Oct 30, 2019

The team at Rabern Rentals don’t consider themselves too tech-savvy or earlier adopters of the industry’s latest advancements. They are just hard-working, practical people who want to provide quality service to customers and be diligent about maintaining their equipment fleet. So when they discover a good idea, whether at their local American Rental Association chapter meeting, a trade show or from a fellow rental store owner, they implement it only if it aligns with those two values.

With two locations in Amarillo and one in Hereford, Texas, Rabern Rentals Owner Steve Berner said their team is always looking for a better way to manage and maintain Rabern Rentals’ rental fleet. “We classify ourselves as heavy equipment people — any contractors looking for large equipment that typically isn’t stocked at other rental stores has been an important niche for our business,” he explained. “We carry everything from large excavators and wheel loaders to forklifts and aerial equipment. Our fleet across the two stores is massive, and we regularly call on contractors who are working up to 200 miles away. Ensuring that preventative maintenance (PM) was being routinely performed is a huge undertaking, which is why we’re always looking for tools and equipment that can help simplify the process.”

Fleet service challenges

Every rental store manager and owner understands the challenges of maintaining a large rental fleet. To ensure the manufacturer-recommended PMs are performed, many rental operations rely on customers to monitor their rented equipment or make frequent trips or calls to jobsites, themselves. Others merely wait until a machine comes off rent to perform PMs, which is a recipe for downtime and costly repairs.

Rabern Rentals didn’t want to be just another rental store, which is why performing PMs on schedule has always been a priority for the team. However, to stay on top of the service intervals to its distributed rental fleet across four different states, Rabern Rentals’ service technicians have to spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a service truck traveling between jobsites.

“A typical day used to consist of loading the back of the truck up with supplies, including as many 5-gallon buckets of motor oil as I could fit, driving to a jobsite, spending a lot of time looking for the machine that needed to be serviced, performing the PM, and then cleaning up,” explained Tim Poland, service technician with Rabern Rentals. “It’s inefficient and messy, but normal for most service techs.”

Upgrading PMs

Rabern Rentals began to upgrade its PMs process a few years ago with the integration of telematics and a mobile lube system. “Many of our equipment suppliers started to offer trials of their telematics systems when we purchased new equipment,” explained Berner. “So that gave us a taste for what we could do with telematics, and after that, we began to add it to many of our larger machines. With better data, we also wanted to have a better way of performing routine maintenance, which led to us purchasing a Sage Oil Vac lube trailer. I just wanted the process to be easier on our guys and faster for the customers.”

Now for telematics, Rabern Rentals uses a mixed system that incorporates data supplied through original equipment manufacturers (OEM) telematic systems and aftermarket systems from Mix Telematics. Machine data is fed to a customized dashboard that everyone at Rabern Rentals has access to. The dashboard lets them know when a machine needs to be serviced, and with geofencing and GPS, they always know exactly where their machines are. Instead of service technicians having to wait for a customer to contact them when service needs to be done, they call the customer to let them know when they will be coming by to do it.

Poland said the Sage Oil Vac lube trailer is the perfect complement to telematics. “What good is service data if a person doesn’t have the time to perform the PMs efficiently,” he joked. “With our mobile lube trailer, we’re able to carry a lot more fluids with us to jobsites, reduce the amount of time it takes to do an oil change, more accurately measure the amount of oil we add and reduce the risk of dripping or spilling oil. It’s made a big impact on our business.”

Trailer setup

With customers spread throughout four states, traveling back and forth from Rabern Rentals facilities to drop off used oil and pick up fresh oil was a significant time waster. When spec-ing their mobile lube trailer, Berner’s staff worked with the team at Sage Oil Vac to develop a custom solution to reduce their travel times. The mobile lube tandem axle trailer includes two 250-gallon tanks — one for 15-40 fresh oil and another to hold waste oil. There are also three 30-gallon tanks on the front to carry hydraulic fluid, a grease kit and an air compressor that powers the system.

The tanks on Rabern Rentals’ mobile lube system has a pump-free design that uses vacuum technology to dispense and drain fluid. Compressed air is used to push oil out of the tank and vacuum pressure to suck up used oil into the waste tank; the service technician just needs to flip a switch to create suction. There are no moving parts inside the tanks, and the vacuum system is completely sealed. The pneumatic grease gun kit also runs off the same air compressor.

“With 500 gallons of fresh oil onboard, I can handle multiple services in a single trip, and get rid of all the buckets I used to have to carry in the back of my truck,” Poland said. “With that much oil, I can do PMs on seven wheel loaders without having to come back to the shop. And having hydraulic tanks allows me to be able to add fluid if a machine’s hydraulic system is a bit low, or when a machine blows a hose and loses a lot of fluid. Having an air-powered grease gun has also made greasing a machine a lot faster, and it has a lot more force behind it than a hand-pump gun.”

Better for everyone

The results of integrating telematics and a mobile lube trailer are positive. Rabern Rentals employs several service technicians, and they all have complete access to data from the 300+ machines in their fleet with telematics. The trailer also makes it easy for any one of them to hitch it to their service truck and go.

“The changes we’ve made have helped our team better manage and maintain our rental fleet, but that’s only part of it,” said Poland. “Equally important is we’ve been able to reduce PM downtime for our customers. With telematics, we can plan better, and with the Sage Oil Vac system, we can get the work done faster.”

Service is the difference

The high level of service customers receive from the team at Rabern Rentals is a key differentiator in a competitive rental market. “Service has allowed us to demand higher rental rates. We may be 5-10 percent higher than other places, but our customers continue to choose us because they don’t have to worry about getting poorly maintained and dirty equipment that is more prone to breakdowns. We want our customers satisfied and working, our employees safe and happy — making an investment in service has helped make all of that possible,” concluded Berner.

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