Finding Maintenance On The Highway

As trucking grew into the nation's dominant provider of freight services, truckstops followed the growth trend, becoming major sources for maintenance and repair for longhaul fleets. This growth has spanned an evolution from shade-tree mechanics at stations catering to users of diesel fuel to nationwide chains of fuel and service outlets that can provide customized fleet services.

Modern truckstops provide everything a driver needs to maintain himself and his truck. Just as trucks periodically need washing, drivers need showers. Trucks and drivers both have to stop fairly often for fuel. Drivers catch colds and trucks need oil changes or other minor maintenance services. Truckstops can meet the needs of both. Convenience stores in truckstops offer over-the-counter medications. In fact, many truckstops offer more extensive medical services. Two truckstop chains have formed alliances with major truck manufacturers to provide warranty services and preventive maintenance.

Fleet operators and drivers have moved beyond looking for highway billboards to choose a truckstop. As more and more drivers rely on the Internet as an information source, truckstop directories have become less important. In a quick search, we found web sites for 10 truckstop chains. Six of those chains offer maintenance service of one form or another. We will take a look at the way these service offerings are presented on the company's sites. We also will list the URLs for all 10 chains. In most instances, these sites provide links to weather and road condition reports.

Sapp Bros Truck Stops has 15 locations in the Midwest along the I-70 and I-80 corridor. Sapp Bros' Services page features the company's Shop VIP card, a sort of frequent buyer club for drivers. The VIP card offers a free preventive maintenance inspection to drivers who purchase six inspections. The same offer is made for lubrication services. The page shows the checklist used for the preventive maintenance inspections.

The site for Sapp Bros also notes that the company has national account agreements for Bridgestone and Goodyear tires. It provides 24-hour road service. For on-site service, Sapp Bros has Hunter certified alignment equipment and EPA certified air-conditioning technicians. The truckstops perform DOT inspections.

Bosselman Inc is another small chain with nine locations in four central Midwestern states. Four of Bosselman's truckstops offer truck service. The service centers are open 24 hours and are equipped to perform preventive maintenance, air-conditioner service and repair, and exhaust system repair and replacement. Bosselman truckstops also repair air systems, service brakes, shock absorbers, and wheel bearings as well as other light repair and component and accessory installation.

Fifth Wheel Truck Stops operates six locations in Ontario, Canada. Three of these franchised operations have on-site maintenance. The web site for Fifth Wheel is available in French as well as English.

Flying J Inc runs 133 truckstops in 39 states and Canada. An additional 36 locations are under construction. Flying J is moving rapidly toward becoming a maintenance provider. It already has eight J Care Service Centers, which are eight-bay shops with two bays for inspection and lubrication, two for tire service, and two bays for truck washing. Another seven J Care centers will open in the next few months, and 15 centers are planned for future expansion of the program. Flying J's web site offers an extensive menu of the maintenance services available at its truckstops along with the posted price for these services. The company's J Care POS information system can provide operators with a truck-specific maintenance schedule. Flying J offers fleet accounts that provide a single monthly bill for all work done at company truckstops. The web site emphasized that oil analysis is available on-site at J Care centers.

Petro Stopping centers is one of two chains that have allied themselves with tractor manufacturers. Petro's partner is Volvo, for which the 56 truckstops across the Southwestern US are Volvo warranty centers. The company offers lube express services and says that most work is finished within 30 minutes. Repair at Petro centers is performed by certified technicians. The web site offers a service menu with a complete list of prices for work such as replacing belts and hoses, alternator and starter repair, water pump replacement, and air-conditioner service.

One of the larger truckstop chains, Travel Centers of America, has formed a service partnership with Freightliner. The chain offers 24 hour service and a stock of Freightliner parts at 130 of its locations. In addition, TA is a referral point for Freightliner emergency and roadside repairs. The web site provides a complete list of TA truckstops and a service menu with descriptions and prices. Among the services are a 45-point preventive maintenance inspection for tractors and a complete trailer PM inspection.

Hookup.com Growth Seen as Industry Trend An online truck, trailer, and equipment auction site called hookup.com recently reported tremendous growth in activity on its auction during the fourth quarter that shows the industry is beginning to look toward the Internet for equipment.

After upgrading its format by offering a new user-friendly site design and online 24/7 auctions, bidding activity increased from 150 bids in August to well more than 2,280 bids in November. As of December 11, more than 1,730 bids have already been placed on hookup.com, resulting in more than $444,000 in sales. More than 4,700 bids total are projected for the month.

To be eligible to participate on www.hookup.com, registration is required, but registration is free. Listing packages are available. For more information, phone 800-241-6195 or e-mail [email protected]

AFFI Revamps, Launches Web Site The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) has launched its newly redesigned web site, www.AFFI.com. With this new site, AFFI intends to expand the depth and breadth of its services to AFFI members, policymakers, students, consumers, and the media by displaying up-to-the-minute information on issues that impact the entire frozen food distribution chain.

This interactive site features on-line resources for the media, a video version of AFFI. com: The Capital Connection, as well as electronic convention and conference registration forms. The site also offers a Public Policy section, which includes links to congressional legislation, a mechanism to locate and contact members of Congress, and all public policy letters, comments, and testimony submitted by AFFI.

Qualcomm Offers iTruckMAIL Web Interface Qualcomm Inc has announced the commercial release of its new iTruckMAIL web-based service. iTruckMAIL enhances existing TruckMAIL mobile communications system to allow mapping and messaging capabilities via the Internet. Features include street-level mapping, free-form messaging, vehicle position reporting and history, easier IT implementation, multiple user connectivity and platform access, and laptop connectivity.

TruckMAIL, a mobile communications solution designed for fleets of less than 100 trucks, is used by more than 150 of Qualcomm's customers. The system provides two-way communications and satellite tracking using Qualcomm's technology. It enables fleets to redirect loads and communicate with drivers, and it provides accurate information regarding estimated times of arrival. iTruckMAIL will be offered to current TruckMAIL customers who desire online connectivity and to new customers within the truckload market.

Holland Group Launches Holland OnLine The Holland Group Inc announces Holland OnLine, a web site with information about Holland technologies, products, systems and services-worldwide. Holland Neway, Holland Anchorlok, Holland Binkley, and Holland ProPar brands all are included in this site. The site is located at www.thehollandgroupinc.com.

Currently portions of The Holland Group site are still under construction. The Holland Group, Holland Canada, Holland Hitch, Holland Neway, Holland Anchorlok, and Holland Europe GmbH brand sites are currently available. In the near future, Holland will complete the Holland Binkley and Holland ProPar brand sites as well as other international sites.

www.bosselman.com www.5thwheel.com www.flyingj.com www.petrotruckstops.com www.sappbrostruckstops.com www.tatravelcenters.com.

Additional truckstop chain addresses are www.knoxoil.com www.loves.com www.pilotcorp.com www.ripgriffin.com.

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