Highway Construction and Maintenance Equipment: 3 Important Issues

By Michael Benedict on November 30, 2015

Highway Construction and Maintenance Equipment: 3 Important IssuesYour excavators, dozers, and other heavy road construction vehicles work hard for you. No matter what type of work you do, from highway construction to bridge construction and more, keeping everything in top condition is no easy task, but can reap huge rewards in the form of lower costs, less frequent breakdowns and minimal traffic impacts. Here are three areas to consider when maintaining your heavy equipment — and how tapping into the power of digital technology can make the job easier.

Scheduled maintenance for highway construction equipment
This one is obvious: Keeping (and sticking to) a schedule of important maintenance tasks for each vehicle is the best way to keep your machines running. But there are multiple ways to go about this.

First, just like on your passenger vehicle, there are four categories of preventive maintenance, according to Construction Equipment magazine.

  • PM-A is minor work performed roughly every month or so, like lube jobs, vehicle inspection, or tire inspection.
  • PM-B covers maintenance that is more complex and is typically performed every two to four months. This could include oil and filter changes.
  • PM-C is yet more complex maintenance, such as component testing or brake overhaul and replacement. These jobs are typically performed every six to 12 months.
  • Finally, PM-D is for major, planned jobs like rebuilding an engine. These jobs are only performed every 16 to 24 months, but they’re ones you have to plan ahead for.

Digital forms are a convenient and efficient way for your workers to create checklists and track maintenance plans for all of your equipment, and to make sure that needed work gets done on schedule.

Of course, just because an inspection or maintenance job is “typically” performed on a certain schedule does not mean you should automatically do that for all your vehicles.

Although it’s important to follow Department of Transportation guidelines (mileage-based schedules) for maintenance of on-road vehicles, some companies also favor a consumption-based program. This requires keeping fuel records but can be a more accurate representation of how hard a machine works, according to Dale Warner, CEM for Dungan & Co.

Warner implemented a fuel-consumption-based program for off-road equipment including heavy trucks and Caterpillar machines at paving company CJ Miller. “Everything we do here as far as PM [preventive maintenance] is concerned is by fuel consumption,” Warner says. “By setting up a severity-based program, we are able to manage [CJ Miller’s] PMs by workload rather than by hours. The more fuel a unit uses, the harder it is working, and that will determine the frequency of the PM.”

Using digital forms to track gallons of fuel used makes it easier to accurately plan and target preventative maintenance through a consumption-based program.

Training and communications
You may not immediately think about training people as a maintenance issue, but as machines are upgraded, repaired, or replaced, keeping everyone in the loop about what has been done and how the machines should be operated and repaired is important.

Technicians must keep up with changing technologies. “Technology is always advancing and changing, so it’s very, very important for them to learn the new systems,” Theresa F. Anderson, CEM, Parsons Construction, told Construction Equipment. Dealers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) can provide some of this training, but you have to ensure your mechanics have enough time to do the trainings and learn the latest.

In addition, operators need to know how to run their machines safely and efficiently. Machines are getting so complicated, Anderson said, that many operators don’t fully understand how to operate them without training. They must also be trained on how to perform daily inspections and what the various warning lights on the dash mean. You may even want to train them in basic in-the-field maintenance, like tightening fan belts.

And keeping good records of what maintenance has been performed is essential. Said Levi Dungan, owner of Dungan & Co., “You might have two master mechanics on two separate jobs. The first one may have made a repair… and thought he had fixed the problem. In the meantime, the equipment might be moved and the next mechanic gets the next report. Depending on how good your records are, he might not even know what the first guy did.”

Here’s where it pays to go digital. While it’s easy for paper inspection forms to get lost or forgotten in a corner of the mechanic’s workshop, digital repair orders are easily shared from the cloud, without time delays, and will help ensure a smooth workflow for your mechanics.

If you have any vehicles that you won’t be using for an extended period of time, store them properly to prevent problems.

Some tips for storing snowplows are also applicable to anything going into seasonal or long-term storage.

  • Wash everything thoroughly so that it is clean and dry, and give the machine a full inspection as you’re doing so, so you don’t get a nasty surprise in the form of a worn or broken part when you need the machine next.
  • Check the paint job, too — if you ignore bare spots, you’re inviting rust.
  • Store the machine preferably out of the sun, as long-term exposure to UV rays can degrade plastics and rubber; and avoid storing on grass since grass that grows around the machine might cause corrosion.

You might think you are saving money if you don’t construct a storage building. But the data shows that the cost to store vehicles and equipment outdoors over the life of the building will cost approximately three times the cost to construct, operate, and maintain a new vehicle/equipment storage garage.

Tap into the power of mobile forms to improve your maintenance plans
Scheduled preventative maintenance isn’t very useful if it doesn’t get done on time. “Somebody has to be accountable,” Dungan, of Dungan & Co, said. “I’d have a separate supervisor responsible for making sure [preventative maintenance is] done on time and correctly.”

With mobile, each piece of equipment you own can have its own inspection checklist (here are a few starting points) without making piles of photocopies or carrying reams of paper into the garage. Having all your records in one place (the cloud) means that everyone can access pertinent information at any time to learn what maintenance has been done and when. And digital forms can alert you to minor problems early, so they can be fixed before they become major ones.

Want to give it a try? Let GoCanvas convert your existing forms to mobile. Give it a test drive, free.