Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

In-House Versus Outsourced Maintenance

September 2014, by Tariq Kamal - Also by this author

Austin Gutter King runs a small fleet of light-duty trucks and vans, yet decided to set up an in-house maintenance operation. Owner Gary Kulp estimates total savings of 60% when compared to servicing off-site, with considerable time savings, as well. 
Austin Gutter King runs a small fleet of light-duty trucks and vans, yet decided to set up an in-house maintenance operation. Owner Gary Kulp estimates total savings of 60% when compared to servicing off-site, with considerable time savings, as well.

After years of experimentation, Gary Kulp believes he has found the answer to keeping his fleet on the road. The owner of Austin Gutter King in Austin, Texas, hired an experienced mechanic to maintain his 38 diesel-, gasoline- and propane-powered trucks in a shop Kulp built at his facility.

Spending less than $20,000 for two used tire-balance-and-mounting machines, a new lift and an alignment rack, Kulp is sure his investment in a full-time mechanic and all that equipment has already paid off.

The cost of the equipment “is really nothing when you’re spending $100 on alignments twice a year for 38 vehicles,” Kulp says.

His decision to bring his maintenance in-house may work for other small fleets. But no two fleets are alike, and finding the maintenance sweet spot requires operators to determine the solution that works best for themselves, their drivers and their customers.

Kulp, along with two fleet operators from companies in different industries, discuss how they arrived at their maintenance solutions.

In-House Success

If every service need required a trip to an off-site facility, customers of Pointe Dairy Services Inc. in Troy, Mich., could find themselves on the wrong side of their inventories’ expiration dates.

The company’s president, Tony Selvaggio, is in the midst of an expansion that will add eight refrigerated straight trucks to his existing 17-vehicle fleet, which includes several 100,000-mile units.

The new trucks will be leased from Ryder, but Selvaggio will continue to rely on his mechanic, a 25-year company veteran, to perform routine maintenance and repairs in-house.

Selvaggio says oil changes, brakes and springs, as well as common repairs such as broken headlights and taillights, keep his mechanic busy — so busy, in fact, that he is hiring an assistant to help keep up with his growing fleet.

He notes that his closest dairy competitors also employ at least one full-time mechanic to maintain their fleets.

An alternative, Selvaggio says, would be to rely on local truck service centers and hope they can perform the work in a timely fashion.

Kulp notes that the costs associated with an off-site arrangement can add up fast. Unless the garage is within walking distance or the driver plans to camp out in the waiting room, repaired trucks must be either delivered or another driver is needed in a second vehicle for both runs.

“For us, the ability to service it in the shop probably saves us $10,000 a year just in wages and mileage in not taking them somewhere,” Kulp says.

Kulp’s mechanic oversees Gutter King’s entire program, including programming service reminders into the fleet’s GPS units and pulling trucks out of rotation on a set schedule. Each truck is pulled one day per month for a full inspection, inconveniencing a driver for that day but heading off any catastrophic breakdowns.

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