At one point in my managing days, I resorted to monthly truck inspections. At first, I scheduled them and told the driver when I was going to do the inspection. This worked most of the time. For at least one day every month, that truck was in good shape. After several months, I made the inspections surprise inspections. Wow, you've never heard such grumbling. Inspection scores were figured into performance evaluations, so they were sensitive to this new concept of work performance actually having a direct effect on their compensation. Crazy idea, I know.
There was a good deal of competition between drivers to see who could get the highest score, or even a perfect score. I think I only gave out one perfect score during the program, which lasted a year or so. It was hard to sustain, doing 14 surprise inspections per month, especially in winter.
My goal with tow truck cleanliness was not a perfect score on a surprise inspection, but just a general professional look and smell, and a tidiness, every day. If you wouldn't want your mom to get in that truck, then that was a problem, because a lot of customers are someone's mom. I don’t need to do the white-glove test. I don’t need to feel Armor-All on the seat. Those hard-to-reach spots between the bed and the cab don’t need to be polished, but every once in awhile you have to finish off an old wash mitt by reaching in there to wipe away the outer layer of grime.
You have to appreciate the scars and marks that accumulate on a piece of equipment that’s been in circulation a long time. I’m not talking about broken windshields or crushed fenders, but there really shouldn’t be new paint on your wheellift. The bed and butt-plate should have a few scratches. What you want are trucks that work, in more than one sense of the word. And a truck like that deserves respect. It can get dirty, muddy, whatever. But when the day is done, it needs a little love.
One of the tricky parts of getting your drivers to take care of their equipment is the simple dichotomy that applies to all aspects of your business. They don’t own the truck. You do. They don’t own the office space they’re working in, or the dollar passing through their hands from your customer to you. If they don’t own it, they won’t care as much about it as you do. Plain and simple. The best thing you can do, the only thing you can do… is to put it in their interest. What’s the definition of “put it in their interest?” Could be a lot of things: incentives, intimidation, freedom. That’s your job: to figure out what interests each one of your employees. That’s one reason why no one said it would be easy. And accept that your employee will not care as much as your truck, your money, your business as you do. Why should they?