Without a proper fleet maintenance strategy, your business could spend thousands of dollars on vehicle repairs caused by wear and tear, breakdowns, and shortened vehicle lifespans.
A preventative fleet maintenance strategy is the only way to keep vehicles on the road longer and reduce the cost of upkeep.
Managing vehicle maintenance for an entire fleet is not an easy task. Whether you have 10 or 1000 vehicles, keeping track of all compliance documents, routine inspections, and service history is challenging. Accounting for expenses and repair history helps you to better plan for future vehicle service. And proactively catching small issues before they become big problems takes maintenance strategy even further.
So what is a “good” maintenance strategy, and how do smart fleets keep track of the moving pieces?
What is a good fleet maintenance strategy?
A preventative fleet maintenance strategy is a program designed to catch and fix vehicle issues before they become major headaches. The goal of a fleet maintenance strategy is to reduce downtime and increase the useful life of vehicles and assets. A proper fleet maintenance strategy is collaborative, with fleet managers, business owners, maintenance and safety teams all involved.
But what separates a good fleet maintenance strategy from an ineffective fleet maintenance strategy? Here are a few key components of a successful maintenance program:
- Digitized: From daily vehicle inspections to vehicle service, strong fleet maintenance strategies aren’t reliant on manual paper processes. Instead, teams use fleet maintenance and inspection apps to digitize workflows and forms, saving time and increasing accuracy.
- Preventative: Good fleet maintenance programs schedule regular, proactive vehicle service for all assets. But more importantly, they require daily inspections designed to uncover issues and get damaged vehicles in the shop fast.
- Automated: Advanced programs automatically alert managers and initiate service when a vehicle fails a pre-trip inspection or a DTC code is detected.
- Connected to the field: Your mobile workforce has the power to catch and report issues in real time as part of simple daily routines.
What do you need to track in a preventative maintenance strategy?
In order to prevent small issues from snowballing, you need to keep an eye on critical vehicle functions and safety features on a daily basis. This is done through a combination of telematics data, daily inspections and back office tracking systems. But how do you know what to look for?
In some ways, the specific preventative maintenance checklist you use will depend on what you’ve learned about your unique fleet operation. For example, you may find that a specific Diagnostic Trouble Code is a big leading indicator of a costly fix or accident. And you may have heavy equipment that requires more regular maintenance than a standard truck or delivery van. You should study your most costly maintenance or accident records regularly and see if there were noticeable indicators that simply didn’t get timely attention. These should be at the top of your checklist going forward.
Here are some of the critical pieces to track and inspect regularly:
- Past maintenance records and costs
- Engine oil changes
- Engine filters
- Tires, wheels and rims
- Headlights and tail lights
- Interior lights
- Fuel lines and system
- Transmission and transmission fluid
- Engine cooling system
- Steering and suspension
- Windows and windshield
- Windshield wipers
- AC and fans
- Frame and undercarriage
- Dash cams and other collision avoidance systems
- Body and decals
- Auxiliary systems
- Ignition and power
- Electrical lines and plugins
How do you keep track of fleet maintenance?
Spreadsheets are by far the most popular way of keeping track of fleet maintenance, but are they the most efficient? Here are the pros and cons of using spreadsheets to track fleet maintenance:
- Cost: There is no upfront cost of managing fleet maintenance on a spreadsheet.
- Barriers to entry: If you have a computer, you probably have Microsoft Excel or a similar program that allows you to create spreadsheets.
- Control: You have full control over the spreadsheet if it is on your own computer.
- Organization: Unless you are a wiz at creating organized spreadsheets, chances are your document can be difficult to follow.
- Consistency: Using a spreadsheet to track fleet maintenance means that you must remember to update it after every event.
- Missing details: Whether you misplace receipts, or don’t remember to update the sheet regularly, you are bound to miss important details about your fleet’s service history.
Overall, spreadsheets are an inexpensive option, but they require serious discipline and organization. If you don’t have hours to spend chasing down details from drivers and manually updating, spreadsheets aren’t a good option.
Some people choose to keep track of fleet maintenance history by using their own memory and their driver’s recollection. While this is a bad idea, it is a lot more common than it should be. This option is absolutely free, but it is the most ineffective way to keep track of vehicle maintenance. Maintenance managers need to track service history, compliance documents, vehicle status and more. As your business grows, tracking everything the old fashioned way is increasingly impossible.
What do you do when a driver forgets to bring his vehicle in or you forget your last oil change? Managing fleet maintenance by memory is the most inefficient method. In order to keep your vehicles on the road, you need to make sure that they stay compliant and functioning properly.
You should avoid tracking fleet maintenance by memory at all costs.
Best fleet maintenance software
Most successful fleet maintenance strategies rely on fleet maintenance software to track and schedule vehicle maintenance. Typically, this includes a powerful fleet maintenance app connected to the shop, and a digital inspection form app that operators can use in the field.
With a fleet maintenance app, fleets track of records electronically, stored in a cloud, accessible from anywhere. This gives fleet managers full visibility into maintenance history of all vehicles. At the touch of a mouse, managers can access regular maintenance schedules, repairs, parts, inventory, incident records and associated costs. These apps also help you initiate maintenance and track the progress of a given vehicle or asset. And though they come with an upfront cost, they drastically improve asset uptime and reduce maintenance costs over time.
Digital inspection apps take preventative maintenance programs a step further. By arming operators with digital forms on their mobile devices, you ensure they can do inspections quickly, correctly and with photographic evidence. When a driver submits a failed inspection, it alerts a manager in real time. The manager can then decide on necessary action flag the vehicle for service if it is needed.
With these tools integrated in a maintenance program, issues are caught and fixed in minutes rather than days. Software is an increasingly necessary component preventative fleet maintenance strategy.
Learn how to maximize multi-use fleet longevity. Speak to a Fleet Maintenance Expert.