Tours of truck manufacturers open lines of communication
Our 10-year goal of “Safest, Smartest, Made to Last” not only applies to the transportation system itself, but also to the equipment we use to maintain that system. Our road heroes and snowfighters spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a truck. Making sure each piece of equipment is designed and built to get the job done as efficiently and safely as possible t is essential to us helping us achieve this goal.
Recently, Craig Bargfrede, our winter operations administrator, organized a trip for a team of Iowa DOT maintenance folks, including our district mechanics, to visit with Monroe Truck Equipment in Monroe, Wisconsin, and Henderson Products in Manchester, Iowa, the two main manufacturers of our trucks. The purpose of the trip was to help our staff understand their equipment better and foster communication between the people who keep these trucks on the road and the manufacturers. “Getting to talk face-to-face allows us to have an open and honest dialog about what our expectations are and lets the companies share what they can provide,” explained Bargfrede.
Tina Greenfield from our maintenance staff added, “This was a good opportunity for our staff to ask questions. We meet regularly as an internal team, but these visits allowed us to focus specifically on how we can improve our processes when it comes to these trucks.”
One of the main topics of conversation involved how we define the necessary elements we need in a new piece of equipment. Bargfrede said, “The way we have our specifications written may not allow for some of the new technologies these companies can offer, so we’ll be looking at how to rewrite the specifications to allow for that.”
Brian Schafer, the District 4 mechanic from Atlantic, added, “In seeing what these companies are doing and sharing our experiences directly, it’s helpful for everyone.”
Our current fleet includes 921 trucks. This year, the two manufacturers are contracted to provide 75 new plow trucks, in addition to spreaders and plow blades. Alan Gnade, our District 2 mechanic out of Mason City, was interested in seeing new innovations. He said, “simplifying what we ask for may reduce our costs and lead times because the trucks can be more easily mass-produced. A simplified base truck can then be modified by our shops to function in the way that works best for them.”
Chad Ball, the District 1 mechanic from Ames said, “The visits helped us ask ourselves why we do some of the things we do, and should we add more diversity or simplicity to our fleet? Simplifying the truck build may also help with parts availability. With fewer options, the manufacturers may be able to keep more parts on hand and not have to build parts to order.”
Each of the district and central office staff took away something valuable from these visits. Collectively, they plan to continue internal conversations and bring ideas forward that will help get the best, safest, and most efficient equipment for our field forces.