How many of you have been in the truck stop and seen another driver struggle to find a parking place or trying to back into a tight spot? What did you do? Did you just sit there and watch, or did you get out and help? My guess is that you got out your phone and took a video, hoping for something bad (funny) to happen, then made snide and unkind remarks on TikTok. I don’t know what possesses people to do that.
I remember growing up on the farm in the 60s and 70s. My mother made us memorize “the golden rule” until it was as familiar as the scent of fresh baked bread. We savored that taste and associated it (the bread) with good times. If you’re not familiar with the golden rule, it goes like this: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. All these years later, I still think it’s a pretty good rule to live by.
Any of us would want someone else to watch out for our stuff, but in times of need, are you the one that steps up and looks out for someone else? It may be raining and the wind is cold, but the driver backing in next to a truck two doors down is having difficulty – so why don’t you be the one to help? Yeah, I know, it’s not your truck, but what if it was? Wouldn’t you want someone to look out for your equipment? I don’t care whether you own the truck or not, if we don’t take the time to help each other out here, none of us will survive in this world for very long.
When you act on the behalf of the other person you never know if the driver you save may become a friend for life. That driver you helped may go on to be the person that helps someone else who helps you back. Most people forget charity, but a charitable act can come at no cost to the giver and give great value to the person who receives it. Many of life’s simplest rewards are received by those who spend their time sprinkling tid-bits of goodwill wherever they go, not by taking from the joy of others.
Wow! Now that I have got that off my chest, let’s see what else we can stir up this month. Now that summer is behind us and the short months of fall are here, what did we miss? Excuse me? What are you talking about? I’ve been doing my maintenance… well, sort of. Remember back in August when we were full into summer and the days were long and mostly hot, and our patience, for the most part, was short and quick to flair. I’m no exception to this – especially when something breaks or parts fail to live up to my expectations.
It was about this time last year when I had a bearing fail on my steering axle and realized just how vulnerable we as drivers are to attending our own crash site. Thankfully, as things worked out, I didn’t crash, but I did need a wrecker to move the truck to a shop for repairs. Thanks to a Walmart driver who I had passed earlier, he noticed smoke and contacted me to let me know, saying, “Driver, you got troubles!” I am truly thankful for his intervention. Without his observation, I may not have been able to get stopped when I did. And trust me when I tell you, it was none too soon.
By the time I was able to get my truck stopped, the outer bearing was completely gone and only the brake drum was keeping my front right tire and rim from departing the workforce. This stuff never happens when you can just pull over to the side of the road. No. I was on the downside of a hill, rolling onto a long bridge, of which I couldn’t stop. Little did I know at the time how severe the damage was. Two minutes later, I needed to sit down on the side of the road and pray! I am still thankful my truck and trailer (and myself) didn’t become part of the scenery over the side of the hill that day. Every time I cross that bridge, I give thanks to the trucking gods that I managed to stop and offer up a prayer for that driver who alerted me of the impending danger.
That old saying “what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger” may not be the best motto to live by. I kinda like my personal motto “maintenance early, maintenance often” better. Sometimes the time and money spent keeping your wheels turning can be the difference between turning a profit and turning over in the median. None of us are exempt from the dreaded breakdown. Shoot, we as drivers can’t even pick the time or the place it will happen. Even if we could, some of us would miss the appointment and still complain about our troubles. Nobody wants to crawl under their equipment when the blacktop is hot, but it has to be done if you don’t want to pay the wrecker company when your issue rears its ugly head on the road.
I have noticed more trucks broke down this year than in years past. The first question all of us should be asking is why? Right along with why is, WHY ME?! I’m no different than the rest of you, and if you’re an owner operator you are already looking at the rising cost of fuel, insurance, labor, and the list goes on and on. Inflation is rising and the cost of repair parts is steadily going up. That is even if you can find parts or people to do the work in a timely fashion.
During the time of Covid, we the people who were deemed “essential” have covered more miles and delivered relief to the masses. Early on we were praised, now, not so much – it is back to business as usual. What I really wanted to address is the lack of parts available for repairs. I’m having difficulty getting the simplest of parts, things like wheel seals and hub gaskets. I replaced my brakes and drums late last year and at the time my supplier told me I received the last of their supply. They didn’t know how long before more would arrive. Not only did they not know when another shipment might arrive, but more concerning was who would be the manufacturer.
I like to purchase parts made in America by long standing companies known for quality. The best price is not always your friend. I usually buy extra for emergency use, as well. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Trust me, a couple dollars spent for inventory parts are well spent when you need them out on the road – dare I even say priceless. It never fails, when I find an issue, it’s almost always late on Friday night or Saturday after the parts store or dealer has called it a week and gone home. If we were to take a survey of who has extra chrome, lights or stainless at home versus who has repair parts like wheel seals or fan belts, who do you think will win? The winner of the survey will be chrome and stainless, but the winners of the group will most certainly be the ones with real replacement parts.
We have covered this topic before, but now it’s even more important than ever. Not only are we having difficulty finding the right parts, but finding good parts are even more scarce. What makes a part good? I’m not sure right now. I always made a point to buy American made when I could, but today, even the traditional manufacturing companies are having difficulty finding replacement components to build with. Remanded parts are becoming questionable as to their quality. The lack of labor returning to work is also creating more stress to the supply chain. I have even considered doing my own rebuilds, when possible. Don’t get me wrong, I know that not all of us are going to have the tools or the knowledge to do our own rebuilds, but I have always said that knowledge is the most important tool in your arsenal.
Most manufacturers label parts as New Old Stock (NOS) if not previously used or reconditioned. They are more expensive to purchase than rebuilt parts, unless you can get “core value” for your old part. But be weary of unscrupulous parts stores that will not tell you about the core charge or credit. Who knew there are people out there that will cheat hard working folks like you! Well, be advised, they are out there.
There are also some who will take parts out of the original packaging and sell them to you as an accessory kit. Peterbilt stores are notorious for this. Do some research on your own before running down to the parts store. I have found the dealers are some of the worst at sticking it to us drivers. However, if you order online from the dealer, the parts come complete because they are shipped from a warehouse by the supplier, not the actual dealership. That’s where a little preplanning can pay off.
Common sense normal use items like an extra brake drum or a set of brake shoes makes for great saving when you have them on hand. I just had to use my standby set of 4707q shoes when I had a brake pad separate from the base. Not something we see often, but it does happen. I am questioning if it’s due to poor quality replacement materials and workmanship. Unfortunately, as usual, it happened at a very inappropriate time, about one mile into a long construction zone where I could not stop.
By the time I got to a safe place to stop, the damage was done. The shoe itself separated from the base and lodged between the leading pad and the brake drum. This caused the wheel to lock up and slide the tires. It was one of those times where, in the name of safety, I knowingly destroyed two almost new tires. $1,200 and two hours later, the guys at Love’s saved my day. Knowing I had a critical time allotment to keep my customer satisfied, I did what I had to do to keep going.
Had I stopped in the construction area it could have endangered both me and the tire repair man. Timothy, in the Love’s Tire Service Center in Waterloo, Iowa, got me fixed up and back on the road quickly. I’m sorry he had to work in the rain, and I do wish you drivers would slow down when these technicians are performing along the side of the road. Drivers, this isn’t a game, and if you hit or run over someone there’s no reset button to start over. Move to the next lane and SLOW DOWN! Yes, I have spare tires at my shop, but they didn’t do me any good that far from home. Plus, I needed to remove the rims and brake drum to extract the jammed shoe.
The fact that I had those extra shoes made my weekend far more productive. First thing Sunday morning, having only spent an hours’ worth of labor, and I was back in business – and my delivery was done on time. Now, when I get back home again, I will be contacting my supplier and replacing that set with some new ones for my inventory – at their expense, of course! I have also already decided if there are any more issues, I will be replacing all of those shoes with brand new ones, since the rebuilders can’t (or won’t) guarantee the quality of the materials they use for their rebuilds. Never mind the difference in cost. I just spent $1,200 trying to “save” money.
I was listening to a program earlier today when the speaker proclaimed it doesn’t matter how much money you make each year, what really matters is how much you are able to keep. Gross revenue less expenses equal profits (or lack thereof). That’s a simple fact, but how we get to the final equation is dependent on your actions.
It really doesn’t matter if you are running a shoe store or a large trucking company, the basic rules of supply and demand still apply. If you can’t step up to the plate and provide a service that is equivalent to your customer’s need, they will use someone else. I keep that in mind when I’m ordering parts and booking loads. It makes a big difference if you are armed with information and can find the best buy for your needs.
When buying “cheap” parts, it has been said that the sweetness of the savings will be lost by the sour taste of poor quality. On a brighter note, no one was hurt or lost their job, and it only cost $1,200 so I guess we will live to fight another day. Besides, I would probably lose the money to taxes anyway. Just doing my part to stimulate the economy, right? Stay safe out there, drivers, and spend a couple extra minutes looking at your equipment. None of us wants to see it run over the hill and become part of the scenery. And remember to live by that golden rule, 10-4!