Learning Zone

5 preventive maintenance best practices for your fleet

By Ross Jephson
26 January 2021

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

We share five preventive maintenance best practices to help keep your vehicles operational

preventive maintenance alert on a vehicle dashboard that reads

For cost control, long term asset reliability and safety, successful fleets can maintain vehicles by implementing and managing preventive maintenance (PM) programs. Fleet maintenance is important to minimize 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.

How can you implement the proactive preventive maintenance approach into your fleet?

Here are five best practices to follow:

1. Scheduling for success

Never 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 affect 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 

Any preventive maintenance program is driven by information found during regular inspections. These can include mandated pre-trip inspections by drivers that allow a prescribed list and are increasingly 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. Routine refresher training is worthwhile, as to is making sure that training addresses new programs, shop tools, new technologies, vehicles and other assets in your operation.

PM is only as good as the person performing it. Technician’s must proactively service each vehicle to reduce breakdowns and repairs, with shortcuts never being taken.

4. Optimize parts inventories 

Optimizing your shop’s parts management and inventory programs supports cost-effective and efficient preventive maintenance for your fleet.  There is a need to ensure adequate stock of commonly used maintenance parts such as fluids, filters, belts and hoses. It’s good best practice to organize 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 

Whether PM work is done in-house or outsourced to service providers, using data to track the effectiveness of your preventive maintenance programs can help ensure success. Such information provides the insight needed to manage your maintenance operation and 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.

Parts management tools in fleet maintenance software can drive up PM efficiency. They achieve this by ensuring that inventory control ensures that that parts are on hand for maintenance tasks when needed. Increasingly, software integration with bar code 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.

The real value of preventative maintenance best practices 

Visibility into preventive maintenance activity is valuable for keeping overall costs down and fleet reliability up. Effective PM can make a big difference to your bottom line since the cost for routine maintenance tends to be significantly less than those for unscheduled downtime.

By planning, scheduling and performing the appropriate preventive maintenance at the right time, fleets and their customers can benefit from a more cost-effective, reliable and safer operation.

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