Learning Zone

5 ways to create an effective fleet maintenance programme

By Ellen Sowerby
25 January 2021

Optimize time and save money by creating an effective fleet maintenance program.

Get a firm understanding of your service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs with our top 5 tips on getting up to speed with what’s going on under the hood:

1. Understand the scale of the issue

SMR will tell you a lot about your company’s productivity and operational effectiveness so it’s important that you have a firm grip on your fleet maintenance and all costs – even if you have maintenance packages as part of a lease.

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.

Understanding the issue could lead to you saving a fortune: across all fleet types, research suggests that having a vehicle off the road is costing more every year to repair.

If you can understand how much time your vehicles are inoperable for, it will give you a better idea of how efficiently your business is operating day-to-day.

2. Differentiate between scheduled and unscheduled maintenance

Understanding the difference between scheduled and unscheduled maintenance will have a big impact.

Scheduled maintenance is best practice and comes in the form of proactive, preventive methods such as routine services, inspections and spot checks which help 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 – your drivers not looking after their vehicles being the principle one!

We’ve found that by getting drivers into the habit of conducting simple routine vehicle checks on a regular basis, you can dodge some of those expensive, unscheduled SMR events and turn them into less costly, scheduled ones.

3. Create a detailed fleet maintenance program

We all know that prevention is better than cure, so why not introduce a regular fleet maintenance check-up schedule? That can be undertaken during a vehicle’s annual service, through inspections or even using telematics to send diagnostics and fault reports.

But make sure you’re setting up the program correctly. For instance, there’s little point organising weekly checks on pool vehicles which cover very few miles. Instead, tie the regularity of prevention check-ups to a vehicle’s mileage and usage.

In order to create a detailed fleet maintenance program, we recommend you work closely with your suppliers to draft a checklist of what should be looked at and when.

4. Bring the whole team together

Don’t let this all sit on your shoulders! Running a safe, legal and efficient fleet should be the responsibility of everyone in your business, from drivers to management. Ask everyone who uses a company vehicle every day to carry out regular maintenance checks, and those in managerial positions should implement spot checks and plan ahead.

Then 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.

Make sure you keep records of all costs and checks and include 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 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 avoid 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 fleet maintenance 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 won’t actually need to see everything. Fleet maintenance software 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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