The Smart Service Dispatch

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January 27, 2021

 

The Field Service Vehicle Safety and Operations Guide

Simple safety precautions can keep techs protected and extend the lifespan of your service vehicles.

This article will cover company vehicles in the field service industry, focusing on how to operate them in a safe manner and reviewing some pointers on general upkeep. After all, you want your vehicles to serve your company (and your customers!) for as long as possible. 

Ever since Henry Ford started mass-producing automobiles, companies have used them to ferry their employees from job to job, customer to customer. As automobile technology improved, so did the service radius and efficiency of employees in various field service trades. Companies gained the ability to service several locales at once, even taking trips out to rural customers or to neighboring counties. Nowadays, service companies can easily service clients within 100 miles of them the same day, something unheard of a century ago.

Types of Company Vehicle

There are many different types of company vehicles, but for most field service businesses, they fall into these four categories: vans, trucks, cars, or trailers. For vans, popular models include the Ford E-series and Transit, Chevrolet Express, Mercedes Sprinter, and RAM ProMaster.

For trucks, popular models include the Ford F-series, RAM 1500, Ford Super Duty, and Toyota Tacoma.

Work cars vary a bit more, since these usually conform to the tastes of the salespeople or executives driving them.

Since every business is different, the needs of every business will be different. Your company might only need to use vans or trucks, while some only need cars. Many may need all four vehicles in some capacity. Regardless of the vehicle, safe operation will always remain a priority.

COVID-19 Vehicle Safety

For businesses, safe vehicle operation has always been a top priority. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, this has become even more complex (especially if your techs share/rotate vehicles). As a COVID consideration, begin your day by wiping down all common touch surfaces such as door handles, buttons, dials, seatbelt clips, etc. with an EPA-approved disinfecting wipe. If your vehicle contains any tools, you should wipe those down as well.

If you travel alone, then you do not need to wear a mask, but OSHA still recommends that you keep the windows cracked open in order to increase airflow within the vehicle. If you travel with a partner or a group of people, you should absolutely consider wearing a mask and at least cracking all your windows.

Safe Vehicle Operation

Now that you have prepared your vehicle for use and have done your best to protect yourself from COVID-19, you can start driving to your first service call of the day. The key to safely operating any vehicle is to ensure that you use it properly. Like any tool, you’ll want to make sure that you have the proper settings or configurations to prevent accidents. This includes following the speed limit or watching out for pedestrians.

To start, make sure your sideview and rearview mirrors are adjusted properly. Set sideview mirrors should in such a way that you only need to turn your head towards them to see out of them (you should not be able to see your own vehicle in the sideview mirror while doing so). Similarly, a properly adjusted rearview mirror should be set in such a way that you need not turn your head at all in order to look out of it properly, and it should not be obstructed by any headrest or item (note that this is impossible in some service vans that have a wall between the cab and bed).

Take a quick walk around your vehicle before starting operation to ensure that no objects or persons block the vehicle, and to visually inspect the vehicle for any kind of damage, such as flat tires, scratches, dents, or broken lights. Make sure that you and all of your passengers have their seatbelts on before starting the vehicle. Furthermore, ensure that all of your items, parts, and tools are secured properly so as to prevent damage during transit.

Once you hit the road, make sure that you follow all of the posted signs, especially the speed limit. Doing so keeps you safe and keeps your business chugging!

Parking

Though often overlooked, the parking and positioning of your vehicle is actually very important. Generally, you’ll want to park it on-site in such a way as to prevent blocking others while still keeping the vehicle accessible. For residential calls, you should park on the street or the cul-de-sac in order to achieve this. Avoid parking on the customer’s driveway when you can. Many driveways angle up towards the garage, which could cause you issues with loading and unloading parts or tools. (This also restricts the customer’s ability to enter/leave their own house, silently annoying many customers too polite to ask you to move.)

For commercial clients, you may wish to reach out to your point of contact and verify where you should park. That way your vehicle does not end up damaged from heavy machinery or by larger vehicles such as tractor trailers or semis. Secondly, it will help you immensely in the long run if you have all of your tools and parts labelled and stored in such a way that you can easily access them. Keeping little plastic bins on shelves and ordering all items from smallest to largest or even grouping commonly used items together will help you and your crew immensely (preventing repeat trips to and from the vehicle).

Lastly, always make sure that you make use of your parking brake when arriving at a job site. This ensures that the vehicle does not move or roll out in front of anyone. This also helps secure the vehicle for the on-loading and off-loading of parts, equipment, and tools, especially heavy items.

Regular Vehicle Maintenance: Cleaning

Scheduled maintenance on company vehicles keeps your vehicle looking fresh, professional, and will significantly increase its operating life. Start your scheduled maintenance by removing all of the items, tools, parts, and equipment from the vehicle. This step is made much, much easier if you have all items organized by size, commonality, and weight, in addition to having all of the items in pre-arranged in labelled containers.

Once those items have been removed and have been placed aside safely (and perhaps even washed as well!), you can start vacuuming and then scrubbing the inside and outside of the van for grime, dirt, and dust. After clearing out your vehicle, remove all of the floor mats to vacuum thoroughly. Pay attention to the floor and the cracks of the seats, as dust and crumbs commonly end up in these places.

In terms of vacuuming, you should start with a large nozzle attachment for the larger crumbs and dirt on the floor of the vehicle, followed by a smaller, more narrow attachment for the seats. Next, move onto wiping down the panels inside the vehicle with detailing fluid and a microfiber cloth, using a Q-Tip for the dashboard, buttons, and other hard to reach spots. If the seats or floor mats have any stains or smell funky, wash them with soap and water. You should reference the vehicle’s owner manual before attempting this, as you might have to wash certain types of seat material (such as leather) in a specific way to prevent them from becoming damaged. 

With the interior of the company vehicle clean, you’ll want to clean and detail the exterior of the vehicle. This step is just as important as the interior, because the world sees the exterior. It includes your company logo, phone number or email, and other pertinent information, serving as a constant, mobile advertisement for your company. You don’t want a junked-up ad cruising around the city streets!

Depending on where the company vehicle has gone, it might only need a quick spray down, but in cases involving excess dirt and filth, you might consider a pressure washer. (If you use a pressure washer, follow all instructions for proper pressure washing. Failing to so can cause damage to the vehicle itself, marring the paint, company logo, etc.)