Family-owned-and-operated Dickinson Fleet Services is a mobile fleet maintenance and management provider with headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was established in 1997 by founders Bob and Dick Dickinson and began as a three-shop company when the founders acquired Ryder Truck Rental locations in Indiana, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.
Proper fleet vehicle maintenance and management are crucial to having an efficient fleet and requires complete optimization throughout every aspect of operations, so downtimes are reduced. Finding a reliable fleet maintenance and management provider with the resources, experience, and customer-centric approach to business can be a daunting task. But it does not have to be. Dickinson Fleet Services has over twenty years of experience in providing the comprehensive service that customers in the industry have come to expect.
“One of the things that the fleet industry lacked was a national independent truck maintenance provider,” Ted Coltrain, the company’s chief executive officer, explains of what prompted the company’s founding. There is, “still today, not a single independent national provider. I think we’re probably the only one that is in that space.”
The company’s competition is dealerships and truck rental companies such as Ryder and Penske, but the key differentiator is that Dickinson Fleet is a one-source service provider. “They’re not independent maintenance providers that work on all makes and models as their core business.”
In its two-decade history, Dickinson Fleet has grown in both size and capabilities. It now has a presence in thirty-seven states, with 450 mobile maintenance trucks, seventy-five semi-trailer repair maintenance trucks, and six collision repair facilities. The company employees a staff of over 1,000 and offers continuous maintenance support to its customers.
Dickinson Fleet’s clients are about sixty-five percent private fleets and thirty-five percent commercial fleets. “We’re continuing to see that private fleet business grow,” says Ted. “Particularly as it becomes a bigger challenge to find and hire qualified technicians.” Such private fleets want to spend less time on non-core aspects of their company, such as fleet maintenance, with more of a concentration on their core business. So for this reason, “They’re looking more and more to outsource that piece of their business versus having that in-sourced.”
The company’s service technicians are fully qualified and well-trained in keeping fleets running as efficiently as possible. Ted says that the company is not necessarily looking for a brilliant technician who is capable of all maintenance tasks but rather, “the individual that has the basic skills, but is safety-minded, quality conscious and communicates well.” If all of these attributes are met, then the company knows “that they are going to be a good fit in our organization.”
Once candidates have been identified and hired, they are brought into the corporate office and, “put through an extensive ten-day training period of just learning our culture, our processes, and our systems,” Ted explains. After that, continued education is offered through numerous training programs. “It’s easy to get that communication out because we’re a completely paperless company, and that allows us a lot of different avenues to effectively communicate with our technicians.”
Mobile technologies, specifically developed to fit a particular need, have a crucial role to play as Dickinson Fleet increases its capabilities to offer their customers the best in service. The company has, “developed the communication platform for our technicians and for our customers through the hands and eyes of the mechanic himself,” explains Ted. Such communication platforms include its Technician Reporting and Information Tool (TRAIT) and Web Wrench.
The TRAIT communication platform gives “real-time information to the technician on where to be, who to communicate with, and more specifically, of what to do at the repair site,” Ted continues. The tool enables real-time communication with a customer as to what is transpiring with a specific repair.
TRAIT is continuously being upgraded and updated. “It’s just a tremendous advantage for us in the fact that we’ve developed it. It’s been developed internally through listening to our technicians and our customers and by our IT department,” says Ted.
The Web Wrench tool gives customers a look at Dickinson Fleet’s reliability as a maintenance provider for any given day. It shares information about how many trucks are running, how many are being serviced, and what the expense will be for any given period. “What a customer wants with a good maintenance management program is to improve reliability and decrease costs,” says Ted and to, “measure what we’re doing and how we’re doing with customers, we work through several different key performance indicators.” These factors may include preventative maintenance, currency, and department of transport compliance. All of this is tracked electronically and in real time.
In 2018 alone, Dickinson Fleet acquired five companies. “We wanted to continue to grow our business. It just makes economic sense in today’s environment to look at an acquisition strategy,” says Ted. “Our rationale in identifying companies that we want to acquire really comes down to [the question of] is this company a cultural fit for us?” The company also wants to learn about the people and determine what any acquisition will, “bring to our customers in terms of scale and capability.”
Dickinson Fleet acquired a company that concentrates specifically on mobile, semi-trailer repair, which, “really created a catalyst for us to grow and expand that service offering for our customers … We’re continuing to add scale, and we have a great customer base that is challenging us to reach them in other parts where we don’t have geographic coverage today. Acquisitions certainly open up some of those doors for us.” The company and has twenty-four technicians in California and continues its expansion with plans to infiltrate Texas and Arizona.
Dickinson Fleet has been recognized by CIO Applications, a publication focused on the latest technology trends, as one of the top ten telematics solutions providers. Ted believes this acknowledgment is the result of all of the company’s technicians, “being completely electronic and continuously transmitting information at a very long distance. It’s built on a platform that we developed and continue to enhance.”
The company’s drivers and trucks communicate with the technicians’ technology. For example, if a truck needs to be assessed, an electronic detailed damage inspection report (DDIR) can be sent straight to the technician’s communication platform. The computer on the truck can inform technicians of issues like a low voltage that they must investigate.
“We’re literally, at times, showing up to make repairs on a truck, even without a driver knowing why a technician is there. We have this really unique ability to electronically transfer and receive information at a very long distance. Having the ability to organize that data and make it available and actionable is what we do with our systems,” says Ted.
“We are the best-in-class fleet maintenance management company. We provide the most comprehensive service offering in the industry,” Ted states.