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What’s Your Backup Plan If You Break Down?

December 6, 2013 By: Byron Lay, AmeriQuest Transportation Services Tags: Blogs, Fleet Management

Breakdowns can wreak havoc on your business. At the very least, they can adversely affect your relationship with your customers. But unfortunately, breakdowns are a part of life in our business. So, what is your company doing to prepare for these inevitable nightmares?

Unless you’ve got a magic lamp somewhere with a tech genie that pops out when called upon, a driver will normally contact the home office when a breakdown occurs. It’s then up to your on-call maintenance personnel to make sure assistance is found and directed to the right location, and to keep communications open with the driver.

Larger companies have the resources necessary to handle almost any occasion, with multiple on-call personnel available at any time. As with most things in business, and in life, it’s all a matter of money.

But whether your company is large, mid-sized, or small, you need to have a backup plan. And that plan should start by posing the following questions to yourself: What happens if the power fails? What happens if your system goes down? What happens if the Internet or phones fail? What happens when you can’t find your designated on-call person? What happens if your truck is in an area that unfamiliar to your company?

Did you suddenly get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when reading these questions? Then your backup plan is decidedly insufficient. If you have a large enough company that you can afford to hire multiple people to always be available, then you could take that route.

Just keep in mind that, although breakdowns are certain to occur, they won’t happen every single day, which means you may have employees just sitting around, waiting for something to go bad. And that will negatively impact your bottom line.

There’s another way, and that’s by outsourcing your fleet breakdown service.  This is especially true for companies that find expansion to be unaffordable, and that currently have a workforce and/or infrastructure unable to handle truly unexpected emergencies like those mentioned in the questions above. Working with a third-party service provider can actually be a fraction of the cost of implementing your own internal backup plan — especially if your company has less than 200 breakdowns a year.

So what do you look for when you’re looking to outsource your fleet breakdown service?

Make sure they have access to repair and towing facilities that cover your transportation map. A great service is meaningless if a significant amount of your traffic flows in the Midwest, and they have minimal facilities available in that geographic area.

It shouldn’t cost you more to outsource this task than it does to handle it internally. Most of these services operate on a cost-per-service basis. But make sure you find one that doesn’t have lots of hidden fees.

You’re going to have to keep your customers informed during the event. Ensure that any service you use has the technology to track your vehicles throughout the event, and until the units are back on the road.

Check references. This seems such an obvious thing to say, but it’s also always true. Ask the service you’re looking at to provide you with customers that you can then talk to yourself.

Now that you know the main questions to ask, it’s time to start looking — before the next breakdown occurs.

Editor’s Note: Byron Lay is the director of AmeriQuest Road Rescue where he oversees day-to-day operations and strategic planning. Prior to Road Rescue, he was the director of maintenance for CURE Leasing & Maintenance where he managed that company’s 900-plus power unit fleet throughout 49 states and Canada. Lay brings more than 10 years of transportation maintenance experience to the Road Rescue program. He can be reached at