Learning Zone

How to reduce downtime & increase Fleet Productivity

By Ellen Sowerby
22 January 2021

Some fleets still struggle to manage unplanned vehicle downtime…

…and it comes at a cost that goes beyond the expense of any routine repair.


a vehicle broken down with a traffic sign in the foreground


When a vehicle breaks down, it affects your business, your operation and its bottom line in several ways. Industry estimates for fleet downtime costs can exceed £700 a day in lost productivity in addition to the actual vehicle repair costs.

For example, downtime leads to higher costs for:

  • Towing
  • Roadside emergency repairs
  • Rental replacement vehicles
  • Sidelined drivers who may be subject to hours of service regulations
  • Extra manpower

The failure to deliver goods or services on time can lead to a loss of revenue and missed opportunities when dissatisfied customers take their business elsewhere.

When unscheduled service and repair events occur, your entire operation suffers, however, there are several fleet management approaches that can help reduce vehicle downtime:


Choosing the right vehicles

Selecting the best fleet vehicles prevents downtime by eliminating problems. For example, if a vehicle is not fit for purpose, excessive wear and tear can lead to costly repairs and breakdowns that could have been prevented.

While the capital expense of replacing vehicles is a consideration, it is important to take into account that breakdowns and more frequent repairs are a greater possibility with older equipment.

In contrast, newer vehicles with the latest technology are much less likely to need unplanned service.


Conducting effective inspections

Developing and implementing a comprehensive fleet inspection process is not only a regulatory requirement but also a sure means of finding issues before they lead to unplanned downtime.

In addition, the use of on-board telematics systems to receive reports on fault codes and other alerts can mean having the ability to fix a small issue rather than waiting until it becomes a time-consuming major repair.


Performing timely maintenance

A proactive preventive maintenance (PM) program allows you to identify vehicle issues and limit downtime before major problems occur.


oil being poured into vehicle engine


Routine maintenance on a schedule keeps systems well maintained and avoids potential breakdowns. PM can also include a plan to replace components at the end of their expected life cycles, rather than waiting for a failure.

In addition, since even routine maintenance places vehicles out of service, working with operations personnel to schedule planned service events during off-hours can reduce downtime.


Running efficient workshops

Reducing downtime requires coordinated and efficient workshop management practices.

Most fleet managers might be surprised to learn that a large part of downtime isn’t often related to actual repairs but rather the inefficiency of the service management process.

For PM to be effective, all maintenance, operations, dispatch, and financial and administrative teams must work together to optimize schedules. Internally, the effective use of resources to streamline service processes eliminates backlogs.


Driver training

A focus on driver habits can also reduce the impact of downtime.

To run a productive fleet, it’s important that the right drivers are trained to drive the right class of vehicle in order to prevent avoidable breakdowns and unscheduled service events.

A well-trained, knowledgeable and confident driver is also less likely to be involved in an accident.


Fleet Management Software

Unplanned vehicle downtime is too costly to ignore, yet fairly easy to keep in check.

Fleets that keep vehicles on the road, avoiding downtime whenever possible, are likely to be relying on fleet management software to manage inspections, preventive maintenance programs, shop operations and drivers – and to make more informed vehicle choices.

Through fleet data analytics and reporting capabilities, fleet software identifies frequency of servicing or breakdowns and the reasons behind those events to help predict recurring issues so you can take effective action.

Future problems are then eliminated, which will not only reduce downtime, but also lead to a more efficient, productive and successful business.

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