Operators can ask for help

By David Hubbard

ABC Companies manages the details through Fleet Assist

Growth for Corporate Coaches, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, over the last two years has come so rapidly that the company says its maintenance staff has felt overwhelmed with the influx of new equipment.

“Just in the last 18 months, we have grown from 17 coaches to an all-Van Hool fleet of 25,” says Andy Bardar, Corporate Coach owner and president. “At this rate our staff couldn’t keep up with the growth, not to mention finding the time to keep pace with record keeping.”

Bardar says that while his maintenance team knew what it was supposed to do, in the effort to maintain more vehicles in a shorter amount of time, he needed to find a simple and fast solution.

“Along with our new Van Hools, our fleet also includes several refurbished coaches, which typically require more attention than new equipment,” he says. “All this led us to talk to ABC Companies about how we could better handle our expanding maintenance requirements. They suggested we look into its new Fleet Assist service.”

A solution is born
Fleet Assist is a relatively new program that ABC Companies says alleviates the hassle and guesswork of tracking, scheduling interval preventive maintenance. After working with a model of this program for several years with some of its customers, ABC Companies had honed the service to the point it could officially launch it as Fleet Assist in Orlando, FL, in January during UMA EXPO 2013.

“This service is an effective way for any company or organization with a bus fleet and limited staff to track all its maintenance requirements,” says Ed Harmon, national director of operations. “The program is part of our strategy to partner with our customers to provide the solutions they need to run a safe operation. We understand the importance of a scheduled preventive maintenance program to control risk and achieve and maintain the highest possible safety ratings.”

He says through Fleet Assist, ABC Companies is able to help customers better manage maintenance and associated expenses including unforeseen costs. He says they service their customers with safer and more reliable equipment.

“This service allows ABC Companies to be more proactive to industry needs,” says Fleet Assist Support Manager Jessica Persaud. “We are doing more to prevent breakdowns by scheduling coaches which require preventive maintenance into one of our service centers.”

“The program came about in response to events in the industry that raised awareness for safer motorcoaches,” Harmon says. “This naturally includes the greater necessity of keeping more accurate records of maintenance procedures.”

How Fleet Assist works
Fleet Assist is structured to integrate a manufacturer’s recommended service schedule along with Department of Transportation (DOT) maintenance requirements and inspections. Based on the size and makeup of the fleet, duty cycles for each unit and maintenance requirements, customers can choose the standard Fleet Assist program at a flat rate or customize the menu of procedures to meet their specific needs.

“Our complete maintenance task list drills down into the details,” Harmon says. “We extract the information from the coach-specific maintenance manuals, regardless of make or model, and include recommended maintenance items in our inspection forms. It might get right down to something like cleaning and lubricating the brake pedal fulcrum every 5,000 miles.”

The price fluctuates as the choices increase or lessen. Operators can choose to perform the prescribed preventive maintenance schedule in their own shops or deliver the coach to the nearest ABC Companies location for service. Parts and labor are provided at a price for the customers.

According to Harmon, the percentage of Fleet Assist operators handling their own maintenance and those outsourcing the service to ABC Companies’ technicians is about even. For clients who prefer to keep it in-house, ABC Companies works with those companies to develop their service check-list recommendations based on the information the customer provides as well as those found in the manufacturer’s maintenance manual.

Corporate Coaches opted to schedule its preventive services at the ABC Companies services in Winter Garden, FL, as its coaches routinely make the 200-mile trip from Miami to Orlando.

“Our coaches are in and out of Orlando all the time, so for this it’s not as difficult as it sounds,” Bardar says. “We feel this arrangement outweighs the expense of an unexpected breakdown on the road.”

Using a proven fleet management program, Persaud maintains the database and on a weekly basis sends out the call for all fleet mileage data. She enters it into the Fleet Assist system and calls the clients for reports that don’t come in on-time.

“Fleet Assist allows ABC Companies to be very proactive to industry needs,” Persaud says. ”We are not simply responding to breakdowns by waiting for the coach to show up in one of our service centers.”

Persaud keeps close tabs and calls the clients for reports that don’t come in time. She prints a current PM schedule, noting equipment due for service soon within so many miles or days. The clients use the forecast maintenance report to schedule coaches accordingly, knowing never to send a coach nearing a long trip without first performing the required maintenance interval.

“We document the maintenance checks that are performed at our locations,” Persaud says. “We record the performance data on the check lists and store the results and other maintenance records in our maintenance tracking and coach history systems. The information is provided to the operator after the service and is also readily available upon customers’ request at a later date.”

Hidden benefits
Bardar speaks to a few hidden benefits he has discovered since using Fleet Assist.
“This information essentially turns into training after the fact for our technicians,” he says. “They say it has made them more watchful.

If something comes up on the report for one coach, they know to keep an eye for similar issues on the other coaches and catch the repairs in time. Being able to ask more questions and get the answers they need, our technicians are gaining new ways of looking at what they do.”

As Corporate Coaches heads into the high-business season, Bardar says the coaches are running harder and more maintenance is getting done.

“We are at the next level for a company this size,” he says. “We have opened our eyes wider to prevention and we are seeing fewer breakdowns. The maintenance staff is very comfortable with Fleet Assist, if not a little relieved.”