We have all heard a technician say, "We can't reproduce the problem." And we all know of the magic that dictates any problem, no matter how complex, will suspiciously disappear when a technician is in the vicinity.
Take my computer for example, I sent it back to Hewlett Packard where it performed perfectly but upon return it went back to making errors as it had been before I sent it in.
I don't believe that Mechanics are actually mistrustful of a Driver's report, I don't think the word 'skeptical' applies either. What I do know is that today's trucks have become electromechanical marvels with so many interconnected systems that the Driver's information alone doesn't go far enough to point in the direction of the true problem. Today we have to plug a computer into the truck and communicate with the onboard systems and often the only way we can learn anything from that is if the problem is still active.
We are driving a Freightliner Cascadia with the Automatic Transmission. It performs well and the ride is comfortable enough to allow the sleeping half of the team to get a good rest. We have the On-Guard Collision Mitigation System installed and the truck is equipped with an anti-roll back system which prevents rolling when moving the right foot from the brake to the accelerator. When we are driving the warning light for the 'roll-back' system comes on along with the ABS warning light and since the On-Guard system is dependent on both that goes out as well. Without a working On-Guard the Cruise Control goes away too.
We gave the truck to the Mechanics and left them to work their magic. They passed it on to Freightliner who returned it to us apparently fixed. We enjoyed a few days off and returned to the truck believing it was ready to go and that was when the "Technician Effect" kicked in. The problem revealed itself, grinning at me on the dashboard. Apparently, although Freightliner had located an issue and fixed that one, the problem was still present and Freightliner has been unable to reproduce the problem.
Now here it was and Freightliner needed to see it. So I took the truck to Freightliner making sure it didn't shut down so they could see the fault in action.
The Service Writer was very interested to see it for himself and immediately put a mechanic on the job so that the codes in the truck's computer could be read and downloaded before the truck was shut down. It turned out to be a good idea because after a shut down all the lights went out and the information in the computer disappeared.
The Service Writer remarked that the combination of lights that illuminated the dashboard were somewhat strange, he hadn't seen this before, and although he didn't use the word, "unbelievable", judging by the way he shook his head that word might have fitted perfectly within his sentence. Perhaps I might have taken a picture of the lights before we took the truck to Freightliner in the first place?
The truck is now fixed and we are on our way to Laredo and while we were paid "Breakdown Pay" it doesn't hold a candle to what we could have made if we were driving. That is not a complaint, a little is better than none. For those who do not know, Breakdown Pay at Con-way Truckload (at the time of writing) is $75.00 a day.
When we returned to the truck there was a note on the Qualcomm which made both of us grimace. We receive a daily message advising the number of accidents the company experiences and we learned that while there were no accidents there were two Hazmat (Hazardous Material) violations. Such violations are very expensive in terms of Fines, Time and Points. Two of our drivers didn't pay attention to signs which instructed them to follow a route designed for Hazmat and went through Cities which didn't allow them. The signs are usually very clear and hard to miss but violating them can mean Criminal Charges bought against the Driver. Our Drivers will have to spend time going to court, pay large fines and the Company will be assessed Points which, if we get too many, will result in Larger Fines, Inspections and the possibility of the whole company being placed Out of Service or at least having restrictions placed on how and where we do business. Additionally companies who hire trucks often check the safety record of the companies they hire and don't do business with those whose point score is too high.
These two instances were dumb mistakes and we will all pay for it in the long run. Today's run down to Laredo is a Hazmat load. We already know that we can't run through Dallas and will have to take the loop around San Antonio. We don't just know this because it's our regular run but because we have been doing this for a while and know though experience that we can't take Hazmat through some cities including Wheeling, Cincinatti, Houston, Atlanta and many others. Hazmat has to go over Loveland Pass and only certain types of Hazmat can go though some of Virginia's Tunnels. The only mitigating circumstances that might help these Drivers is if they are Brand New, just out of the box Truckers. We all have to learn and sometimes a mistake is part of the learning process so if they get a Judge inclined to be lenient they might not actually go to Jail. Still, they should have know better.
I wish both of these Driver's luck and hope it doesn't sting too much.