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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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“Then the truck is passed on to a structure technician, then to the body department, then to refinishing, and then back to assembly to be put back together,” Sterwerf said, adding that ideally, the person who disassembled also performs the reassembly.

 

Repair information can be hard to find, Sterwerf said. This is partly because manufacturers aren’t required to share it and partly because when the information is accessible, “it may be a lot of mechanical information but very little about collision repair.”

 

Ted Burke, president of Dennis K. Burke Inc., a Taunton, Mass.-based fuel dis­tributor, said his company outsources all collision and body work to a network of vendors scattered across the eight states on the fleet’s delivery route.

 

“I think it’s more efficient to have this expertise outside,” said Burke, whose fleet operates 85 heavy-duty trucks. “We don’t have many accidents that require body work, so it’s not economically feasible for us to build up that kind of expertise in-house. We only do maintenance work in our shop.”

 

Sterwerf said that in his experience, “many fleets and dealerships don’t have body shops or have tried them and can’t sustain them.”

 

“With the specialized equipment and the cost behind it — a frame machine can cost more than $200,000 and a paint booth can cost upward of $700,000 — you need a volume of work to substantiate those costs,” he said.

 

Sterwerf also said fleets that do their own collision repair take on a lot of liability that can be diversified by outsourcing the work.

 

“Because it’s hard to get repair information, you might not repair the vehicle properly, and that can come back to haunt you,” he said.

 

Peggy Liao, a spokeswoman for Decisiv, which develops software for the commercial vehicle market, believes fleets could benefit significantly from systems that streamline communication and collaboration between fleets and service providers.

 

“By giving everyone in the service process visibility from beginning to end, you give all parties valuable information about how trucks behave and how to repair them, and you save time and money in the long run,” she said.