog up a diesel fuel line and cause the trucks not to start.

Penske pretreats fuel to prevent diesel fuel gelling and uses three levels of treatment based on the average temperatures of the regions where the fueling sites are located. Some locations receive a marginal or normal winter blend. In extreme winter locations, Penske uses a mixture of fuel additives and kerosene to lower the cold filter plug point further— the lowest temperature at which diesel fuel can pass through a filtration device—to -18 to -20 degrees.

Treatment typically begins on Nov. 1 and goes into March. Penske recommends customers fuel at Penske locations to ensure they are receiving fuel that has been adequately treated.

Safety Technology

Today's trucks come with several on-board safety technologies that can help keep drivers safe, particularly in snow and ice. Matt Camden, senior research associate in the behavioral analysis and applications group of Virginia Tech Transportation Institute's Center for Truck & Bus Safety, said electronic stability control can be helpful in the winter. If the systems detect a vehicle is reaching its critical stability threshold, the technology kicks in and automatically reduces engine torque, applies the engine brake and activates the necessary wheel-end brakes, which reduces the likelihood of a rollover, jackknife or loss of control.

Collision avoidance technology is one of the best tools available to minimize the risk of deer strikes, which increases in the winter. Most collision avoidance systems use a technology called lidar that is similar to radar. The challenge is deer can dart in front of a truck at the last minute. Many Penske customers install deer guards on the front of their units as an added precaution to reduce damage to the grille, radiator and bodywork.

Lane departure warnings can help assist drivers if they are at risk of moving out of their lane, but their effectiveness may be limited if lane lines are covered, Camden said.

Driver monitoring systems can be beneficial in all weather conditions, Camden said. "With a monitoring system, you can see how a driver is performing, if they are driving aggressively for the speed or roadway conditions".

The systems can also help identify drowsy driving. "In the winter daylight hours are shorter," Camden said. "I've seen preliminary data and second-hand information about drivers being more likely to be fatigued in the winter".

November 2021

Roadside repairs can be costly, delay drivers and result in missed deliveries. Data collected as part of the American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council/FleetNet America Vertical Benchmarking Program found fleets averaged 29,506 miles of operation between unscheduled road repairs in the first quarter of 2021, down 18.7% from the fourth quarter of 2020.

Truckload carriers averaged 21,856 miles between breakdowns, a 13.1% decrease in miles from the previous quarter. The time between breakdowns for less-than-truckload carriers dropped 18.7% to 44,380 miles in the first quarter, from 54,556 in the final quarter of 2021. The tank truck sector saw a slight improvement, running 17,420 miles in the first quarter, down from 19,905 in the previous quarter.

"The data tells us that if, for example, the truckload carriers running the average miles between breakdowns could reach best-in-class performance, they would increase their miles between breakdowns by 89%, and that would result in overall lower costs," said Emily Hurst, manager of data and analytics at FleetNet America.

Reducing the Risk of a Roadside Event

Penske focuses on preventive maintenance to help increase vehicle uptime and strives to have trucks go from one PM event to the next PM event without ever having to come back. However, preventive maintenance is more than changing oil and fluids. It is inspecting the items that can give customers issues and getting ahead of any problems.

As part of its full-service leasing agreements, Penske Truck Leasing provides maintenance for its customers and follows a rigorous maintenance schedule that includes the use of advanced system analytics to identify potential failures before they occur.

With dynamic preventive maintenance routines, Penske's technicians can adjust inspections based on failure rates and a vehicle's history. Penske Truck Leasing captures and analyzes maintenance and vehicle data throughout its entire fleet, creating a thorough base of knowledge that allows technicians to identify problems early and prevent more extensive issues.

The biggest benefit of addressing repairs during scheduled, planned intervals is that drivers aren't faced with unexpected downtime due to an equipment failure. Keeping drivers moving as planned is especially crucial as hours-of-service regulations have placed strict limits on driving time.

Getting Back on the Road Quickly

If a roadside repair is needed, Penske offers 24/7 roadside assistance for its customers and gets drivers and their loads back on the road typically within two hours. The Penske 24/7 Roadside Assistance call center is staffed by experienced, in-house Penske personnel who have detailed knowledge of Class 8 trucks and understand the specific problems drivers may be experiencing.

Updated October 2021

Penske Truck Leasing recently held a dedication ceremony at Lincoln Tech in Columbia, Maryland, as the company branded a 1,000-square-foot multipurpose classroom at the school. The space will mainly be utilized during Lincoln's Driving Your Performance course, which introduces students to various topics such as vehicle and engine systems, industry certifications and career opportunities in the industry.

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Penske Truck Leasing has constructed a new state-of-the-art facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Located at 1300 John Burgess Drive, it is the third full-service company location in the Fort Worth area. Penske now has a total of 16 locations throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

This structure offers consumer and commercial truck rental, full-service truck leasing and contract truck fleet maintenance. It is also outfitted with the company's proprietary fully digital and voice-directed preventive maintenance process and connected fleet solutions, a value-added resource to help customers address issues and options related to onboard technology systems (ELDs, telematics, onboard cameras, etc.).

"We invested in this third local location to support our growing customer base in the southern part of the Fort Worth market," explained Chris Anderholm, senior vice president for Penske Truck Leasing's south central region. "We are very pleased to be a part of the business park expansion which allows Penske to better serve large customers in the delivery and food and beverage sectors, and to help them meet their customer's needs."

The location is 23,470-square-feet and sits on 12.5 acres. It has five truck service bays, an automated wash bay and a full-service fuel island.

By "Move Ahead" Staff

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