Long Term Minded – It’s What You Should Want

Being an Independent Operator requires a good understanding of the impact of good maintenance and poor maintenance. Short term cash savings versus long term reduction in downtime and operational costs is critical to every operator’s business understanding and consideration.

I recently had to do a safety on my personal vehicle. I was given several choices in the type of ‘safety’ I wanted. My choices were: high end, middle of the road or just barely pass. I was then given options as to the quality of parts I desired to install: high end, mid-range or low cost. Everything came down to my attitude towards the vehicle in question. Do I want to ‘flip it’ or keep it long term?

None of these options were illegal. They were business options given to me regarding my vehicle so I could choose the level of commitment I wanted to make to my vehicles long term feasibility.

I now understand why so many used car dealerships have their own maintenance shops to perform their own safeties. If their level of commitment is to ‘flip it’, their choices are directed to barely pass and low cost. Neither of which are illegal by the way. However, it’s an ethical choice that maintenance shops and dealerships make all the time.

Every independent Operator needs to know these tensions in their industry. Counselling hundreds of Operators, I am convinced that few to no Operators have the identical commitment level to their equipment. I know one Operator that will replace their alternator every four years whether it’s in great shape or not. Since the life expectancy is four years for an alternator, they don’t want to live on ‘borrowed time’ with something five years old. Another Operator carries a spare alternator in their bunk. Both have similar commitments to their potential downtime yet have a different approach. Neither, by the way, is wrong.

Some carriers don’t perform complete oil changes in the last year of a lease, preferring to just swap filters only, combined with limited, regularly scheduled maintenance (such as low quality or temporary repairs). They may save thousands or tens of thousands of dollars using these policies. However, what effect does this have on their long-term reputation? Many would say “no effect at all” because on the day they hand their leased trucks in, they are no longer liable for its long-term performance. From a legal perspective they are correct. However, those actions contribute to a castaway mentality in our economic system.

I know a carrier that purchases only new power units and once management has determined that the power units have been fully utilized by their company drivers, they send it through their maintenance shop for a high-level safety (a practice they instilled since new). Once completed, they offer the equipment to Operators at a fair price. The company carries and then offers its own warranty plans (not full but fair) and is committed to seeing their Operators successful. In my 20+ years in the industry, my opinion concludes that trucks from this company produce the greatest, long term efficiency and one of the highest success rates to Operators.

Independent Operators generally take much better individual care of their equipment than Company Drivers do (or that a carrier can implement). They do so because they have a vested interest in the equipment’s operational efficiency. No carrier can match the attention to detail and care an Operator can develop with their own equipment. It’s the most efficient method of equipment management… provided the Operator cares for its long-term performance.

There is no regulatory body that cares for equipment as much as the long-term minded owner. However, the key is long term minded. It holds a professional intent within its very definition.

If you buy a truck from a ‘professional’ operator (long term minded), you know what kind of truck you will get. If you work for a carrier who is truly long term minded in their choices and policies, it will reflect in their ethical operations. Business is deeply saturated with ethical choices, most of which have nothing to do with illegal activity.

About the Author:
Robert D. Scheper is a leading Accountant and Consultant to the Lease/Owner operator industry in Canada. His first book in the Making Your Miles Count series “taxes, taxes, taxes” was released in 2007. His firm exclusively serves Lease/Owner Operators across Canada. His second book “Choosing a Trucking company” is the most in-depth analysis of the operator industry available today. He has a Master degree (MBA) in financial management and has been serving the industry since he and his wife came off the road in 1993. His dedication, commitment and strong opinions can be read and heard in many articles and seminars.

You can find him and his books at www.makingyourmilescount.com or 1-877-987-9787. You can also e-mail him at robert@thrconsulting.ca.

About Robert Scheper

Robert D Scheper operates an accounting and consulting firm in Steinbach, Manitoba. He has a Masters Degree in Business Administration and is the author of the Book “Making Your Miles Count: taxes, taxes, taxes” (now available on CD). You can find him at www.thrconsulting.ca and thrconsulting.blogspot.com or at 1-877-987-9787. You can e-mail him at: robert@thrconsulting.ca.