Back when I was a hard-charging young snuffy in a flight suit, a good day at the office included a couple of hours of paperwork in my collateral duty (dirty-little-jobs-officer when I checked into my first squadron, less panic-ridden as I progressed up the ladder), another couple of hours counselling troops or working on deplyment schemes and, interspersed, a couple of hops to hone my flying skills.
Pretty cushy schedule, you might think—four hours of work and a couple of dinky flights—but that doesn’t quite tell the story. The total time involvement for a 1.5-hour flight worked out to something in the neighborhood of four hours: 45 minutes for mission planning and prebriefing; 30 minutes for suiting up, reviewing the aircraft’s discrepancy log, preflighting the bird, firing up, taxiing out, and going through the runup checks; 90 minutes from brake release to landing roll-out; 30 minutes to de-arm, taxi in, shut down, postflight the bird, fill out the discrepancy log (perhaps discuss a gripe with a mechanic), make a pit stop, and grab something to drink; and finally 45 minutes to an hour to do a thorough debrief…second in importance only to completing the entire evolution without crashing. Not every sortie went like this—some were a lot longer—but you get the picture.
Almost a throw-away was my mention of a discussion with a mechanic about an aircraft problem—but, in fact, this was an integral part of the evolution, and a mandatory aspect if the gripe involved a safety-of-flight issue.
Is such end-of-the-shift communication between your drivers and maintenance technicians less important in keeping your fleet’s chassis and bodies in good working order? I don’t think so. In fact, it ranks up there with making sure your people are able to work safely and return home each day in the same condition as when they left.
One of the foundations of good fleet maintenance lies in making sure your drivers know what they should be looking for. Such technological advances as auto-lubing and auto-filtration certainly help, but you need to have a driver that’s trained to recognize and report the first signs of trouble before a minor problem becomes a major one. Another is making sure they communicate their findings with your maintenance staff.
Without proper monitoring and inspection, hours of downtime can quickly turn into days or weeks, and repair costs can grow from hundreds of dollars to thousands. Who’s going to tell you about how your trucks are holding up, so that you can make well-informed, cost-effective solutions to nip a problem in the bud before it gets out of hand? The answer is that it’s the people who are behind the wheels of your trucks, or working in the street behind them... and no amount of money spent on cutting-edge technology or expert repair technicians can measure up to the potential savings that your collection force can provide for you with by giving you accurate, up-to-date information about how your fleet’s holding up.