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Tuesday, 07 August 2018 13:10

The Complexities of Truck Collision Repair

Written by Susan L. Hodges, Transport Topics
Chris Sterwerf and his father, Dennis Sterwerf, founder of Fairfield Auto and Truck Service, stand next to their shop's repair-planning computer. Chris Sterwerf and his father, Dennis Sterwerf, founder of Fairfield Auto and Truck Service, stand next to their shop's repair-planning computer. Fairfield Auto and Truck Service

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Kolea compares the technology in heavy-duty trucks today to that in personal computers. “It’s changing almost overnight, but no one is writing repair procedures. We need to make sure procedures are out there.”

 

To that end, Robert Braswell, executive director of American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council, said two new TMC task forces have formed to address the issue.

 

“One will deal with turning the wrenches — creating guidelines and best prac­tices to improve safety, quality and reliability of service,” Braswell said.

 

The other group will develop “a road map of steps in the business process, showing what a customer should expect from the beginning to the end of the repair,” he said.

 

One maintenance director thinks the guidelines are needed.

 

“Most manufacturers have gone to composite plastic or fiberglass hoods, and the adhesives are different for each one,” said Kevin Adriaansen, director of maintenance for Leonard’s Express, a Farmington, N.Y.-based national truckload carrier with about 300 heavy-duty company trucks, and Johnson Equipment Sales and Service Inc., a sister company.

 

“Aluminum is another challenge,” he said. “Some can be straightened, but you have to watch how you heat it to straighten it. If a panel is compromised too much, you have to replace it.”

 

Mike Adler, fleet manager for Colerain Township, Ohio, said his fleet sends all of its body work out.

 

“We have enough problems getting all the mechanical done,” he said.

 

Colerain has 14 specialized heavy-duty vehicles in its fire department alone, including ladder trucks, pumpers, tankers and a decontamination unit.

 

“All of our fire apparatus is made of aluminum, and that takes special knowledge to repair,” Adler said. “Aluminum is not only lighter and lasts longer than steel, it behaves differently,” he said, noting that aluminum corrodes rather than rusts and has different bonding properties than steel so the repair protocols are different.

 

“If you’re bolting on a light with steel screws, for instance, the screws should be stainless steel because stainless doesn’t rust,” Adler said, adding that the screws must be coated with a sealant to maintain the bond. “Welding on aluminum is different from welding on steel, too. You have to be certified to weld on aluminum ladder trucks, and you have to be recertified every year.”