Call centers can be an efficient way to diagnose problems and expedite a repair.

Every truck and engine maker has created a means of taking the anxiety out of unexpected trouble: the call center.

The expert on the other end of an original equipment manufacturer’s help line can guide you in finding and fixing a minor problem or interpret the electronic trouble codes on your dash display. This will often get you going, at least temporarily, preventing the need for towing. Or if the truck is running but you’re worried about whether continued operation might cause damage, the technician can help you make an informed decision, greatly calming your nerves.

Call centers help establish relationships between dealers and customers, including owners of used equipment. Some centers will even work with customers owning other brands of vehicles. One or two OEMs will waive the nominal call center service charges during the first year you own the truck.

Once you have a call center on the line, one of the first tasks is to find the nearest service outlet. “Instead of the trucker having to make numerous calls to find the help needed, the Customer Center staff does it for them and keeps the driver posted with the latest update on when assistance will arrive,” says Steve Gilligan, Kenworth’s general marketing manager. Call center representatives can compare your location with those of the service outlets. They will find the location that can get to you quickest while you continue to drive, load or unload, handle other important tasks or stop on the road.

Since the call center representative will alert the dealer to your needs, dealer personnel can schedule your repair and cut the time you spend on the waiting list. These services may also arrange for roadside assistance when that makes more sense than a tow – for example, to repair a flat or fix a leaking hose or drain plug gasket leak.

The center provides a diagnosis that often involves the OEM’s technical staff. If your trouble is serious, the diagnosis can help you make a wise decision about delivering the cargo in a timely manner, for example, by bringing in another tractor.

If a tow is necessary, the center will provide a reference from its database of what it considers to be reputable roadside assistance vendors who will not take advantage of your predicament. Caterpillar’s literature, for example, says its dealers “have access agreements for after-hours drop off” for towing. Because the call center often enables the driver to negotiate all the terms of the tow before the order is put in, the owner-operator has a good chance of not getting ripped off. Remember to settle on the price of a tow before ordering such service unless you happen to know the towing company.

Once your truck makes it to the repair outlet, the call center staff member who initially handles your situation will also track what happens so you don’t get lost in the shuffle. This allows you to plan the use of your time while the repair is handled.

The call center will be able to resolve questions about warranty so you’ll know who pays before the work gets done.

In some cases, call center services are linked to a pre-arranged credit line or can include additional services by establishing credit beforehand. Pre-registration, in some cases, can help speed the process of getting help.

Unlike a repair shop far from your hometown that you’re unlikely to use a second time, an OEM call center network wants to build your brand loyalty. No one likes to expect occurrences that would require the service of an OEM call center, but it’s unreasonable to think you can escape sudden problems on the road, even if you trade every three years. Plan for the worst and you can operate at your best.

Call Centers
(800) 447-4986
QUALIFICATIONS/CHARGES: Free to Caterpillar owners.
INFORMATION REQUIRED: Engine serial number, location, call-back number.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Dealer help with finding towing; authorization available for paying overtime to expedite warranty repairs.

24-HOUR HOTLINE (800) 445-1980
QUALIFICATIONS/CHARGES: Free to Detroit Diesel or Mercedes-Benz owners .
INFORMATION REQUIRED: Engine serial number.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Database of 20,000 vendors for towing, tire repairs, etc.

(800) 343-7357 [(800) Diesels]
QUALIFICATIONS/CHARGES: Free to Cummins owners.
SPECIAL FEATURES: QuickServe guarantees same-day diagnosis and repair for four-hour jobs, or
four-hour dispatch of help for off-highway vehicles. The latest engines have an Uptime Guarantee, providing a replacement vehicle after 24 hours.

(800) 385-4357 [(800) FTL-HELP]
(800) 785-4537 [(800) STL-HELP]
(866) 850-7827 [(866) 850-STAR]
QUALIFICATIONS/CHARGES: No charge for dealer information, making appointment or dispatch of help, including towing. Charge for tracking service. Will help owners of other brands.
INFORMATION REQUIRED: Name, phone number, company (if not self-dispatched), location, symptom description or error codes, last six digits of VIN.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Qualifying through Fleetpack/Compass credit arrangement and paying $35
provides tracking of service. If authorized dealer is not available, will refer minor repairs to an independent repair shop, a TravelCenters of America location or a competitor’s dealer.

CENTER (800) 327-4364
QUALIFICATIONS/CHARGES: Will service all makes of tractors and trailers. The owner must be enrolled in either the Fleet Charge or Diamond Advantage purchase card program to establish credit. The service is free for owners of Diamond SPEC (standard specs) vehicles, $35 per call for others.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Spanish-speaking coordinators available all shifts, and translators for other languages. Guaranteed parts availability. Priority access to dealer facilities. Will respond to lockouts, blown tires or fuel spills. International customers may purchase DiamondPLUS Support package, which provides a replacement vehicle after 24 hours.

(800) 473-8372 [(800) 4-PETERBILT]
QUALIFICATIONS/CHARGES: Free for owners of any truck brand. Prior registration recommended to expedite service.
INFORMATION REQUIRED: Name, chassis number, call-back number, location, emergency service preferences, and description of problem. If registered, only location and problem description are needed.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Pre-registration; web-based making of appointments and tracking of repair; network of preferred service providers.

INFORMATION REQUIRED: Location, VIN and description of problem.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Guaranteed to arrange help in one hour. If the repair takes two hours or less, the dealer must start the job immediately. Call center techs will help with diagnoses and can make warranty decisions. Can schedule routine service. Access to 2,000 reliable vendors other than Mack dealers. Free follow-up included.

(800) 592-7747 [(800) KW-ASSIST]
QUALIFICATIONS/CHARGES: Free for owners of any truck brand. Prior registration recommended to expedite service.
INFORMATION REQUIRED: Customer name, make and model, VIN, nature of emergency, and fleet affiliation. If already registered, center personnel will have full vehicle profile and payment options on file.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Pre-registration. Thousands of independent service providers available if dealer is closed (typically after midnight). Mapping and communications technology to locate you. Free follow-up included.

(800) 528-6586 [(800) 52-VOLVO]
QUALIFICATIONS/CHARGES: Free for the first 12 months of Volvo ownership. After that, a $48 fee per occurrence for Volvo trucks without Volvo engines, $40 per occurrence for trucks with Volvo engines.
INFORMATION REQUIRED: Last six digits of VIN, name and phone number, vehicle location, unit number if a fleet vehicle, problem description and vehicle mileage.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Access to Volvo Truck North America’s customer support and technical organization, including Volvo Diagnostics Lab. Towing service and mechanical vendor database.

KEEP THE CALL CENTER NUMBER HANDY. Detroit Diesel puts theirs on the engine’s rocker cover. Mack’s has been on the driver’s window for the last five years. Most are listed in the owner’s manual. Keep a copy in your truck or wallet.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ACCESS TO THE SERVICE. Some OEMs require pre-registration or financial qualification. Pre-registration with Peterbilt and Kenworth simply makes the process of getting help quicker and easier. With International, establishing credit is necessary; with Freightliner, very helpful.

STAY AWARE OF YOUR LOCATION. When you notice a strange noise or disturbing gauge reading, or when an engine light tells you an electronic trouble code is popping up, begin looking for landmarks, road and route signs, exit ramps and mileposts so that you can be found quickly if you have to shut down. If your truck has a GPS system, the Mack OneCall Complete Care Center can find you anywhere. If you have Qualcomm or other GPS technology, a call to your fleet can give your precise location.

HAVE VEHICLE INFORMATION ORGANIZED. The required information varies by vendor, especially when you pre-register. You’ll need at least a portion of the engine or vehicle serial number. You’ll also want to be sure to give your full name and cell phone number and, if you are dispatched by someone else, the fleet’s name and phone number.

ACCURATELY DESCRIBE THE SYMPTOMS. Write down readings from all gauges before shutting the engine down. If the symptom is a warning light on the dash and you know how to read blink codes, count them out, write down the numbers and check your manual’s troubleshooting chart. If the symptom suggests something you can inspect visually, pull over and check it out.

When you’re broke down at 2 a.m. on I-90 just outside of Spearfish, S.D., it’s not the best time to start thinking about your towing strategy. You’ve heard the horror stories about truckers being overcharged – or even having their rigs damaged – by unscrupulous towing companies. But that doesn’t have to be the case if you plan ahead.

If you’ve chosen not to depend upon a truck or engine manufacturer’s call center for on-the-road service, start by making a list of reputable towing companies along the lanes you frequent. Look for towers that are members of a state or national towing association, recommends David Goode, owner of Goode Towing & Recovery, Killeen, Texas. “For the most part, people that are members of associations aren’t going to be fly-by-night people,” he says.

Another option is to sign up for a nationwide towing plan. One such service, the American Towing Alliance, grades towers in its system, giving them “high grades for fair charges, quick response and how they handle customers,” says Dennis Yates, AmTowA client relations manager.

When AmTowA members need a tow, they simply call an 800 number and AmTowA “handles it from hook to drop,” using one of the more than 1,600 towers in the system, Yates says. There is no charge to join, but members are charged a percentage of the cost of each tow. Owner-operators would typically pay 10 percent of the cost of the tow, Yates says. The fee drops to 6 percent for members of state trucking associations and the American Trucking Associations.

A similar service from FleetNet America – FleetNet Select Towing and Recovery Program – prescreens towers by validating their fees and verifying their equipment capabilities, says C. Oren Summer, FleetNet president. Once set, towing companies’ “hourly rates are contractual and cannot be changed,” Summers says. The approximately 800 towing companies in FleetNet’s system cover the busiest traffic lanes and major metro areas. Owner-operators are charged $44 per occurrence, no matter the type of tow.

Although not a “one call” network, the National Truck & Trailer Services Breakdown Directory is an 800-page resource listing 4,243 towing companies, as well as repair services, nationwide. The print version is $49.95; the CD is $249. You can also access the directory in a searchable, online format at no charge.

NTTS follows up on complaints from truckers. Unless NTTS is able to resolve the situation to the trucker’s satisfaction, it pulls the tower from its database. “In some cases, I’ve been able to help people get their money back,” says Lane Goebel, NTTS owner.

American Towing Alliance
Contact: Dennis Yates,
(800) 618-6946, ext. 235, or [email protected]

FleetNet Select Towing and Recovery Program
Contact: James Williams,
(800) 438-8061, ext. 532, or [email protected]

National Truck & Trailer
Services Breakdown Directory
Contact: Lane Goebel, (800) 288-0002

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