In a prior article, we talked about the various benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing your repair work—hiring an independent shop to care for your fleet. As promised, we’re back to talk more about the flip side of this equation: keeping your trucks in-house.
But Fullbay, you might be saying, we thought you were all in on independent shops.
Hey, we love indies! But we also love a good in-house situation when it’s appropriate. If your company has the infrastructure, funding, and employees to keep everything under one roof, then that might be the best situation for you.
BENEFITS OF KEEPING REPAIRS IN-HOUSE
What does a good in-house repair situation bring to a company?
Peace of mind tends to be a big one. Yes, you can build trust with a partner repair shop, but even we can admit that there’s something comforting about being able to walk into your own repair bays to see what’s up. More than that, you’re in charge of everything, from scheduling to quality control.
In addition, once you get your operation up and running—which can take some time—maintenance and repairs may end up costing less in the long run. You’re going to have to balance this out with the expenses associated with hiring good technicians, of course, so it may be a wash—but still, it’s something to think about.
An in-house repair shop can also usually chew through maintenance or repairs faster than an outsourced shop. Why? One, they’re wholly dedicated to your vehicles—there’s no other customers to distract them. And two, you’re saving on transportation time. Even if your partner repair shop is three blocks away from your yard, that’s still travel time. Add to that any scheduling difficulties and you may be looking at having trucks out of service for longer than you’d like.
THE BIG KAHUNA: WARRANTY WORK
There is one big advantage to a big company taking or keeping things in-house. It’s so big, in fact, that we broke it off from the other benefits to give it its own section. Are you ready? Are you really ready?
Okay. Brace yourself.
Don’t underestimate warranty work.
The reality behind new equipment usually looks something like this: Stuff comes with a warranty, but that warranty is only going to apply if the manufacturer’s people are the ones working on it. Which often means schlepping your truck or part to a dealership.
But lo, there is a way around it!
“If you have Joe New Guy just work on your truck, you could invalidate your warranty,” says Chris O’Brien, COO of Fullbay and former fleet manager at Shamrock. “What we did was, when you’re purchasing trucks, you’re gonna negotiate a deal to get your shop certified to work on that equipment.”
Yep. Money talks. If you’re spending however many millions on new vehicles, you squeeze something into that contract that will get your technicians certified to perform warranty work that covers basic things.
We’ll say it again: money talks. Or maybe more specifically, money gives you some added negotiating power. Not every company is going to have that kind of muscle, but if you’re big enough, well, you can do a lot.
Being able to handle your own warranty work (or at least some of it) is a pretty big deal, too. Because Chris pointed out something verrrrrrrrrry important to anyone who’s ever worked on a schedule:
Dealerships are often behind.
We repeat, dealerships are often behind.
GOING IN-HOUSE CAN REALLY, REALLY SAVE YOU TIME
For most private fleets, time is of the essence. Alas, even the best-kept vehicles will need maintenance beyond late-night oil changes. When you’re dealing with a newer vehicle and you don’t have warranty-certified techs on hand, that means you’ve got to head to a dealership to get the work done.
At the moment, a lot of dealerships are running behind. Not all. But a lot. “Some are operating six weeks out,” Chris says. “What are you gonna do? Not drive the truck for six weeks?”
So having techs on hand who can perform that work—who are experienced and certified in it—can absolutely protect you from catastrophic downtime. That’s when you really start seeing the benefits of in-house repairs.
If you don’t have certified techs, and have no mechanism to get certified techs to perform that work—well, you’re in some trouble. That’s often when private fleets start looking to independent repair shops to get things moving again.
But again, if you have the capital and infrastructure, handling it on your own can save you weeks. Even months! When you’re on a tight schedule, every moment matters.
HOW CAN A REPAIR SHOP ATTRACT PRIVATE FLEETS?
If you’re an independent repair shop owner that’s been contemplating going after big fleets, we’re about to give you some valuable advice. We can’t win the fleets for you, but we can tell you what qualities your shop needs to look attractive to their bottom line.
- If you’re subletting a lot, bring it under your own roof. Chris recalls a shop owner who brought in a driveline machine to make their own drivelines. Someone else bought a wrecker. “If you’re losing jobs or losing time [on subletting a job],” he suggests, “that’s when it’s time to take it [under your roof].” The more your shop can do for customers, the better off you are.\
- Become a master communicator. “Where’s this truck?” “When’s this repair going to be done?” “What do you mean they used peanut butter instead of fuel?” When you take on a private fleet, you are suddenly holding its business and reputation in your hands. Uptime is critical for them. You want to make sure they keep up with everything going on, as it’s going on. (Yes…Fullbay’s Customer Portal can absolutely make that easier.)
- Service and quality are key. “There’s a certain point where it’s not about the money, it’s about the service and the quality,” Chris says. Yes, money absolutely matters, but private fleets want to know they’re being taken care of. Your shop will do its part by doing outstanding repair and maintenance work…but you also need to cut back on general hassle. Private fleets don’t want a zillion invoices. They don’t want to talk to a different person each time they do get in touch with you. That might mean your private fleet has their own contact person (maybe that’s even you!)
- You need an actual presence. A fleet manager can’t hire you if they can’t find you. Just sayin’.
IN-HOUSE OR OUTSOURCED? YOU DECIDE!
Ultimately, deciding whether to bring your fleet maintenance under your own roof or hand it off to a repair shop is a choose-your-own-adventure situation. This duology has hopefully given you some things to consider if you’re a fleet manager contemplating your next move—or if you’re a repair shop owner looking to woo some big business.
As a friendly aside, Fullbay can make life easier for in-house and independent repair shops. Like, way easier. So of course we hope you check us out, maybe try our free demo. And whatever repair option you go with, know that we’re rooting for you!