Less maintenance is not more savings
By Christopher W. Ferrone
I have walked the aisles of many bus expositions where one supplier after the next would call me over to the booth by saying, “This product is sure to reduce your maintenance.”
This pretense included everything from engine oil products to brake products and heavy-duty hardware.
I listened to each one tell me how this or that product would in someway ensure less attention to maintenance, less time for my bus to be in the garage and out of service.
Then I had an epiphany. Why would any operator want to reduce maintenance?
I turned it around and asked how I could possibly ensure my buses are safe and in good working order by reducing my maintenance.
Maintenance is vital to a safe operation, and the calculated interval at which a company performs routine maintenance on its equipment is as integral as pit stops in auto racing.
Maintenance drives safety and is not a commodity. Vendors really should be telling a potential customer that their products might reduce maintenance costs.
An inexperienced operator or mechanic may fall for the notion that such products truly reduce the required maintenance and get used to the idea of less maintenance.
If an operator chooses to inspect his buses over a longer than normal interval due to some new product that promises less downtime, another item critical to safety has probably gone overlooked.
I surmised for example that if I reduced the need to change oil then what would drive me to bring the vehicle in for service?
Sophisticated operators inspect their buses routinely regardless of whether or not the engine oil needs to be changed. If the oil did not need changing, a less sophisticated operator might not think to stop the vehicle to inspect and tend to other matters of safety.
The old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” just doesn’t work.
The focus must be on the reduction of costs and not the time spent on maintenance.
I strongly urge anyone who goes this route to continue with the prescribed maintenance interval for that vehicle or system and perform the maintenance as required for it to remain safe.
The unexpected consequences of less maintenance are by far more expensive.
Shortly after my epiphany, an incident in our shop in Chicago drove this point home for me. As a standard maintenance practice, our mechanics periodically replace the lug nut studs on our vehicles. This is worked in and is scheduled on a time and mileage basis.
As we were taking care of this normal chore, Prairie Trailways mechanics Martin Rodriguez and Juan Esquivel 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. These gentlemen could not have seen the cracked pads from the normal inspection side of the brake drum. BRM
Christopher W. Ferrone is president of Americoach Systems Inc., Glenview, IL, an engineering firm specializing in transportation technology, analysis and safety.