Protect Your Fleet with a Vehicle Maintenance Program

June 15th, 2020

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Whether you’re managing a fleet of a few vehicles or thousands, there are a number of factors that contribute to decision making about your fleet. You are likely juggling budgets, maintenance, scheduling, and compliance issues. When there is so much to consider, keeping things organized is crucial to running an efficient, safe fleet.

One of the most important aspects of managing your fleet is making sure that vehicles are properly serviced and inspected. Having a comprehensive vehicle maintenance program can help save money, time, and the stress of unexpected issues.

A vehicle maintenance program helps fleet managers avoid and reduce breakdowns by engaging in timely preventative maintenance, addresses safety concerns, maximizes fleet vehicles, and helps plan for future vehicle procurement or sales.

If you don’t have a detailed fleet maintenance program established, or need to update an existing one, keep reading to learn about the most important things to include to keep your fleet on track.  

Why Creating a Fleet Maintenance Program Matters

Maintaining your fleet takes time and creating a maintenance program is a time investment–but the benefits are worth the time. Planning out your fleet’s maintenance needs solves a number of common issues that fleet managers encounter. The following sections identify some of the problems fleet managers have and why it’s so important to address them with a preventative maintenance program.

When to Buy, Sell, or Lease Vehicles

Part of effective fleet management is knowing when to purchase or rent new vehicles, and when to retire those that aren’t serving your needs. Without a good maintenance program, it may be hard to identify vehicles that are at-risk, and those that are running well. Without this knowledge, it’s difficult to budget and plan for changes in your fleet.

A fleet preventative maintenance program is ideal for helping you keep track of the following important information:

  • Vehicle wellness: Identify which vehicles are operating at full capacity, and which are not
  • Maintenance costs: Keeping track of maintenance gives insight into which vehicles are costing more to maintain, and those that are not
  • Setup vehicle KPIs: As the fleet manager, you should know the metrics regarding your fleet and goals they need to make to be profitable and efficient. Creating and tracking these key performance indicators (KPIs) can make a big difference in making decisions about your fleet

Stay on Budget

Staying on budget and being profitable is a key part of your job. As a fleet manager, you may have a number of stakeholders that will need to know about the financial impact the fleet has on overall business operations. Taking time to create a vehicle maintenance program will help organize the following to build more accurate budgets:

  • Preventative maintenance and associated costs
  • Violations and how much they’re costing, or could cost if maintenance isn’t done
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Savings from energy-efficient vehicles, or those with added technology
  • Administrative costs associated with fleet management

Stay Organized on Important Dates and Schedules

Managing dates is a key part of any vehicle maintenance program, but it’s important that it includes other dates as well:

  • Registration for vehicles
  • Payments on vehicles
  • Inspections
  • Vehicle usage/schedule

Before creating a preventative maintenance schedule, it’s good to organize dates as you may need to plan maintenance around certain events, like inspections or registration. You also need to know which vehicles are in-use and where they are so you can plan accordingly when they need to be out of service.  

Risk Management

Safety is a major concern for fleet managers and having a comprehensive maintenance plan helps to negate potential risks associated with poorly maintained vehicles. While maintenance is important, you also want to be aware of driver history and certifications. Keeping records for the vehicle and the driver will help you see any patterns between certain drivers and the need for vehicle repairs.

4 Steps to Develop a Fleet Maintenance Program

The benefits of having a fleet preventative maintenance plan are clear, but how do you create one for your specific needs? The next few sections will outline four basic steps for building a useful program. 

1. Know Your Fleet

List of items to know about your fleet

Knowing your fleet inside and out is the first step to developing a vehicle maintenance program. This includes:

  • Vehicle metrics: Types of vehicles, age, fuel usage, maintenance history, mileage, hours of operation
  • Drivers and their certifications
  • Routes traveled
  • Type of freight your fleet hauls
  • Regulations that influence your fleet
  • Current costs associated with maintenance
  • Downtime vehicles have as a result of repairs, maintenance, or violations

If you are managing a large fleet, keeping track of this information can be overwhelming. You may want to consider investing in fleet management software (FMS) to help you easily update and track vehicle information. This can also reduce time spent doing administrative tasks and labor associated with it.

Who is Responsible for Servicing Vehicles

In addition to knowing your fleet, you also want to have a plan for who does maintenance. Do you have a service department on-site, or do you contract out? What is the process for scheduling service and ordering parts?

Before implementing a fleet maintenance program, make sure that you have a streamlined process for ordering service and parts to reduce the downtime of vehicles. 

2. Create Vehicle Maintenance Checklist

Vehicle maintenance checklist

Before creating a schedule make sure you have an exhaustive list of what needs to be checked. To get you started, use this basic checklist. Depending on the vehicle, you may need to adjust the list to include other systems.

  • Check oil
  • Filters
  • Transmission
  • Fuel system
  • Belt and hoses
  • Cooling
  • Electrical
  • Brakes
  • Suspension
  • Tires/wheels/rims
  • Exhaust/smog
  • Glass
  • Wiper system
  • Seatbelts
  • Leaks
  • Horn

3. Build Vehicle Preventative Maintenance Schedule

Vector illustration of mechanics making repairs to a semi truck and trailer

Before you build out a schedule, make sure you understand the needs of specific vehicles. Some vehicles may have specially made components (original equipment manufacturer components, or OEMs) that require different types of service than those that are reliant on mileage and hours of operation. Each new piece of equipment that is added to a vehicle will need its own inspection or maintenance schedule.

If you conduct maintenance in-house, be sure to collaborate with the service department to make sure that available labor and maintenance needs align.

Once you have all vehicle information ready, create a 12-month schedule for each vehicle and its components. If you have previous history with the vehicle and parts, use that to inform the schedule to ensure that specific needs are met rather than just relying on the mileage and hours driven. Here a few other factors to consider when developing maintenance intervals:

  • How many drivers use the vehicle?
  • Does the vehicle travel in rough terrain or off-road?
  • What climate conditions?
  • Does the vehicle idle and sit in traffic for long periods of time?

Using this combination of information will help you build a fleet vehicle maintenance schedule that is triggered at appropriate times, so you know that vehicles are always in prime working order.

4. Align Your Team

Vector illustration depicting a maintenance team taking orders from a fleet manager

After you create a schedule, make sure it’s communicated to other necessary teams. It’s important to get feedback that may affect the schedule, and also so that service teams can plan for additional labor needs.

Drivers are also important stakeholders because they need to know which vehicles they are driving and how that may affect their own schedule.

Trailers to Meet Your Fleet Needs

Part of managing a successful fleet is making sure that every aspect of operations is running smoothly. In addition to managing vehicles, you’re responsible for procuring parts and trailers that meet the needs of your fleet. That may include purchasing commercial trailers as a long-term investment or considering shorter-term trailer rentals.

Finding the best trailers starts with working with trailer experts who understand the unique needs and pain points fleet managers face. At Hale Trailer Brake and Wheel, Inc., our knowledgeable representatives are prepared to help you find the perfect solutions to your transportation and hauling needs. We are proud to be your one-stop-shop for everything related to commercial trailers, including parts and services to keep you on track with your fleet maintenance program.

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