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By on September 6, 2011
RoadKing Mag

Even though many of us would like to think of trucking as a lifestyle (showing classic, long nose trucks, with their broad, flat shiny bumpers and dual chrome stacks), it is first and foremost a business. To stay in business, you have to show a profit. That’s especially true in these days of a sluggish economy, and generally rising costs.

Faced with a cash crunch, some owners stretch maintenance. Instead of following recommended schedules for oil drains, tire rotation and the like they increase the intervals. You can get away with this once or twice, or if you base oil drain interval on regular oil analysis reports. But without a sound basis for longer oil changes it’s risky, especially if you’re still under warranty. If something goes wrong and you’ve extended the preventive maintenance interval too far, manufacturers may deny warranty.

But there’s more to maintenance than just changing oil and filters, replacing brake linings and fixing what breaks. Getting a truck that has every part operating at peak level from the start is a long-term money saver. When spec’ing a new rig, each tiny detail can make a difference. But who understands every mechanical, electrical and technical component on a truck?

Go to the experts
Try tapping into the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC). This arm of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) brings together some of the best minds in truck maintenance and parts, and their combined knowledge covers every inch of a truck, inside and out. Study groups devoted to specific areas — tire and wheels, engines, cab and controls etc. — offer a comprehensive list of Recommended Practices (RP) that can be used to ensure top truck performance.

TMC RPs are developed by industry professionals to solve or prevent problems. Recommended Maintenance Practices present the best ways to fix what’s broken and prevent it from breaking again. Recommended Engineering Practices address preferred ways that trucks and components should be built to prevent or minimize failures.

When a TMC member calls attention to a recurring issue in real-world truck use, one of the organization’s 10 study groups is assigned the task of examining the problem and developing an RP to alleviate it.

Easy does it
This year, Ryder’s Jerry Thrift, TMC General Chairman 2010-11, wanted to promote the use of RPs to improve new vehicle specifications while also streamlining the specifying process for ordering new trucks and components.

“Both the engineering and maintenance RPs can be helpful in spec’ing a vehicle,” says Thrift. “But there are 300 RPs to go through and I wanted to consolidate that, asking each Study Group to identify the RPs in their area of expertise that could be used for spec’ing.”

With those RPs identified, he called on two veteran fleet managers to describe how they use RPs to improve their trucks.

Real world application
Carl Tapp, of P.A.M., cited nine out of the 40 existing Engineering RPs from the Electrical Study Group that would be useful in spec’ing new vehicles. He used RP120 dealing with engine starting and RP154 dealing with wire harness routing, clamping and protection for his examples. By referencing just two RPs, everything from vibration to cable placement, voltage drop to positioning grounds, and verifying proper procedures by manufacturers is covered.

“RP 129 is probably the single most important spec to use,” says Tapp. “It’s 11 pages long, but the thing about it is, if the manufacturer does everything else right, then the vehicle will meet RP 129. All you have to do is put in your spec, ‘must pass TMC RP 129A.’ End of subject.”

Ron Szapacs, a member of the TMC board and past chairman of th Engines Study Group, oversees the fleets of Air Products & Chemicals. He notes that many RPs are collaborative efforts with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) the Engine Manufacturers Association and others in the industry. For example, RP 349, which covers “ECM Harnesses and Connectors,” references nine SAE standards.

“One of the reasons to use RPs in spec’ing is to reduce the length of specifications,” he says. “To spell out the details required to specify some items would take paragraphs or even pages of technical detail. The RP also spells out details necessary to meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration standards, Department of Transportation requirements and other official standards.”

By referencing TMC RPs in purchase orders for equipment, new trucks will be made with the latest ideas to keep operating longer, with less maintenance and minimal downtime. That translates directly to lower costs and increased revenue. Both are contributors to the bottom line.

TMC RPs are not an expense. They’re an investment that can pay big dividends on your bottom line.

Maintenance and engineering TMC RP manuals are free with membership. The list of RPs that can be used for spec’ing are on All RPs are available for purchase. Call TMC at 703-838-1763 for details.

How RPs Help in Spec’ing

  • Reduces the length of specifications
  • Spells out all details to conform to FMVSS, DOT and FMCSR regulations
  • Incorporates detailed drawings that show various requirements
  • Lists performance requirements

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