RNI mechanics keep trucks running in Utah's remote Uinta Basin
Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
Keeping the equipment up and running takes a substantial maintenance capability. RNI has three shops in Utah's Uinta Basin at Blue Bell, Vernal, and Glenbench. RNI also has a small shop in Rangely, Colorado. “The Glenbench location puts a shop right in the midst of where most of our trucks are operating,” Chapman says. “That is critical because our mechanics see the equipment regularly.”
Even with the slowdown in natural gas drilling, RNI continues to expand its maintenance capabilities. A new 10-bay shop is under construction in Vernal and should be operational by early summer.
Fleet repairs are handled by a diverse maintenance team. RNI has trained many of its mechanics from scratch, and vendors such as Kenworth help out with the training. As with the drivers, the trucking company looks for mechanic applicants who show a willingness to work hard and learn.
Women became a critical part of the RNI maintenance program during the boom times, working as mechanics and shop managers. In fact, RNI probably exceeds the trucking industry average for the number of women mechanics in its maintenance program. Only 3,300 women (just 0.9% of the total mechanic workforce) work as bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists, according to a 2008 Bizjournal survey.
The maintenance program is built around preventive service, and drivers are part of the effort. The company relies on drivers to alert mechanics when a problem is detected. A majority of the fleet has the Qualcomm on-board satellite communication system, and drivers can contact the shop in an emergency. Drivers also assemble their own product hoses.
Trucks and tractors are serviced on a 200-hour oil change interval. Mechanics check or change air, oil, and fuel filters during that service. Filters are cut apart for examination, and oil samples are sent out for analysis as part of an aggressive effort to detect and fix problems before they result in equipment breakdowns.
RNI mechanics at the Blue Bell shop handle warranty work on engines, and mechanics at the other shops repair and rebuild a wide range of vehicle components. “Very little of our fleet repair work is sent to the dealer,” Price says.
The slower economy is giving RNI mechanics a little more time to examine vehicles brought in for service or repair. However, the principal objectives remain the same: Do the job right and get the equipment back on the road as quickly as possible to meet customer needs.
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