Why is fleet vehicle maintenance important?
Reduce downtime, control costs, meet compliance regulations and keep your customers through effective fleet maintenance management.
What is Fleet Maintenance?
Fleet maintenance refers to the steps taken to ensure that your assets are fit for use and operating in a good condition – these assets include anything with mechanical components, be it a car, lorry or piece of machinery; they need regular maintenance to enable correct functionality and an increased lifespan.
An asset that is out of commission costs money. Each day taken to carry out maintenance or servicing of an asset is a day that it fails to make you money. These losses can stack up quite quickly if such downtime runs into unscheduled weeks rather than days, perhaps due to waiting on parts or not having the man-hours available to fulfill tasks. A similar scenario across the entire fleet and this ‘waste’ can soon have a negative impact on the profitability of a business.
There’s no escaping it, car or vehicle maintenance means unavoidable downtime. The skill lies, however, in minimizing this through careful planning and management by having the technicians and parts in place to complete a task and get that vehicle back out on the road. Fleet maintenance software can be an integral part of managing this downtime, reducing unnecessary time and costs.
Know your fleet vehicles
The first aspect in running an effective workshop is knowing your vehicles – when they need servicing, what is required, the parts needed and an allocation in the planning schedule or program for downtime, these are all important best practices for preventive maintenance. An accurate assessment of the costs for both parts and labor can then be made.
There is a temptation to opt for cheaper parts instead of choosing the manufacturer recommended ones to save money. This often proves a false economy in the long run as the life expectancy of substitutes may be less and a vehicle manufacturers warranty could become invalid.
A job needs to be completed within a set time allocation. If a technician exceeds this on all jobs, it is the responsibility of the workshop manager to investigate and action. After all, time is money.
In addition, allocations for carrying out preventative maintenance on a vehicle with renowned troublesome issues can minimize the risk of longer periods of costly vehicle downtime later on down the line.
The benefits of creating a vehicle or fleet maintenance program
As already discussed, it is essential for any fleet’s workshop to successfully deliver a scheduled, prepared and fully compliant fleet maintenance program. This can reduce downtime by having a detailed schedule of jobs to be completed with a time and cost allocation against each asset.
Compliance is often seen as paperwork for the sake of completing paperwork but it is much more than unnecessary work and ‘red tape’. It’s there to ensure safety for employees and other road users, incorporating a culture of safety across the workforce thereby reducing accidents and boosting staff morale.
Should the unfortunate happen and an accident does occur, the relevant paperwork needs to be in place. This it to ensure that the regulatory requirements have been met and everything done to mitigate such an accident. Vehicles need to be maintained to the highest of standards to ensure that they are fully roadworthy, reducing the likelihood of an accident through a mechanical or electrical failure.
Modern vehicles have, in effect, an on-board computer that monitors functions and performance. Using telematics, faults can be alerted remotely for the workshop to action, thereby reducing unexpected downtime. The automation of such ad-hoc maintenance tasks takes place within the fleet maintenance management software and alerts created for technicians to action.
The importance of fleet maintenance software
The ways in which fleet maintenance software can help an operation improve efficiency is through the incorporation of specific maintenance management modules. These need to incorporate four key areas – reducing costs, minimizing downtime, meeting compliance regulations and customer retention.
1. Reducing costs
Quality fleet maintenance software such as FleetWave can maximize efficiencies and help discover those areas of cost savings that are often hidden or too time-consuming to trace through paper-based reporting practices.
Fleet maintenance software, in effect, is a large database that has many tools and reporting procedures to speed up processes, provide transparency across the business and improve efficiency. Such systems integrate easily with other software applications including parts suppliers and account management.
The cost-saving benefits of software for fleet maintenance technicians are numerous. Add to this the flexibility of a mobile app that can collate and update information from the shop floor in real time and paper-based administrative duties are reduced and productivity increases by creating more time to complete tasks.
Fleet maintenance software can also:
Monitor vehicles and spot trends in fault finding which can help pre-empt service scheduling
Generate reminders to drivers about allocating vehicle downtime for maintenance
Provide vehicle availability transparency for fleet managers to determine availability
Improve inventory management by having an up to date knowledge of parts in stock
Order parts automatically as required to complete jobs
Integrate with parts suppliers for ease of ordering, delivery and payment
Improve resale value by providing a full-service history
Empower technicians to allow more autonomous working
2. Reducing downtime
Vehicles out of commission are a financial burden to any operation, many companies put the cost at over $700 a day! Hiring replacement fleet vehicles during downtime can be a costly practice but the alternative is to reduce driver workload during these periods which potentially leads to an even greater financial loss and customer dissatisfaction.
There are best practices to keep downtime to a minimum with the simplest being to plan ahead. A workshop manager can procure the parts needed in advance either manually or automatically through a designated supplier. Having a good inventory management program is key to this. In addition, the availability of the workforce available can be checked against existing job cards.
Technician jobs such as completing inspection sheets and carrying out vehicle servicing can be automated through software. Mobile forms app technology can empower technicians by creating a to do list of jobs that need carrying out that they can sign off themselves as completed. Such an application permits workshop managers to oversee that the work has been carried out and it to be completed on schedule.
3. Ensuring compliance
Being recognized as compliant can be a cumbersome task, but the very reason that legal requirements are being acted upon is to ensure that vehicles are safe for employees and other road users. Imagine taking a vehicle out on the road with faulty brakes and the accident that could happen should they fail….
Compliance can be categorized into vehicles, drivers, operations and management with standards set out for each.
All fleet vehicles need to meet certain safety standards before they can become operative which is followed by regular service and maintenance checks. Commercial vehicles can be called in for roadside spot checks carried out by the regulatory organisations to ensure that they are compliant with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) checks. With 5 Million truck and bus drivers and over 250 million car users on the roads, safety is paramount. Those found to be in breach of regulations can be fined and will be more frequently for additional spot checks.
Technicians need to have the correct skills and training to carry out compliance maintenance on vehicles. It is the responsibility of both the workshop manager to oversee the training necessary for the role and that records are in place. Failure to do so could mean potentially unsafe vehicles leaving the workshop but also invalidate regulatory requirements, putting both operators and other road users at risk.
4. Customer retention
Fleet managers have a care of duty when tendering and selecting suppliers. Part of this process includes details of health and safety to confirm that a company meets full compliancy legal requirements of the business.
A good reputation enhances the reputation of customers and can go a long way in maintaining a contract. The last thing a customer wants is to be embroiled in a negative news story concerning one of their suppliers. Similarly, end users are more likely to purchase products and services from a company that has a compliant supply chain that cares about the welfare of their employees and customers.
Having a safety culture within your business boosts staff morale. Employees feel valued by working for a company that prioritizes their safety and who are prepared to put the necessary processes in place to maintain welfare.
So to conclude, dedicated fleet maintenance software is an essential piece of ‘toolkit’ for any workshop manager that improves efficiency and generates value in terms of real cost savings.