On the Road to More Service Options

If your wheels are not turning you are not earning. This is practically a mantra with all commercial drivers. We all have stories about roadside breakdowns and tire blowouts that cost us a great paying load due to getting behind schedule. Or faced the annoyance of getting to a customer for a preloaded trailer and finding it has 8 flat tires and 5 missing brakes. (OK OK so that may be a slight exaggeration but not by much…). If you are a company driver you are faced with waiting for your company to find a local service company to come out and do the repairs. If you’re an owner-operator you now have to do this on your own.  Often time major national chains will be busy with other calls when we need them the most.  Or you may have had a bad experience with a shop or chain of shops and be reluctant to use them again.  Whether a company driver, an Owner Operator, or the owner of a fleet we all can agree time lost is revenue lost. The more options we have to expedite repairs quickly and efficiently the better, as it means more money for all involved.

Dave Latimer VP Shop Operations at GATS with one of the new service trucks.

I had an opportunity to interview Dave Latimer VP of Shop Strategy and Operations for Pilot Flying J.  Dave is in charge of the rollout of the Pilot Flying J Truck Care program. In just a few short months between MATS and GATS, there has already been significant changes and improvements in their program.  As of GATS they had 109 trucks at locations in 30 states.  Very impressive as the program just started this year. They have a goal of 150 service trucks by the end of this year. Which if things continue on they should easily meet.

First of all Pilot-Flying J is introducing a new model of service to increase the speed of their rollouts.  Traditionally when a truck stop rolls out a service program they build a shop on site.  In this case, PFJ, in order to expedite roll out and bring improved service to drivers and the industry, has gone a different route.  While they are building fixed locations across the country that will be able to do a variety of services.  They are rolling out mobile service trucks that will be based at various locations around the country.  Spare parts and tires will be housed in storage units on site allowing them to get the locations up and running in a far more efficient manner.

When PFJ introduced this service earlier this year. They were focusing on tire repairs and replacement, along with the associated simple repairs that can accompany a blowout.  Typically it was items that could be easily done roadside and take less than 2 hours of time. They will be carrying most f the top tire brands and working with the majority of the National Tire Accounts.

More recently they have added a greater variety of repairs that can be done ranging from electrical, to brakes, and even AC.  For emergency situations, this can be done roadside or they can meet you at a local safe place to park such as a shipper or receiver, or parking lot to complete the repair. Or you can go to your local PFJ location that has these units stationed there to have your repairs completed. They intend to stick with repairs to get drivers up and on the road in a timely manner. More complex repairs such a major engine issues, DPF, and other similar issues, are best handled by the dealership or full-scale repair centers.

Their 24-hour call center 1-888-997-1034 will help you locate a PFJ service location near you.  If you’re not sure if the location in your area can provide the services you need ask. As they will be more than willing to help ensure you get what you need. During our conversation, Dave mentioned several times he feels that the major advantage their service program has over other companies, is their people.  They are willing and able to offer high-quality service with a smile keeping in mind that getting you back on the road quickly as possible with the repair done right the first time is crucial.

Thinking back I wish that we had had the option of Pilot-Flying J’s new roadside assistance program a few years ago.    I had picked up a trailer that had a bad tire as well as a brake and a few other minor issues.  Of course, I was in rural Mississippi and the local shops did 1 or the other. brakes or tires. Fortunately, the young lady who was working our road breakdown department that night was determined to help get me back on the road soon as possible. So after quite a few calls, she was eventually able to find a shop that could help me more quickly and efficiently. Having another major service chain offering on-site service may have sped up the process of getting back on the road.

As any driver will tell you there is rarely if ever a 1 size fits all solution to anything in trucking, and more options is typically a good thing.  Pilot-Flying J with their new service programs is giving drivers and fleets more options for their service needs.  Their rapid expansion plans and innovative rollout strategy. It should help increase our service options and help to maximize uptime and productivity. Which ultimately helps us the driver by increasing our opportunities to make money.  I look forward to seeing them continue this rollout and seeing how it may make life easier and more productive. As you get the chance to use their service please let me know your experiences with it. As time goes on I will be doing follow-ups about new services as they become available and how things are going.

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