Jun 27, 2023

How Labor Guides Can Be Your Check And Balance

How Labor Guides Can Be Your Check And Balance

When was the last time you looked at a labor guide?

The answer to this tends to vary. Some of you probably at least glanced at one earlier today. Others may not have even thought about a labor guide for years. Still others will fall somewhere in between.

Frequent blog readers will already know that we’re big fans of labor guides here at Fullbay. They’re incredibly useful tools for a diesel repair shop—and maybe that’s where some folks get hung up on things. Labor guides are tools; they’re not the end-all, be-all, but they’re also not just giant paperweights taking up space on your desk (or hard drive). They can help you drive revenue and act as a gut check if you let them—or they can prop up the sagging end of your desk.

They also lend themselves well to parodies. Try singing along to the tune of “Spider-Pig” from The Simpsons Movie:

Labor guides, labor guides
Do whatever labor guides do
Can they make repairs for you?
No they can’t—they’re just guides
Labor guides!

Musical inclinations aside, we wanted to know more about the impact a labor guide can have on a shop’s business, so we sat down with Fullbay COO Chris O’Brien to pick his brain about the ins and outs of labor guides, why shops should invest in them, and why some just…don’t.

Actually, let’s hit on that first.


Humanity’s long history has yielded a slew of fascinating rivalries. Achilles vs. Hector. Luke vs. Vader. Zombies vs. Plants. And lately, Shop Owners vs. Labor Guides.

It’s not that most shop owners just flatly disregard labor guides for no reason, Chris tells us. They’ve usually had an experience (or several) that has just turned them off.

“Sometimes they’ve used the guides in the past and found that the time is off—and they decide [the guides] are just not accurate,” he tells us. Totally understandable. These shop owners often go on to make their own times, determining how long this job or that should take based on their own experience.

But, he adds, labor guides have seen many updates over the years. The shop owner who decided, 10 years ago, not to use a labor guide will not see those updates and won’t benefit from them. “They don’t realize they’re leaving money on the table,” Chris concludes.

Additionally, some specialty shops have just not yet found a labor guide that works for them. “There may not be standard labor guides for, say, a fire engine,” Chris says. “There might be manufacturers’ guides for chassis work and other items, but not things like ladders and aerials…or trailer repairs, or reefer units.”

In that area, a shop may end up on its own.


When thinking about how a labor guide will benefit your shop, remember to see it as a tool—just one among many in your arsenal. “I have more tools than I can use in one week in my garage,” Chris tells us. “The reason why is because once a month or once a year I need a tool and it is very, very painful if I don’t have it when I need it.”

The reality is an experienced technician may not use a labor guide every hour of every day. Maybe they crack into it every few days, or once a week, or even once a month. Keeping an up-to-date version of a labor guide on hand is your insulation against new and changing equipment. If your customer gets some brand-new iron, are you gonna use your labor guide from 10 years ago to do the clutch job or a wheel seal?

Probably not. It probably has a different spec if it’s brand-new.

Speaking of different specs—unless you’re working with a private fleet that maintains identical rigs, you’re likely working on all sorts of vehicles. You’ll need something to give you a proxy so you know the right maintenance interval and time for that rig. And outside of that, there’s service guidelines.

Like we said: a useful tool.


The tech shortage hasn’t let up yet, and shops are bound to feel the squeeze over the next few years as older techs retire and leave gaps in rosters. Chris believes that labor guides can help fill those gaps. “What procedures are your inexperienced techs following for wet services or PMs?” he asks. “Labor guides provide those procedures.”

They can teach an apprentice how to disassemble and reassemble a part. They lay out what tools will be necessary for each job. And yeah, they indicate how long a job should take.

Are they perfect 1:1 replacements for a seasoned tech guiding an apprentice? No. But they are excellent teaching aids that can help younger and newer techs get their heads and hands around the work they do.


Let’s get one thing out of the way: don’t waste your life trying to figure out what your competitors are charging. “You should be worried about your business and profitability,” Chris emphasizes. A labor guide can help with that…but it can also give you some insight into what your competitors might be doing.

In 2022’s State of Heavy-Duty Repair, we found that 67% of independent shops and 68% of internal repair shops used labor guides. If those numbers haven’t changed, they mean more than half of the diesel repair workforce is using labor guides.

That means they can be a solid check on how much time the shop down the street might be spending on a repair (and how much they subsequently charge for it).

Tony Grace, CEO of ATS Fleet Service, discussed 2022’s results with us last year; he felt it kept things realistic. Ideally, as a tech becomes more experienced, they take less time to do things…but does that mean a drop in revenue? “Nobody would ever logically say, ‘Well, you’ve worked a long time. You’ve become very good at what you do. You should start making less money.’”

Yikes, right?

A labor guide can help you shore up revenue by making sure you are charging industry time standards for whatever job the technician is working on. This not only lets you earn more, it lets you also pay that seasoned tech what they are worth!.


It happens to the best of us: you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. There’s been a disturbance in the Force. The revenue Force, that is. You reach for your phone. There it is:


First, take a deep breath. You can’t do anything about it right now. Go back to bed.

In the morning, go look at your labor guide and see what it says about the repair being disputed.

Chris has a story about this:

“Somebody disputed a thousand-dollar credit card charge as egregious on an account. I looked it up in MOTOR and it was spot on to the penny. Initially, I thought it ought to be a $200-$300 charge. It was a cheap part, they charged for a roadside repair…but then I saw that they had to tear apart the top portion of that thing to get the part on there. There was nothing egregious about it.”

The shop ended up winning.

So, there you go: a labor guide can be used in a dispute as evidence of fair labor assessment.


No, heavy-duty repair is not automotive repair.

But our integration with MOTOR includes a light-duty and automotive labor guide. It’s there waiting for you even if you never actually need to use it.

“Nearly every heavy-duty repair shop has a fleet of vehicles that are medium-duty,” Chris says. “Think F-150, F-250. Maybe your sales person has a car, or your fleet manager. If you have a large fleet contract, you can get pulled into that market.”

While a lot of heavy-duty techs may have cut their teeth on medium- and light-duty vehicles, odds are they aren’t going to be able to bring all their specialized diesel knowledge to bear on them. A labor guide with step-by-step instructions can be a lifesaver (or a business-saver).

“The last thing you want to do is put time and materials on an automotive when you’re out of your element,” Chris adds. “How in the world will you know how to do all those services on those vehicles? You’re in the heavy-duty space.”


We think we can safely draw the following conclusion: labor guides are pretty cool. The coolest, of course, is MOTOR, which is integrated right into Fullbay. Thousands of procedures and estimated times right at your fingertips? Peace of mind within reach?

Yes please.

If you’ve been turning up your nose at labor guides (or had a bad experience with one a decade ago), we hope we’ve given you some food for thought. If you’re a Fullbay customer, maybe you’ll give that MOTOR integration a try. And if you aren’t, well, our free demo is right here.

You know what to do.

(Labor guides, labor guides
Do whatever labor guides do…)

Suz Baldwin