Servicing the trailer usually takes a back seat to making sure the tractor unit is well-maintained. Partially this is because trailers are view almost as a disposable commodity – if one doesn’t work you pick up another, and for smaller owner-operators who are relying on customers to provide trailers, the need to make sure they are well-maintained does not figure into their operating equation.
Buying a new trailer is expensive, and this is why new acquisitions tend to be made by the national carriers and the larger regional operators. The majority of trailers on the road are used semi trailers, but there is an increased need to ensure they are properly maintained and not just from a road safety aspect. One reason why larger carriers go to the expense of a short replacement cycle is because the maintenance costs are minimized but more importantly, they minimize non-scheduled downtime, which is highly disruptive to customer operations. It doesn’t matter if it is the trailer or the tractor unit which fails on the road, the outcome is going to be a delayed shipment.
It is vital that you ensure an appropriate scheduled maintenance program is put in place, not only for your tractor units, but also for the semi trailers you use in your operation. Regular scheduled maintenance can be timed to minimize operational downtime and disruption to the customer service you are offering. In addition to “hard” maintenance issues, such as road safety compliance and obvious repairs which affect your operational capacity, there are also other, “soft” maintenance issues to address. Soft maintenance issues include dealing with the cosmetic appearance of the trailer – ensuring it is clean and has paintwork refreshed because appearances to customers and potential customers when in use are important.
It is essential that you form a relationship with a maintenance and repair company which knows what it is doing, and is prepared to go the extra mile to assist you. Breakdowns are costly affairs both in terms of sourcing roadside assistance and in terms of poor customer image, so extra money spent here will be saved on the road later. Ensure your selected maintenance partner has access to the technology and experienced personnel who can handle your needs, as well as provide you with a range of spare parts which includes OEM supplies and understands how the warranties on your equipment actually work.
The bottom line: don’t take risks with your equipment, and don’t favor the tractor unit over the used semi trailer gear.