The current coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has touched just about every aspect of truck fleet management, from purchase to maintenance to disposal, and everything else in between.
One area truck fleet managers are specifically concerned about is the impact now (and in the future) on their vehicle upfits.
We spoke with Reading Truck Group to find out more about what they see happening now and in the future.
Impact on Upfitting & Fleet Operations
Currently, the chassis supply is dwindling.
“Chassis in transit are still trickling in, but production at OEMs has halted,” noted Eric McNally, VP, sales, and marketing for Reading Truck Group.
Currently, Reading is hopeful that OEMs will resume manufacturing in May, which will help keep its branches busy, but only time will tell.
Today, Reading operates quite a bit differently than before to help keep employees and customers safe.
“Reading is utilizing social distancing measures in all our facilities. Individual mechanics are completing trucks in a bay build versus teams and the company added additional wash stations and portable restrooms in some facilities to reduce close contact among employees,” McNally shared.
The company has also installed thermal camera systems at the factory that allow for 100% of the people entering to be instantly temperature checked. This allows the Reading factory medical staff to immediately segregate employees displaying elevated temperatures and confirm temperature with an instant read thermometer.
If an employee is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, the company follows a Decision Tree developed to ensure the safety of the employee and their teammates. "
"This could mean quarantining work areas or people as well as a strict decontamination protocol," McNally noted.
It has also implemented new cleaning protocols, between shifts to reduce risk, staggering shift start times to reduce contact by entering and exiting employees as well as a work from home policy for select office personnel to minimize working proximity at the office.
Flexibility is going to be essential over the next six months to a year.
“Anxiety in the market has caused some cancellations and/or delays of work trucks. We will need to be flexible and resourceful in the third and fourth quarters of 2020 to ensure volume meets the needs of our business,” McNally said.
Factors & Advice
The need for qualified and skilled technicians ready and able to work has never been more critical.
“It can be more time consuming to complete more complex builds when we don’t pair up highly skilled techs with helpers,” McNally shared.
Fleet managers are resourceful people who are used to market pressures and economic changes impacting their overall operations. At the end of the day, success can typically be tied to one factor: clear communication.
“Communicate with your upfitter your needs and prioritize the builds to ensure a successful upfit and best impact your business,” McNally concluded.
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