Everything you need to know about fleet maintenance
It is integral to having an effective and efficient fleet operation… but why?
What is fleet maintenance?
Fleet maintenance refers to the steps taken to ensure that your vehicles are fit for use and operating in a good condition. As one of your fleet’s top investments, it’s important that each individual vehicle is safe, reliable and can stay on the road for the optimum amount of time. Put simply, vehicle maintenance is integral to managing a productive business, and without such an approach you put your business – and all associated assets – at risk.
When implementing a plan, consider things such as:
- Operating and maintenance costs – you know what they say… prevention is better than cure!
- The cost of fuel – poorly maintained equipment has a negative impact on this
- The safety of your drivers – ineffective service programmes can result in incidents that put your drivers at risk
- Customer satisfaction – operating reliable vehicles has a big impact in this area
Reports indicate that the average cost of operating a truck has increased by 6% since 2017 to $1.69 per mile, but having an effective fleet maintenance programme can help offset some of these costs.
Although the benefits of fleet maintenance are numerous, effectiveness requires careful planning and implementation of programmes and practices.
Here are six things to consider:
1. The importance of effective fleet maintenance scheduling
Regular vehicle maintenance is essential to maintain a fully operational fleet. A good place to start with maintenance planning is with the service schedule provided by a vehicle’s manufacturer. It’s also important to keep in mind the operational needs of your fleet. Routine maintenance based on mileage or other measures, such as engine hours or fuel use, can help improve overall vehicle efficiency and reduce costs.
Regular maintenance can also help detect small problems before they become much bigger, more costly concerns. Adhering to maintenance schedules means that vehicles remain in a prime working condition over longer periods which then tends to have a positive impact on resale values.
2. Regular vehicle inspections help prevent unscheduled downtime
During yard checks, at fuel islands or in specially designated lanes, inspections are the quickest way to find potential vehicle problems within your fleet. For trained maintenance personnel, inspections may be part of a day’s work, but it’s important that drivers play their part too in recognizing and reporting problems.
Training your drivers on how to correctly conduct pre and post-trip inspections not only satisfies regulatory requirements, but also eliminates more costly problems. A system then needs to be in place to communicate these concerns to your shop technicians.
3. Employing skilled technicians
Employing skilled staff and supporting this through ongoing training is a worthwhile investment that pays off in any successful fleet maintenance programme. Technicians need to be appropriately trained to effectively and efficiently perform preventive maintenance tasks and make the necessary repairs. This needs to include an understanding of the importance of thorough preventive maintenance procedures.
Training programmes that are readily available from vehicle and equipment suppliers can cover basic procedures as well as new technologies, vehicles and other assets in your operation. In all cases, they can yield significant long-term benefits. For example, retaining qualified technicians remaining may prove an ongoing challenge, but additional training opportunities often proves a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting the most skilled workforce within the industry.
4. Integrating inventory and parts management
Effective parts inventory management practices are a key element of any cost effective and efficient fleet maintenance programme. When the inventory is optimised and the right parts are in stock, technicians are able to complete service and repair work within timescales which reduces both labor costs and asset downtime.
Equally important is having an adequate stock of commonly used parts and an inventory that can be accessed quickly and easily. Organizing parts helps to keep maintenance tasks on schedule. Likewise, it’s a valuable practice in identifying the fast-moving parts that need ordering frequently so that they’re readily available.
5. Improving workshop efficiency
It may seem intuitive, but good shop working conditions can make or break fleet maintenance programme success. Even things such as simple as lighting and climate control systems can have an impact on overall workshop efficiency and productivity.
Cluttered and unorganized work spaces can be an issue too. Not only do they pose a safety hazard, but when tools, equipment and supplies are not in designated places, productivity and performance tends to be impacted negatively.
Workshop flow is another drain on productivity and fleet maintenance efficiency and effectiveness. Work spaces, including bays and yards, that are not arranged so there is a logical flow for moving vehicles are a sure means of slowing down operations.
6. The benefits of fleet maintenance software
Central to successful fleet maintenance programme is having a system in place that can effectively manage them and this is where technology plays its part.
Fleet maintenance software supports managers by ensuring that maintenance schedules are completed within timescales. Such systems will also enable adjustments to be made to schedules to meet changing requirements and provide automated notifications to drivers, shop supervisors and technicians.
The data provided for tracking the effectiveness of fleet maintenance programmes, allows managers and supervisors to readily check and adjust inspection procedures. In addition, parts management modules within fleet maintenance software drives up fleet maintenance efficiency by ensuring effective inventory levels with pre-established reorder trigger points. Parts suppliers can integrate their ordering systems to fleet management solutions, further streamlining the process.
Any successful fleet maintenance programme needs to ensure that vehicles continue to operate safely through a proactive, systematic and cost-effective approach.