Problem: When you’ve got 17,000 assets to manage—encompassing tractors, trucks, trailers, forklifts, even converter freight dollies—via 36 shops scattered across the U.S., keeping tabs on everything from a maintenance perspective can become something of a headache. And not a mild one either.

Take inspection reports, for example.

If Dept. of Transportation (DOT) inspectors come calling at a particular shop, rummaging through file cabinets packed with paper to locate specific reports is going to turn into a time-consuming, laborious, and aggravating process at best.

“Our inspection forms used to be stored in a trailer in Atlanta; if a report was needed, someone had to physically search for it,” notes Charles Rozelle, regional maintenance manager at Saia’s shop in Dallas.

And that’s before any errors come to light, errors that are an expected by-product when inspection report data is entered by hand. Because of this, Saia sought a system that would not only capture critical inspection and maintenance data electronically, but also share it both internally and externally when needed.

Solution: Saia decided to deploy quick response (QR) codes to help gain such capabilities.

Codes are placed on stickers attached to its tractors, trucks, and other equipment to allow access via a tablet or smartphone to important vehicle details such as model number and mileage more quickly and accurately.

The carrier says that its QR codes will be integrated with its Automated Service Initiation System (ASIST) maintenance platform developed by Decisiv for Mack and Volvo Trucks. Saia, which has been using ASIST internally to manage breakdowns across its 36 shops and three trailer yards, is applying QR codes to all makes of tractors, trailers, converter dollies, and forklifts within its fleet.

“Our technicians are now using iPad tablet computers to scan QR codes on vehicles and access and conduct preloaded inspections,” notes Charles Rozelle. “The QR codes take away the possibility of data entry errors. By automatically transferring inspection results via a WiFi network to the shop, we can instantly see if service or repairs are needed. The platform also gives us easy access to inspection histories for DOT and internal use.”

Both Volvo and Mack Trucks are adding QR codes to all of their new vehicles to help speed service response times and improve customer vehicle uptime. In addition, they are working to retrofit older equipment with such codes for those customers who request it.

When a truck arrives at a fleet’s maintenance shop or a dealership, service advisers can easily scan the vehicle’s QR code to provide rapid access to the truck’s VIN, owner information and service history. This helps eliminate the potential for errors that can occur with paper-based service write-ups. Scanning the unique code launches a Decisiv mobile application and immediately loads asset information, customized inspection details, and pending work, Rozelle explains. The service adviser has the ability to launch required inspections through the mobile device used for the initial scan.

The QR application allows technicians to add odometer readings to trigger and send pending preventive maintenance operations. This data can be sent simultaneously to shop personnel and the parts counter so they can be ready when the truck arrives at a service bay, notes Jason Plumlee, director of maintenance.

Combined with the ASIST platform, the codes also replace inspection cards that had to be reprinted for each shop when a new procedure was needed, he says.

“For example, we issued new cards in the Northeast after we added an inspection for water damage following last fall’s hurricane, and then issued cards again in that region once the inspections were done,” Plumlee points out. Deploying QR codes “system wide,” in his words, “offers a time- and cost-saving tool.”