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5 tips for creating an effective maintenance programme

Optimise Time and Save Money by Creating an Effective Fleet Maintenance Programme

Do you have a firm understanding of your service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs? If you don’t, you’re not the only one…

SMR costs are one of the more obscure fleet management expenses, lost in the busy cut-and-thrust of daily business driving, and as a result often companies don’t have a clear picture of what is really going on under the bonnet – so what steps should be taken to implement a robust fleet maintenance programme?

Read our top 5 tips here:

1. Understand the scale of the issue:

First things first, it’s important that you have a firm grip on your SMR costs – even if you have maintenance packages as part of a lease – because, at the end of the day, SMR will tell you a lot about your company’s productivity and operational effectiveness.

Interestingly, studies have found that around two-fifths of business don’t know the cost of vehicle downtime that’s caused by maintenance requirements – whether scheduled or not – and a third don’t know what they spend on SMR annually.

Moreover, across all fleet types, research suggests that a vehicle that’s off-road costs its operator more than £700 a day in maintenance bills, loss of sales and reduced productivity.

Understanding how much time your vehicles are ‘off the road’ or inoperable will generate a better idea of how efficiently your business is operating day-to-day.

2. Differentiate between scheduled and unscheduled maintenance

Moving forwards, you need to understand the difference between scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, which your fleet depends more on and why.

Scheduled maintenance comes in the form of proactive, preventative methods such as routine services, inspections and spot checks, helping to prevent, detect and repair small issues before they become serious and expensive.

Unscheduled maintenance, on the other hand, is usually more expensive and typically results in significant downtime which negatively impacts on your fleet operation. This sort of maintenance may occur because of incidents out on the road, but often there are other underlying reasons …drivers not looking after their vehicles being the principle one!

So, it stands to reason that if you can get your drivers into the habit of conducting simple routine vehicle checks on a regular basis, you might be able to move some expensive, unscheduled SMR events into less costly, scheduled ones.

TOP TIP: in order to do this, you need a fleet maintenance plan that spells out exactly what is required of your drivers, suppliers and SMR partners at any given time. Crucially, you need to be clear about what checks need to be carried out, the regularity of said checks and the expected time and costs associated for this type of preventative work.   

3. Create a detailed fleet maintenance plan

It’s true that prevention is better than cure, so implementing a regular fleet maintenance check-up schedule –  whether undertaken during a vehicle’s annual service, through inspections or even using telematics to send diagnostics and fault reports – is a must.

manager writing a fleet maintenance programme on a clip board

The regularity of prevention check-ups should depend on mileage and usage. There’s no point, for example, doing a monthly check on a vehicle with low annual mileage, however, there’s much to be gained by implementing a robust fleet maintenance plan for a vehicle that travels long distances or on rough terrain.

In order to create a detailed fleet maintenance programme, work closely with your suppliers to draft a checklist of what should be looked at and when. At the very least it should include:

  • Engine oil and filters
  • Transmission fluid
  • Fuel system
  • Cooling system
  • Tyres
  • Glass
  • Brakes
  • Lights (interior and exterior)
  • Exhaust

4. Bring the whole team together

Accountability for running a safe, legal and efficient fleet should include all parties, from drivers to management. Those who use company vehicles every day should carry out regular maintenance checks on the fleet, and those in managerial positions should implement spot checks and plan ahead.

In doing so, they will be able to use data generated by your fleet to identify high-risk vehicles and drivers – one of the biggest causes of unnecessary costs – before acting on those findings.

Records should be kept of all costs and checks, and there should be clear processes so that you can refer back to who signed off what work or spotted a problem – and perhaps more crucially who caused it!

You can be absolutely certain of one thing: the employees who cause the most SMR issues will be your worst, most at-risk drivers, and they will be costing the company time and money.

So share the load, but don’t take that as an excuse for your employees to shirk responsibility.

5. Keep records, manage and measure

By keeping a record of your SMR costs you will be able to identify trends, compare pricing and target problem suppliers, vehicles and drivers …then watch your costs come down and your productivity go up.

It may seem intimidating at first, but help is at hand.

Technology and fleet management companies can work with you, flagging up anomalies; using data to ensure you’re not paying over the odds; highlighting exceptions with your fleet and ensuring that records and check-ups have been completed by the relevant people.

Once you have the full picture and a complete data set of your fleet, you’ll actually not need to see everything. These fleet maintenance systems will tell you when something out of the ordinary has occurred – and these are the events and purchases you need to concentrate on while the scheduled and regular work carries on.

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