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Rent a Truck, Learn Lessons

EP Editorial Staff | January 24, 2018

Renting a moving truck can teach some important reliability and maintenance lessons.
Renting a moving truck can teach some important reliability and maintenance lessons.

Q: Can I use/transfer reliability and maintenance skills to other activities?

A : If you are fortunate enough to work for a company that provides sufficient training, then you should be very grateful. As I work with companies, small and large, it’s evident that there are shortcomings.

You can also observe this as you interact with other businesses in your daily activities, such as my recent weekend truck-driving adventure. Although we moved to Tennessee several years ago and had disposed of lots of stuff, we still had two filled storage units in Michigan. To move the items out of storage, I rented a 26-ft. moving truck from a well-known company. What I learned from the ensuing events relates directly to reliability and maintenance practices.

Event 1: The online rental cost did not match the pick-up rental cost, i.e., there is a data-entry problem somewhere in the company.

Lesson: Use and follow standardized work processes. Do maintenance and production share common systems and goals?

Event 2: I was told that the license and registration papers were in the glove compartment. There was no glove compartment. While searching for the papers, I climbed up and kneeled on the air-cushioned seat, lowering it several inches and revealing documents taped to the back window.

Lesson: Either make sure that you have a standard product (to minimize training) or train employees to handle the variations. Hands-on training has been found to deliver a payback four-times higher than conventional classroom training.

Event 3: Do I need to go through the truck-stops’ weighing scales? Nobody at the rental facility could tell me. Since I would be driving through several states, I looked on the internet at five key truck-rental and government sites. There was no consistent state-to-state information, other than the large penalties that applied if I was wrong. So, I stopped in each state and went to a truck scale to assure that our vehicle complied with relevant regulations. For the record, our 16,000-lb. truck with a 25,999-lb. limit had a 22,000-lb. total weight.

Lesson: Have trusted reference documents that are up to date.

Event 4: There were lots of gauges that were new to me. For example, “what is DEF?” The response was, “I don’t know that one either. I’ll have to look it up.” Also, there was no truck instruction manual. I did look it up for safety. DEF is diesel exhaust fluid, which typically is 2/3 deionized water and 1/3 urea and needs to also be periodically refilled. It’s sprayed into the exhaust stream to reduce NOx into harmless nitrogen and water. I also learned that, while diesel fuel is actually safer because its vapor won’t explode/ignite as easily as gasoline, accidentally putting DEF into your diesel fuel tank can result in lines bursting and probably a new motor.

Lesson: Safety should be the highest priority. Why insufficient safety instructions? This is major damage that can be avoided. It happens quite frequently, based on the number of “how do I fix this” questions on the web.

Event 5: There were lots of visual controls, but I didn’t know what they all meant. Since there was no manual, a simple sheet taped on the window behind the seat would have taken care of it.

Lesson: Simple job aids can be a big help for new employees and improve uptime and reduce human error when infrequently repaired equipment is involved.

Event 6: I was disappointed that the windshield-wiper fluid was empty and the interior was dirty.

Lesson: First impressions set the tone for what is expected of others.

Event 7: It took a day of driving to get comfortable performing basic functions such as using only side mirrors, judging the turn radius, and backing up. Also, I learned that people do not drive safely when they are around big trucks.

Lesson: Don’t assume you understand what it takes to perform a job unless you’ve lived it yourself. At least do a Day-In-Life-Of (DILO) walk and talk with the experts to understand.

Event 8: When we arrived (after specifying the date in advance) at the second storage unit, the facility was having new asphalt applied. Insert angry emoji here.

Lesson: Plan and schedule work only if all participants follow the same plan.

We figured everything out eventually. I gained a new respect for truck drivers and was grateful for all of the R&M training I had received. The real lesson is to practice and apply that training in all you do. EP

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at kblache@utk.edu.

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