Learning Zone

Five Ways to Keep Your Vehicles Operational

By Ellen Sowerby
25 January 2021

The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is never truer when it comes to fleet maintenance.

In order for you to keep your vehicles on the road, you need to have a preventative maintenance (PM) programme. Doing this will give you control of costs, long term asset reliability and safety as it will minimise the possibility of unscheduled issues leading to higher costs for breakdowns and repairs.

True PM is proactive, and, increasingly, it’s becoming predictive too. Proactive vehicle servicing consists of inspections, preventive maintenance, scheduled repairs and service.

Reactive maintenance tends to be mainly due to breakdowns. These can be costly to rectify, detrimental to your budgets and are often caused by the lack of a preventive maintenance approach.


Here are five best practices to follow:

1. Scheduling for success

Don’t wait for a failure to bring vehicles into the shop. A PM program should consist of scheduled items based on mileage or other measures such as engine hours or fuel use.

PM services are commonly designed to increase in detail and complexity as vehicles age or acquire higher than expected mileage. This can also have an effect on the level of service and amount of time taken to complete work.

Unscheduled downtime due to asset failure can be costly, not just in terms of additional budget but also time and reputation. There’s nothing worse than having to cancel a customer delivery or appointment due to a lack of vehicles. Having an effective fleet maintenance program in place is essential in preventing problems before they arise.


2. Follow up on inspections 

Your PM program will be driven by information found during regular inspections, such as mandated pre-trip inspections by your drivers that allow a prescribed list – these are increasingly being reported electronically on Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs). Trained maintenance personnel can also conduct inspections during yard checks, at fuel islands and in specially designated inspection lanes.

Regardless of the practices implemented in your fleet, inspections are key to finding and fixing areas in need of attention before they cause a breakdown or other costlier, unscheduled repair.

3. Help technicians improve PM 

Your technicians are an investment and an asset but they will require training to be able to effectively and efficiently perform PM services. For your PM program to be successful, technicians must begin their training with an understanding of the importance of performing through preventive maintenance.

We also recommend routine refresher training – doing this means you can introduce new programs, shop tools, new technologies, vehicles and other assets in your operation.

PM is only as good as the person performing it. Your technicians must proactively service each vehicle to reduce breakdowns and repairs, with short-cuts never taken.


4. Optimise parts inventories 

Optimising your shop’s parts management and inventory programs supports cost-effective and efficient preventive maintenance for your fleet.

You will obviously have to ensure an adequate stock of commonly used maintenance parts such as fluids, filters, belts and hoses. But it’s also good practice to organise parts based on systems and components, to help streamline PM.

Parts room housekeeping is a valuable best practice for visibility of inventory during routine PM. Training your parts room personnel so they know your operation’s PM programs will help them to identify fast moving parts that need to be ordered more frequently. Alternatively, using fleet management software can carry out this process autonomously, ensuring that the correct inventory is always available.


5. Use data to enhance PM effectiveness 

Parts management tools in fleet maintenance software can drive up PM efficiency. They achieve this by using inventory control to ensure that parts are on hand for maintenance tasks when needed. Increasingly, software integrations with barcode-based inventory systems are being used to automatically track parts and generate re-orders when needed. Many parts suppliers can integrate their ordering systems with fleet management software which streamlines the ordering process.

Regardless of whether your business has its own workshop or outsources all work, it is important to use data to track the effectiveness of your preventive maintenance programs. Having the information at your fingertips allows you to make adjustments to PM frequency or task lists to best suit your fleet’s changing requirements.

Advanced fleet maintenance software has these capabilities in addition to many more that help directly to improve the effectiveness of PM programs. Such systems readily monitor mileages and other parameters to plan and track the servicing needs of vehicles. The capabilities also include being able to provide automated notification of servicing schedules to drivers.

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