“In service, everything is measured in minutes,” says Antonio Buckley, service manager at the Mt. Vernon, Ill., location of Truck Centers Inc. (TCI). “Best practices ensure that we have the fastest possible turnaround time for customers, and consistent communication throughout the service process gets vehicles back on the road faster.”
Buckley’s approach, which he strives to put into practice every day at the 30-bay facility that he manages, stems from his experience on both sides of the service market. Having worked his way up from a technician to the role of service manager at an on-highway fleet, he knows the needs of TCI’s customers. Working at the dealership for the past five years has given him equally important insight into the service provider’s role.
Headquartered in Troy, Ill., Truck Centers Inc. is a family owned dealership that operates ten full service and two satellite locations in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri offering Freightliner, Western Star, Ottawa, Fuso, Sprinter and Detroit products. The Mt. Vernon service department is one of eight service locations in the company’s network.
“We have 18 technicians who staff our shop seven days a week, and a fully equipped mobile service truck that is available around the clock,” Buckley relates. “We’re equipped to handle repairs on any make or model of truck, tractor, trailer or motor home.”
The Mount Vernon shop, along with the other TCI facilities is an Elite Support-certified service center, part of a premier network of dealers across the U.S. and Canada that have exceeded standards set by Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). “Our goal to is to provide exceptional service and uptime,” Buckley says. “We remind ourselves every day to imagine we’re the customer and to put ourselves in their shoes. What they should expect is nothing less than an unmatched level of service.
“One of the most effective Elite Support programs we employ for improving uptime is Express Assessment,” Buckley says. “It’s a commitment to provide a preliminary diagnosis and repair estimate to our customers within two hours of arrival. We have also implemented an Express Bay for repairs that can be completed within four hours. It’s staffed by our most experienced technicians because they have the ability to move things along more quickly.”
With the Express Write Up program from DTNA, Buckley explains, service writers at the shop create repair orders as soon as a vehicle arrives at the facility. The application includes a repair history and warranty coverage, as well as fault code data from engine ECMs.
Once repairs are underway, the shop uses DTNA’s Uptime Pro application to communicate with customers through email and text messages.
The ongoing effort to continually improve service performance in the TCI Mt. Vernon shop includes daily communication with other company service facilities. “We have a program called Workload,” Buckley explains. “Before every shift, the shop foremen enter the number of technicians who are working, rate how busy the shop is on a scale from one to five, and provide a 12-hour workload forecast. The information is seen by service managers at all TCI locations so we can move trucks between facilities if that’s what it takes to get a customer back on the road faster.
“Another way we keep things moving is to coordinate closely with our parts department,” Buckley continues. “Our shop foremen and the parts staff are always communicating. They also work hard to make sure we always have the parts we need on hand. For example, the Karmak Fusion RIMpro program is used to automatically order parts based on frequency of use and to better manage inventory.”
Communication also takes place on a company-wide scale, Buckley notes, including quarterly service manager meetings with TCI’s Chief Operating Officer Katie Hopkins and its Service Operations Director Steve Spihlman. “We discuss anything and everything we can to make service better for customers,” Buckley says. “We call it borrowing proudly when we can share ideas and solutions that improve performance of our individual shops and across the company as a whole.”
The Truck Centers Inc. Future in Repair Service Technology (TCI F.I.R.S.T.) program is another initiative that Buckley says is focused on benefitting the Mt. Vernon shop, as well as all of the company’s service locations. The program provides training opportunities and apprenticeships for high school and vocational school graduates as well as veterans.
“TCI F.I.R.S.T. is like having your own farm system,” Buckley says. “It goes a long way toward addressing any technician shortage issues we might experience, and for participants, it can lead to a successful career as a service technician.”
The TCI F.I.R.S.T. program includes 16 weeks of instructor-led and web-based training on fundamental concepts followed by 12-week apprenticeships with senior technicians who serve as mentors. Successful graduates of the program are eligible to apply for employment opportunities at TCI dealerships and, if hired, can take advantage of a Tool Assistance Program.
TCI, according to Buckley, also promotes technician retention by offering competitive benefits and pay scales, including hourly and flat rate programs, and ongoing training. “Continuous training is the key ingredient in continuous improvement,” Buckley says.
“TCI also helps me continually develop my own management skills through its Accelerate program for service managers,” Buckley continues. “At those events we learn about things like SRT guides, policy and warranty repairs, and training processes for service and customer facing personnel.”
It all adds up when service performance in the TCI Mt. Vernon shop is measured, Buckley says. “We track everything from the truck’s arrival until repairs are completed,” he explains. “We measure the number of repairs completed within four, ten, 24, 48 and 72 hours as well as the percentage of parts that had to be back ordered.
“DTNA also provides quarterly rankings for dealer shops across the country,” Buckley continues. “We’re proud to always be in the top five for uptime performance in the 72-hour category and recently we were ranked number two in the 24-hour category in our class of dealers.
“It’s always about best practices that minimize downtime and get customers back on the road without sacrificing service quality,” Buckley adds. “Exceptional turnaround time means we’re eliminating wasted time. Even an extra five minutes on the phone waiting for a service update is five minutes wasted in a business that’s measured in minutes.”