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Connection Management for Commercial Fleets

Learn about the importance of connection management, and how you can lower your cost-per-mile with the help of Kingpin Specialists.

Episode 171: What is largely ignored by most commercial maintenance programs, involves the entire fleet, both trucks, and trailers, keeps the trucks and trailers together, and most technicians only focus on half of the issue?

In this episode, we talk about kingpins, the importance of not ignoring maintenance on them, and the solution Kingpin Specialists offer.

My guests today are Rich Lefebvre and Nate Barry from Kingpin Specialists.  

Kingpin Specialists logo. In this episode, learn about the importance of not ignoring your kingpin, and how you can lower your cost-per-mile with the help of Kingpin Specialists and their connection management.

Kingpin Specialists has been providing commercial fleets with an industry-leading engineered solution for kingpins and a total connection management maintenance program for over 20-years.

Guest Website: KingpinSpecialists.com

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile.

Okay. Try to figure out what I’m talking about. This is something related to the trucking industry. It’s largely ignored by most commercial maintenance programs. It involves the entire fleet, both the trucks and the trailers, and it keeps the trucks and trailers together. That’s a big hint and most technicians only focus on half the issue. My guests today are Rich and Nate from Kingpin Specialists. Kingpin Specialists has been providing commercial fleets with an industry leading engineered solution for kingpins and a total connection management maintenance program for over 20 years. Rich, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Rich Lefebvre:

Good to see you. Jamie,

Jamie Irvine:

Nate, glad to have you here.

Nate Barry:

Glad to be here.

Jamie Irvine:

All right. So Rich, we kind of gave away with the name of your company, but when we were giving our little riddle at the beginning, what’s really ignored is the kingpin isn’t it?

Rich Lefebvre:

It’s very often overlooked. It’s one place that does not get anywhere near the attention it should.

Jamie Irvine:

So when we are talking about your company and we talk about an engineered solution that you provide, what are we describing when we say an engineered solution?

Rich Lefebvre:

Well, what we’re looking at is, all aspects of the kingpin are reviewed. When we do this procedure, the base metal of the bolster assembly is looked at to ensure that that’s in solid shape, the pin itself from the metallurgy to the procedure that’s used on it, to ensure that we get back to the base metal or back to the characteristics in the 86/ 30 base metal. The welder or the person performing the work is tested and certified to that level. And then ongoing, we try track that wear level to ensure that the finished results are meeting what a brand new trailer would be exhibiting as far as wear characteristics.

Jamie Irvine:

Right? So this isn’t just a matter of having someone who has some welding experience, be able to weld the kingpin, bring it back to some sort of a usable condition. This is more of a, an actual engineered solution that restores it to the OEM spec. So, Nate, one thing I’m curious about is why specifically with the kingpin in such a vital part of connecting it to the truck, like, I mean, this is a major connection point. Why is it often ignored?

Nate Barry:

I would say Jamie, there’s two reasons why the kingpin is often ignored. One is just the mindset. Typically, you know, on a drive in application on long runs is not gonna have a heavy wear rate. So in that aspect, in the field will be checking their annual inspections, but over time they’re not seeing the wear. So they just ignore it. The second aspect in, in fleets, where they are experienced in heavy wear, here they’ve separated the truck and trailer. They’re looking at the trailer and the pins covered with grease. They still see it there, it’s not a replaceable part. So they’re not looking at it from a service aspect. They’re looking at it, it’s still there. So until they have an issue or they clean off the grease and inspect it properly, they just don’t know what wear they have. So that’s where it just gets left out and they focus more on the fifth wheel because it’s, it’s in their training to inspect the fifth wheel and they have the parts to replace that. So in that aspect, you know, the kingpins there, it’s part of an assembly. What am I gonna do if it is bad? I don’t have that part on hand. So it just gets overlooked until there’s a serious situation or the wear exceeds the limits so much that they have to address the issue.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So Rich, one thing that I know from just getting to know Kingpin Specialists, working with you is you’re always talking about a maintenance program, connection management, a maintenance program. So what’s at stake for a commercial fleet, if they don’t have the proper maintenance program in place to address connection management?

Rich Lefebvre:

Liability is a huge part of that. If we’re not paying attention into the trailer and the truck is getting all of the attention and these things get worn out, then you definitely have a situation where you’re not necessarily worried about the trailer falling off, but you’re worried about it. If it is involved in an accident that can be an issue, but paying attention to the fifth wheel and repairing that, it’s a matter of how these two parts fit together and to get the maximum life out of both parts, they have to fit together at the proper dimension and fixing the jaws of the fifth wheel and not fixing the pin gives you a smaller and it wears out your fifth wheel very much quicker.

Jamie Irvine:

What I like, I’ve always heard you say that focusing on the fifth wheel is focusing on half the problem. And so if you only focus on 50% of the problem, it’s really getting 0% of the solution because it just is something that’s going to continue.

Rich Lefebvre:

Definitely. So it just continues getting worse.

Jamie Irvine:

So Nate, over the years that you’ve worked with Kingpin Specialists, you’ve gotten to see the, the continuous improvement of your process. So how have you perfected your kingpin solution over the years?

Nate Barry:

I have to say we’re continuing learning. I mean, there’s always something we’re seeing new and our process. What we’ve done is over the years with our development, we have streamlined our repair process where we’ll do multiple trailers. We can bring in multiple technicians and do it in a production environment, which gets the customers back their trailers as soon as possible. The other thing that we do to help the customers in our processes, we work on the days that they are not utilizing the trailers. And that’s where we line up multiple trailers for repairs at once. Additionally, when we’re in a site, we do a yard check or a site inspection. And what this does is it helps us track the wear rate of the fleet and identify other trailers that may need service. So we’re up there, we’re able to maximize our time to get the repairs done so that the fleet doesn’t have to call us back multiple times through the year to address the same problem that they have in their fleet. The tracking also gives them a projected budget for what they need to repair, because we can look at their wear rates. We can look at the trailers where they’re at and let them know, Hey, next year, you’re gonna have 10 more trailers, you’re gonna have 15 more trailers, and then it’s planned and it can streamline their budgets and help get the equipment back to them.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high quality fuel injection for heavy-duty applications? Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at ambacinternational.com/aftermarket. We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about how important it is to look at connection management as a whole, look at both the truck side of the equation and the trailer side. And so of course, we’ve got Kingpin Specialists here to talk to us about that. Rich, what mistakes do you see people commonly making when they’re thinking about connection management and how do we avoid those mistakes?

Rich Lefebvre:

One of the biggest things that we see in this industry is a company coming up with a plan to get on top of the maintenance and never following through or finishing it off. It’s one of those things that takes you years to get into a problem back yourself into this situation where you have a lot of trailers that are out of spec. And when you start repairing them, you have to stay consistent. You have to stay true to it. A lot of times it’ll take two to three years to kind of get all of these high units out of this kind of work through the system. Getting on top of the fifth wheels is a huge part of it, because if you’re not readjusting your fifth wheels and keeping the grease and keeping it like staying consistent on the plan.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. And when it comes to maintaining vehicles, we’ve got all these dates and times where we have to have commercial vehicles inspected, we have to have them repaired. And it’s just funny to me that, it’s not funny at all. It’s actually sad that that’s still an issue to this day that these maintenance programs do at times go, sometimes they catch up a little bit of the problem, and then all of a sudden they start to back off and the problem just exceeds and grows from there again. And so they’re right back into it. So let’s talk about the economics of that, Rich, when it comes to the economic impact of focusing only on the fifth wheel, give the listeners an idea of what some of the prices or the costs would be if ignore the kingpin and it gets to the point where now the problem has grown fleet wide.

Rich Lefebvre:

Well, one of the situations like, and just for example, a refrigerated fleet, because that’s gonna be one of the more common and one of the more expensive ones. If you’re looking at a situation where a grid replacement properly done, you can be looking at, you know, eight to $10,000 a couple of days down, but you’re waiting for those parts for a couple of weeks. If you’re not staying on top of that. And, you know, we kind of explained that when we did the presentation earlier this week, you end up with 60, 70% of a fleet, because what happens as that wear rate grows and new equipment isn’t being added, especially over the last couple of years, that wear rate just keeps getting driven up the it perpetuates itself, and it accelerates as you go. If you’re running all new trailers and you’re running all new tractors and you’re running them for eight years, you don’t have a kingpin problem, but when you’re supposed to run them for 10 and you end up running them for 15, you get yourself into a situation where the new trailers are only gonna last, four, maybe five years, and then you’re into a fail rate again. So you gotta stay on top of it.

Jamie Irvine:

Right? And those are big numbers when we start talking 10 grand per trailer. Nate, there’s a cost to your service. But as we know in maintaining commercial vehicles, the purchase price of a service or a product is not the whole story. So how does your service actually lower total cost of operation for the fleet?

Nate Barry:

Like you said, there’s a base cost for us to come in and to repair a kingpin. But once that repair is complete you’re not only saving on. And our service is a fast turnaround. So a typical kingpin repair is gonna be about two hours on site. So therefore when we work with a customer to plan a visit and they set the trailer aside, there’s no down time on that trailer because we come in, we repair it that day, two hours, it’s back in service. So you’re saving the cost of having that equipment outta service, and then you’re making up additional savings that you don’t see by now that trailer is not wearing on the fifth wheel. So you’re having less wear on the jaws. So a lot of customers that we have will be, let’s say, end user, where they’re fixing the pin when it’s at the end of life. And at that sense, they’re capturing, we’re keeping the trailer compliant. We’re keeping their fleet, you know, operational and safe, but they’re not capturing the savings that they could.

What we try to push is a preventative maintenance program. And by doing that, we repair the kingpins earlier than the end of life. And we keep basically the diameter of the pins, the variance less. So you’re not having a fleet with new pins and worn pins. You have a smaller variance on the fleet, which then keeps the wear rate down across the fleet. And that’s a long term savings. So in an aspect, let’s say a typical trailer’s gonna wear 5000 to 10,000 a year. You’re gonna get 10 to 12 years out of that trailer. If we come in and over time, you know, we watch those trailers and the wear rate increases, and it goes up to 25 to 30 because they’re not doing the maintenance preventative or they’re extending the life of the trailers and it’s pushing it back. Then you get into where a kingpin is wearing out in four to five years. So by doing the preventative maintenance and doing them at say 80 wear we keep that wear down. And now we get them back to that five to 10,000 range. And they’re consistently at that. Now they’re able to manage their budgets, able to extend the life of their equipment. And we’re rebuilding in year eight to 10 at a recommended level compared to doing at year eight or five at a fail. So that is where the huge savings comes on fleets because your equipment’s lasting longer, you’re doing less downtime and you’re having to put less parts into the equipment.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay. But if I have a fleet where my equipment is moving around the country, how is it that Kingpin is able to help me in that situation? Do you work with carriers that are national? What the service range for what you’re offering commercial fleets in the US and Canada?

Nate Barry:

Absolutely. Jamie, we are a nationwide company. We are a hundred percent mobile. We go to the fleet site. So the fleets are one of our main customers. And what we do is we go onto their sites, do yearly checks, and we’re tracking the wear rates on their fleet. So on some fleets, let’s say like a postal carrier, trailers are moving. So if they’re trackable, they have fobs in them. They can let us know where a trailer’s at, when it’s gonna be there. And we can schedule one of our service technicians in the area. For a typical repair of like one trailer. It may be two weeks to four weeks before we can get a technician out there because we’re gonna route them into the technician service route. But if a customer has, you know, six to 10 trailers, we’re gonna dedicate a technician into that site and schedule them up for repairs.

Jamie Irvine:

So, a true nationwide service and both on the US and Canadian sides of the border. Gotta take care of our Canadian brothers. And so you’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And we’ve been speaking with Rich and Nate from Kingpin Specialists. To learn more about Kingpin, go to kingpinspecialists.com. Links will be in the show notes. Rich, thank you for being back on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. It’s good to have you back.

Rich Lefebvre:

Very much enjoyed it. Thank you, Jamie

Jamie Irvine:

And Nate, first time on the show. Thanks for being on the show. I appreciate it.

Nate Barry:

Appreciate the invite. Thanks Jamie.

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