“An owner-operator could responsibly do a lot of that stuff himself and save money,” Hess says. “Most owner-operators should learn to do things such as replace lights and grease a chassis.”
No one is more fanatical about maintenance than Evans. His goal is to keep his truck as close to brand-new as possible. He uses only new parts, does most of his own maintenance and is the poster boy for frequent greasing.
“I run back and forth between the West Coast and the East Coast,” he says, “and I can’t be out in the middle of Wyoming at 30-below in a 4-year-old truck. I’ve got to have the same performance out of that truck as when I bought it new.”
He keeps custom boxes on the frame of his tractor to store equipment and supplies for servicing his truck. One of the boxes holds a creeper, jack, grease guns, rags and coveralls. He’s installed lights beneath his truck he can flick on for illuminating his work in some out-of-the-way place at night.
“I like to grease every 2,500 miles,” he says. “Since 1974, I’ve never had to replace a part on a truck that has a grease fitting. It’s a simple, fundamental thing to grease, do fluid changes and keep an eye on your truck. It doesn’t take that much time.”
Evans also closely monitors his tires. He recently turned in a set of drive tires after 569,000 miles that still had 4⁄32nds tread. “As long as you check the air pressure and don’t start like you’re a top-fuel dragster, your tires will last a long time,” he says.
Bower says he’s approaching maintenance differently now that he’s extending his trade cycle. In the past, knowing he was going to trade his truck, he says he fixed only what was needed to maintain the truck’s operations and ensure safety. “Knowing I’m going to keep it, I look at things more intently and anticipate repairs,” he says.
That means he will replace components before they cease working. One example is his air compressor – it’s used constantly for his air-ride trailer, seat deck and cab. “It’s my intent to replace my air compressor in the next few months.”
He found a pinhole in the exhaust a few months ago. He might have let it slide before, but today, he’ll make the repair.
Many of the best practices for improving fuel economy have the added benefit of prolonging equipment life.
Bower has limited his highway speed for years and sees no reason to change now. By holding speed to 63-64 mph, he not only saves on fuel costs, but he’s extending component life. His mindset is to practice slow starts and stops. He reduces idling with an in-cab heater in cold months and an inverter to run an ordinary house fan in the summer.
Recently, Bower pulled the wheels off his back axle to inspect his brakes. At almost 600,000 miles, he still had 50 percent of his brakes left. When he looks at the gauge on his dash, he sees he’s getting 6.4 mpg when he stays in his speed range.