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Your Comprehensive Guide to All Things Fleet Maintenance Brian Dziuk | Oct 16, 2019, 10:30:00 AM

Your business relies on its fleet vehicles to deliver the products and services that satisfy your customers and drive profits. But if your vehicles are constantly plagued by maintenance issues, they’ll end up spending more time sitting idle in the shop rather than being out on the road generating revenue.

So, how can you minimize the impact of vehicle maintenance issues on your bottom line? Prioritizing fleet maintenance is your solution! What is fleet maintenance? What are the benefits of fleet maintenance that will yield positive results for your entire business?

This comprehensive guide to all things fleet maintenance will give you all the answers you’re looking for, and even help you reduce fleet costs while improving safety and efficiency. Let’s get started!

What is Fleet Maintenance?

Fleet maintenance is the process of maintaining your fleet vehicles. By prioritizing fleet maintenance, you can keep your employees safer and your vehicles on the road longer—increasing overall fleet efficiency and profitability.

Types of Fleet Maintenance

Fleet maintenance takes two major forms: scheduled and unscheduled.

  • Scheduled fleet maintenance (or proactive maintenance). Staying on top of planned preventative maintenance schedules is one key component of fleet maintenance. Similar to how regular checkups can identify a minor medical problem before it turns into a serious health issue, having a routine fleet maintenance schedule makes it possible to detect small problems with your fleet vehicles. This way, the necessary repairs can be made before leading to a more serious and expensive issue.
  • Unscheduled fleet maintenance (or reactive maintenance). Even with the most optimized fleet maintenance schedule, your fleet vehicles are bound to have some problems between routine checkups. Whether it’s a flat tire, broken part, or an issue caused by an accident, you certainly can’t plan for these types of maintenance issues. Emergency repairs are almost always more expensive than routine ones and involve more vehicle down time. Vehicles are machines, and machines will always have breakdowns. However, it’s important to keep in mind that many types of vehicle maintenance issues could be avoided in the first place by making routine preventive maintenance a priority in your fleet.

Understanding the Role of a Fleet Maintenance Manager

The role of a fleet maintenance manager is very important. After all, your business relies on its fleet vehicles to deliver your products and services to your customers. If your vehicles aren’t properly maintained, fleet efficiency will suffer—making delivering those products and services a more time-consuming and expensive process. This is why most fleets, especially larger ones, will have a specific fleet maintenance manager role (or even a team of fleet maintenance managers) to be responsible for its fleet maintenance program.

Fleet maintenance managers are typically responsible for:

  • Scheduling routine vehicle maintenance;
  • Scheduling emergency vehicle repairs;
  • Finding equipment suppliers, technicians, and mechanics to work with;
  • Ensuring the overall quality and safety of all fleet vehicles;
  • Creating and adhering to a fleet maintenance budget;
  • Registering/licensing new vehicles;
  • Keeping accurate and up-to-date records of routine maintenance and repair history;
  • Ensuring all vehicles are compliant with company policies;
  • Maintaining compliance with any applicable laws, regulations, and safety standards; and
  • Collaborating with fleet management, drivers, and employees to conduct daily operations and work towards business goals.

Common Challenges Facing Fleet Maintenance Managers

While the role of a fleet maintenance manager is vital, it isn’t always easy. As technology continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, the skills and parts necessary to maintain modern fleet vehicles are getting more complicated and expensive. Combined with the shortage of skilled mechanics and technicians, it can be difficult to manage and carry out an effective fleet maintenance program in the modern age.

Plus, many business owners and managers today are most concerned with how to reduce fleet costs. It can be difficult for fleet maintenance managers to do their jobs effectively if they aren't given the budget allocation necessary to do so. However, investing in proper fleet maintenance now will actually help you cut long-term repair costs and boost fleet efficiency, meaning higher profit margins.

5 Key Benefits of Fleet Maintenance

There are numerous benefits of fleet maintenance that are well-worth the investment. Here are five key examples:

1: Extending the Useful Life of Your Equipment

Purchasing a new semi-truck can be an incredibly large investment for your business, so it’s important to get as much useful life out of each truck as possible. According to statistics from Popular Mechanics, the average semi-truck will travel between 45,000 and 100,000 miles each year. With such high mileage, a truck can burn through the useful life of its components in an incredibly short time frame.

By optimizing your planned fleet maintenance schedule, you can identify when vehicle parts need to be repaired or replaced. By making the necessary repairs as soon as possible and replacing faulty vehicle parts before they’re no longer functional at all, you can prevent a small maintenance issue from escalating to total vehicle failure. This keeps your fleet vehicles operating at maximum safety and efficiency long-term, meaning you can get the most return on your investment.

2: Protecting Your Employees

If your fleet vehicles haven’t had the necessary routine maintenance in months, then your employees are likely driving around vehicles that have worn out tires or other faulty parts. This can put them at increased risk for getting into an accident. For example, if there is a problem with the brakes and they need to stop short, they could end up getting into a rear-end collision. If the tire treads are worn out, they could end up hydroplaning or skidding off the road during a rainstorm.

Had these vehicles been taken in for routine fleet maintenance, it would have been easy to identify that the brakes and tires needed to be replaced, preventing both of these dangerous incidents from ever occurring in the first place. Fleet maintenance not only keeps your drivers safe, but also helps you avoid the high costs associated with an accident—such as higher worker’s compensation premiums, insurance costs, legal fees, and vehicle repairs or replacement.

3: Reducing Long-Term Repair Expenses

While your fleet maintenance program certainly won’t be free, the cost of prioritizing fleet maintenance now will be well worth it in the future. Ignoring small fleet maintenance problems because you don’t want to pay to fix them now will backfire when you’re left with a bigger, much more expensive problem later.

Conducting routine preventive fleet maintenance can help you identify electrical and mechanical defects so you can fix them before they result in total vehicle failure. While a minor repair may mean your vehicle is in the shop for a few hours or days, total vehicle failure will result in much more downtime. This means you’ve not only spent more money on the repairs themselves, but are also losing revenue as a truck sits in the shop longer than necessary.

4: Preparing Fleet Vehicles for Seasonal Weather

Another key reason to prioritize preventative fleet maintenance is to ensure that your vehicles are weatherproofed. At certain times of the year (such as when the seasons are about to change), fleet maintenance managers should ensure their fleet vehicles are ready for the upcoming weather in their region.

For example, fleets operating in colder areas should top off the antifreeze/coolant in all of their vehicles, make sure their tire chains are in good condition, and perform other fleet maintenance before harsh winter conditions begin. On the other hand, during the summer months, fleet maintenance managers in warmer areas should check coolant levels to prevent overheating issues and make sure the tire treads on each vehicle aren’t too worn out in preparation for the rainy season.

5: Eliminating Wasteful Fuel Consumption and Costs

A fleet vehicle that is not properly maintained will often use more fuel than necessary, meaning higher fuel costs for your fleet. There are numerous factors that can detract from a fleet vehicle’s fuel economy—but luckily, they can be quickly spotted and fixed through simple preventative fleet maintenance before they result in tons of wasted fuel.

So, if you’re wondering how to reduce fleet costs, prioritizing fleet maintenance is one way that you may not have thought about. Some of the most common maintenance issues that lead to excess fuel consumption are:

  • Underinflated or misaligned tires. Underinflated or misaligned tires have increased rolling resistance, meaning the engine must work harder. This burns fuel faster and makes the vehicle more difficult for your drivers to control, which can also increase safety risks.
  • Worn or obstructed fuel injectors. Buildup on fuel injector heads obstructs their ability to aerate fuel properly for the combustion reaction, meaning more fuel may need to be forced into the engine to achieve the same reaction.
  • Dirty air filters. Some older vehicles use a carbureted engine rather than a computer-controlled fuel injection engine. In these vehicles, a clogged air filter can reduce fuel economy and performance significantly.
  • A leaky fuel tank or lines. A leak in the fuel tank or fuel lines can massively reduce fuel economy, as well as create a major health and safety hazard.

How Can You Improve Your Fleet Maintenance Program?

Now that you know how important having an effective fleet maintenance program really is, how can you create and manage one in your own fleet? It may feel overwhelming to keep track of so many different aspects of fleet maintenance at one time, but there’s a simple solution that makes it possible to track and monitor your fleet maintenance needs all in one place: fleet management software.

If you thought fleet management software could only be used to monitor the GPS location of your vehicles and assets, think again. Fleet management software is a versatile, powerful tool that can also improve your fleet maintenance program. In fact, with RASTRAC’s remote fleet monitoring capabilities, you can acquire, track, and evaluate a variety of vehicle conditions, including:

  • Engine idle time;
  • Vehicle mileage;
  • Engine performance;
  • Hours of use; and
  • Driver behaviors such as hard braking and rapid acceleration, which can lead to additional wear and tear on your vehicles.

As we mentioned earlier, another major responsibility of fleet maintenance managers includes keeping accurate and up-to-date records of vehicle maintenance servicing. Fleet management software can help here too. By automating maintenance reminders for performing tune-ups and oil changes and integrating past service records, you’ll always know with certainty which components of a fleet vehicle require or have received proper maintenance. There’s no risk of losing paper records or having a man-made error!

Plus, when using GPS tracking devices with your fleet management software, tracking devices can connect to each vehicle’s onboard diagnostics system. Then, you’ll be alerted via text or email whenever a maintenance issue occurs so you can determine what kind of service is needed as soon as possible.

By taking advantage of the diagnostic benefits offered by GPS tracking devices and fleet management software, fleet maintenance managers can accurately maintain records that:

  • Show when a vehicle’s registration must be renewed;
  • Show when it is time to renew fleet insurance;
  • Keep track of vehicle inspection dates; and
  • Actively monitor and protect fleet vehicles and assets from any location.

With accurate fleet maintenance records, you can stay on top of your fleet maintenance program and have peace of mind that your vehicles are always efficient, compliant, and safe!

Transform Your Fleet Maintenance Program with Rastrac

At Rastrac, we offer a wide variety of fleet management software solutions and GPS tracking devices to meet the needs of nearly any fleet in any industry.

To learn more about how our solutions can help improve your fleet maintenance program for enhanced fleet efficiency, cost-savings, and safety, contact one of our team members today!

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