Highway blues

A Cummins QuickServe technician works at roadside.

A front tire with a nail in it, multiple lights out because of a short circuit, or a suddenly failed brake lining might put even the most maintenance-savvy owner-operator out of commission – or out of service, if a DOT inspector finds the problem first. Being religious about maintenance certainly helps. But it also is wise to assume the worst can happen and build a battle plan for quick diagnosis and speedy service at a reasonable cost.

Many of the industry’s key manufacturers have created help centers accessible via a toll-free number. These centers can quickly put you in touch with the nearest service outlet. But they offer many other benefits, too. The largest is that they often prequalify their service outlets and negotiate good prices. Some even do their best to screen out the dishonest mechanics who would otherwise take you for a ride. Since trucks operate and break down 24 hours a day, the call centers are 24/7 operations.

Another advantage is that an original equipment maker’s help desk often will be able to hear a description of the problem and help you solve it yourself, or at least help the service outlet repair the problem. Many help centers follow up to make sure the outlet stays on task.

Lastly, several centers track repairs, keeping an eye on the shop doing the work to ensure that mechanics are processing your truck as quickly as possible. In many cases, the center or shop will keep you informed of progress so you will better be able to inform your customers about when a delayed load will be delivered. Some enable you to monitor progress on a website.

The few help centers that don’t track directly work only with pre-qualified shops. If being contacted with updates is important, ask about the level of this service when choosing where to go.

One final plus is that help centers often will allow – or in some cases require – you to establish a credit account in advance. Having this already done saves time. Other ways to plan your emergency coverage:

  • Keep credit card balances well below their limits, and keep money in the bank so you have the option of paying cash. Many advisers recommend having $10,000 available for emergencies.
  • Carefully shop for the services you need. If you’re in the market for a new truck, compare the manufacturers’ emergency programs before buying.
  • Keep the service’s phone number in your glove box. You might want to call the number and go through the procedure to see how it works, before a real emergency strikes.
  • Cultivate the habit of staying aware of your location as you drive. Having at least a rough idea of your “20” will be a large help if something suddenly stops working.

HOW TO PICK AMONG THE INDIES
If you’d rather not use a manufacturer’s call center, you can choose from thousands of breakdown services. Here are three of the biggest resources:

FLEETNET AMERICA. This call-in service claims to be the largest independent service for breakdowns, and it also performs the call-center work for four truck makers. Though “fleet” is part of its name, Fleetnet America accepts single-truck customers. Customers register and establish credit on the company’s website. Secure web monitoring of a breakdown’s status is available. The service operates only with select vendors.
Cost: $56.38 per service call
Contact: (800) 972-8872
INFORMATION: www.fleetnetamerica.com

NATIONAL TRUCK & TRAILER SERVICES BREAKDOWN DIRECTORY. This publication lists more than 30,000 repair and heavy-duty-towing services in the United States and Canada. The directory adds 2,000 or more repair locations yearly. It is updated by annual calls to every provider. The directory staff reviews customer complaints. Once a vendor has amassed three legitimate complaints, it is removed from the directory and prohibited from advertising.
Cost: $39.95 plus shipping and handling
Contact: (800) 288-0002
INFORMATION: www.nttsbreakdown.com

TRUCK REPAIR NETWORK. This call center employs technology to map a caller’s location. The average response time is 45 minutes. The center can patch callers directly through to repair facilities, if necessary.

TRN’s vendors are prescreened and given a satisfaction rating from 1 to 5. A driver can choose a vendor based on that rating or based on location and arrival time. TRN handles the vendor bill and charges the customer. There’s no charge to register, but a customer must sign up before using the service to establish credit. About 70 percent of TRN’s users are owner-operators leased to large fleets.
Cost: $45 per service call
Contact: (800) 435-7744
INFORMATION: www.helprig.com


ENGINES
CATERPILLAR
The Caterpillar Truck Engine Call Center directs calls to Caterpillar General Network Services.
Sign-up: Not required
Brands serviced: Caterpillar only
Credit/billing: By vendor
Cost: Free
Diagnostic help: By phone when possible
Vendors contacted: Only the 2,500 Caterpillar Genuine Network Services vendors
Repair tracking: At dealer level
Contact: (800) 447-4986 or call_cat@cat.com
Information: www.cattruckengines.com

CUMMINS
Cummins QuickServe offers same-day turnaround for in-shop repairs of four hours or less. For on-site service, a technician is dispatched within four hours of the call.
Sign-up: Not required
Brands serviced: Cummins only
Credit/billing: By vendor.
Cost: Free
Diagnostic help: Once at the distributor, the goal is to have a diagnosis and quote within 60 minutes
Vendors contacted: Only
Cummins distributors
Repair tracking: At distributor level
Contact: (800) DIESELS
(343-7357)
Information: www.cummins.com

DETROIT DIESEL
Fleet Up and Running is a web-based program designed to aid repair scheduling, diagnosis and parts ordering. Standard dealer referrals and diagnoses are available by telephone.
Sign-up: Requires an established account at company website
Brands serviced: Detroit Diesel engines only or Freightliners with any brand of engine
Credit/billing: By vendor
Cost: Free
Diagnostic help: By dealer or referral to a service engineer
Vendors contacted: Detroit Diesel can refer non-warranty repairs outside its dealer network
Repair tracking: Yes, from call center
Contact: (313) 592-5800
Information: www.detroitdiesel.com, which also offers a dealer locator


TRUCKS
FREIGHTLINER

Excelerator Truck Services assesses repair needs and arranges for services. Freightliner also offers Alliance Service Advantage maintenance programs and breakdown assistance.
Sign-up: Required for both programs
Brands serviced: Any truck brand; Michelin tires only
Credit/billing: By vendor
Cost: Per-incident fee, discounted for Freightliner owners. Paid by credit card. Alliance Service Advantage involves a monthly charge plus per-mile fee. Michelin tires are sold at prices established by Freightliner
Diagnostic help: Via call center with Excelerator Truck Services
Types of vendors contacted: Freightliner dealers or authorized providers
Repair tracking: From call
center
Contact: Excelerator Truck Services at (800) 238-8063, ExceleratorServices@Freightliner.com; Alliance Service Advantage,
(866) 297-2721.
Information: www.exceleratorservices.com

INTERNATIONAL
Emergency Breakdown Service is available to owner-operators who have an International with Heavy Diamond SPEC two-year warranty. The Fleet Charge/Diamond Advantage card is for owners of any brand vehicle. The service can provide roadside assistance instead of towing, if appropriate.
Sign-up: Is included with two-year Diamond SPEC warranty. Fleet Charge/Diamond Advantage cardholders also can sign up
Brands serviced: International for two-year Diamond SPEC warranty customers; all brands for Fleet Charge/Diamond Advantage customers
Credit/billing: Credit is pre-established for customers with these cards. Billing is biweekly
Cost: Free to two-year Diamond SPEC customers. A per-call administrative fee applies for Diamond Advantage/Fleet Charge cardholders. All vendors operate under price guarantees for parts and labor
Diagnostic help: Via call center
Vendors contacted: International dealer or authorized service provider
Repair tracking: By call center
Contact: (800) 44-TRUCK
(448-7825)
Information: www.internationaldelivers.com

KENWORTH
Service is through its PremierCare Customer Center.
Sign-up: Recommended via website, call center or dealer to establish vehicle profile and preferred payment
Brands serviced: Any
Credit/billing: By vendor
Cost: Free
Diagnostic help: The call center does not diagnose, but alerts the dealer or independent service provider to the customer’s issue
Vendors contacted: Kenworth dealers or independent service providers
Repair tracking: By call center
Contact: (800) KW-ASSIST
(592-7747)
Information: www.kenworth.com

MACK
The Mack OneCall Complete Care Center will identify the problem, troubleshoot it and arrange for roadside repairs or towing to a dealer within an hour.
Sign-up: Not required
Brands serviced: Mack only
Credit/billing: By vendor
Cost: Free
Diagnostic help: Via call center
Vendors contacted: Mack dealers or authorized repair centers
Repair tracking: Yes; a single technician handles customer
relations from start to finish
Contact: (800) 866-1177
Information: www.macktrucks.com

PETERBILT
Peterbilt’s TruckCare Customer Assistance is available to all medium-duty and heavy-duty truck
owners.
Sign-up: Recommended via phone or website
Brands serviced: Any
Credit/billing: By vendor
Cost: No charges or membership fees
Diagnostic help: Yes, via call center
Vendors contacted: Peterbilt dealers and other providers
Repair tracking: Yes, from
call center
Contact: (800) 4-PETERBILT
(473-8372)
Information: www.peterbilt.com

STERLING, WESTERN STAR
Customer help lines guide the owner to the nearest service point and coordinate the work. Alliance Service Advantage is a contract maintenance and breakdown assistance program available for both brands.
Sign-up: Not required for customer help lines, but necessary for Alliance Service Advantage
Brands serviced: Sterling or Western Star only
Credit/billing: By vendor
Cost: Free
Diagnostic help: At dealer level
Vendors contacted: Freightliner network dealers or reputable vendors
Repair tracking: Varies by
vendor
Contact: Sterling Customer Assistance Center at (800) 785-4357; Western Star Customer Assistance Center at (866) 850-7827; Alliance Service Advantage at
(866) 297-2721
Information:
www.sterlingtrucks.com,
www.westernstartrucks.com

VOLVO
Volvo Action Service includes repair and “forwarding cash, making hotel reservations, or arranging for rental equipment,” says the company website.
Sign-up: Not required
Brands serviced: Any
Credit/billing: Issues service provider a payment guarantee and sends a combined invoice for all services
Cost: Members, $99 per year; others pay a $48 fee per incident with the invoice.
Diagnostic help: Via call center representative. Also available is Volvo Link Sentry, which allows remote monitoring via satellite, sending fault codes to Volvo Action Service technical support
Vendors contacted: Dealers and qualified providers
Repair tracking: Yes, from call center or via www.myactionservice.com
Contact: (800) 528-6586
Information: www.volvo.com/trucks


TIRES
BANDAG

Emergency Tire Assistance.
Sign-up: Required, though a Bandag dealer; product preferences are identified.
Cost: $25 per call; pricing is the same for the U.S. and Canada.
Credit/billing: Credit is prearranged; the dealer bills monthly
Vendors contacted: Only authorized dealers
Repair tracking: Via automated phone updates
Contact: (800) 822-6324
Information: www.bandag.com

BRIDGESTONE FIRESTONE
Bridgestone Firestone Fleet Support Center.
Sign-up: Required, for product preferences
Cost: Tire breakdowns, $27; mechanical breakdown, $54 plus 7.5 percent of charges incurred. Guaranteed prices. Automatic tax-exempt processing where qualified
Credit/billing: Can charge to Bridgestone Firestone account or other accounts.
Vendors contacted: Authorized dealers or truck stops
Repair tracking: Yes
Contact: (866) 464-2912
Information: www.trucktires.com

GOODYEAR
4-TIRES-NOW
Sign-up: Yes, through a dealer
Charges: $35 per use. Guaranteed prices
Credit/billing: A customer can arrange with a local dealer to guarantee credit, pay the servicing dealer, and then bill you
Vendors contacted: Dealers or alternative vendors if necessary
Repair tracking: Yes; dealer advises call center when the repair is complete
Contact: (877) 484-7376
Information: www.goodyear.com/truck

MICHELIN
OnCall Emergency Road Service
Sign-Up: Not required
Cost: $25 per use by credit card. Guaranteed prices
Credit/billing: All costs are paid to the road service through the credit card used
Vendors contacted: Normally Michelin dealers or service plazas
Repair tracking: From call center
Contact: Standard tires at
(800) 847-3911; X One wide singles at (877) 966-3911
Information: www.michelintruck.com

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