The value of maintenance is not a measure of time
By Christopher W. Ferrone
Walking the aisles of a recent bus expo, more than a few vendors would beckon me into their booths by saying, this product is will certainly reduce your maintenance.
Their promise ranged from engine oil to brake products and everything in between. I listened to each one tell me this product would ensure less time for my motorcoaches to be in the garage and out of service — less attention to maintenance.
Suddenly, I had an epiphany: Why would any operator want to spend even less time for inspections, service and repairs? I turned it around and asked the vendors how I could possibly ¬ensure my motorcoaches are safe and in good working order by reducing my maintenance.
The calculated interval of routine maintenance is as fundamental as a pit stop in auto racing. Maintenance drives safety and is not a commodity. What the vendors should have been telling me is their products might reduce maintenance costs.
If an operator chooses to inspect his motorcoaches at longer than normal intervals due to some new product that promises less down time, such a reduction in maintenance could also lead to another item critical to safety going completely overlooked.
When synthetic engine oil became popular, I surmised if I reduced the need to change oil then what would drive me to bring the vehicle in for service?
Sophisticated operators inspect their motorcoaches routinely regardless of whether or not the engine oil needs to be changed.
The old adage if it ain’t broke don’t fix it — why bring in the motorcoach when nothing is wrong — just doesn’t work.
The focus must be on the reduction of costs and not the time spent on maintenance.
I strongly urge everyone to continue with the prescribed maintenance interval for that vehicle or system and perform the maintenance as required for it to remain safe.
The battle between operations and maintenance is constant, and the two factions must strike a balance to both make money and maintain the condition and safety of the vehicle.
If the intent of a product is to reduce maintenance but also reduces the frequency with which the vehicle comes into the garage, safety suffers in a big way.
The unexpected consequences of less maintenance are by far more expensive. Shortly after my epiphany at the trade show, an incident in our shop in Chicago drove this point home.
As a standard maintenance practice, our mechanics periodically replace the lug nut studs on our vehicles, which we schedule on a time and mileage basis.
Our mechanics called me over to check out their discovery once they had taken apart the wheel assembly. The brake pad had cracked off the brake shoe on the left front wheel end. By committing to our standard procedure at the correct time, we caught a super-serious problem for free — totally unrelated to the job at hand. They would not have seen the cracked pads from the normal inspection side of the brake drum.
Whether it is for less time or for less money, bus and coach operators should consider each vehicle as its own profit center and avoid the risk it may pose if maintenance intervals increase based on the promise of a product.