Taking proper care of fleet vehicles is an integral part of managing a productive fleet business. Without fleet maintenance management, all driver safety, vehicle uptime and even the company’s viability, may get compromised. That’s why having a maintenance plan in place should be a priority for any fleet manager striving to streamline their business. After all, the health of the fleet is a strong indicator of the overall health of a fleet company.
What is fleet maintenance management?
Every fleet manager knows that fleet maintenance is a series of routine tasks that have to do with vehicle care. Therefore, fleet maintenance management refers to the practice of scheduling, preparing, coordinating, and overseeing vehicle maintenance procedures; in order to keep the fleet operating with minimum breakdowns — for as long as possible. This, of course, includes everything, from real-time vehicle monitoring and performing routine inspections to planning and performing maintenance on the vehicles.
Why is fleet maintenance management important?
The truth is that a fleet maintenance management approach is of paramount importance to modern fleets — and, for many reasons. On one hand, well-maintained vehicles can stay on the road for longer periods of time; while, at the same time, they can contribute to traffic accident prevention.
On the other hand, by following a proactive fleet maintenance plan, issues are fixed before they become causes for expensive repairs; which is good news for the company’s bottom line. Likewise, keeping vehicles in good condition can also help sell them at a good resale price; that is, if selling and replacing fleet vehicles is in the company’s plans.
1. Increase vehicle uptime and prevent traffic accidents
One of the most immediate benefits of fleet maintenance management is a significant increase in vehicle uptime. Put differently, by having a solid maintenance program in place, managers can keep vehicles healthy; which will lead to more drive time and less reactive maintenance costs.
Moreover, by carrying out routine maintenance — based on a well-thought-out schedule — managers can avoid the often disastrous effects and aftermath of vehicle malfunctions and breakdowns. To name a few:
- serious traffic accidents,
- extended downtime,
- low driver morale (resulting in turnover),
- unexpected costs,
- higher insurance premiums,
- delayed routes/services/deliveries,
- customer dissatisfaction,
- poor business reputation, etc.
2. Cut down on operating costs
Controlling and reducing the operating costs is one of the most ‘weighty’ objectives of fleet managers. By keeping to a fleet maintenance management plan, the costs of unscheduled vehicle service, emergency repairs, and parts replacements are automatically reduced. Scheduled maintenance also contributes to fuel economy, and the longevity of the company’s assets. Driving behavior is also a factor in reducing operating costs; if this is not also dealt with, optimal reduction may take some time to happen.
3. Boost profitability
Having strong fleet maintenance management has a positive impact on a company’s bottom line — a point directly linked with the two previous ones. To elaborate, more vehicle uptime equals more work completed on time, equals more incoming work, equals growth.
Also, when a fleet manager does not have to deal with unexpected downtime, they’re able to keep customers happy and, eventually, build a strong reputation in the industry.
Key features of a fleet maintenance management strategy
An end-to-end fleet maintenance management practice incorporates a few critical features to ensure that the fleet vehicles are in peak condition. Typically, those features include:
1. Creating a checklist for maintenance tasks
Whether performing maintenance in-house or outsourcing it, the assigned mechanics and technicians will assess each vehicle’s status accordingly; so, they’ll know what kind of maintenance work they need to conduct.
However, it’s always wise to consult the manufacturer’s manual first. It contains detailed information about the vehicle; for example, a detailed table indicating when the vehicle will require service, and what kind of maintenance is needed. Afterward, it is recommended to create the respective checklist, highlighting the main vehicle parts and systems to be inspected, to make sure that everything is running smoothly.
2. Developing inspection and reporting processes
Another vital fleet maintenance management aspect is to perform regular vehicle inspections. Since fleet drivers are the ones who operate the vehicles daily, they need to be able to perform this inspection routine; That is, based on the schedule for each specific vehicle.
Yet, to do so, drivers need to be well-trained; otherwise the inspection may be offhanded or rushed; and so, underlying conditions may be left unaddressed. Finally, as expected, the drivers will have to report any suspicious findings to their fleet manager.
3. Maintaining and updating fleet maintenance logs
Before handing the vehicle in for service, a manager needs to have a complete picture of the past and current state of the vehicle; and, of course, communicate this information to the mechanic. Therefore, for that purpose, it’s important to maintain detailed logs, containing all the upkeep tasks carried out on the entire fleet; even better, on every vehicle separately.
Furthermore, these logs should be updated whenever the vehicles undergo maintenance work. So, needless to say, keeping maintenance logs is the optimal way to have accurate vehicle health insights; and use them as a reference for future maintenance activities.
4. Establishing maintenance interim checkups
It goes without saying, establishing vehicle interim checkups is the nuts and bolts of fleet maintenance management; especially, if we’re talking about proactivity and prevention. Given that every fleet vehicle comes with certain particularities — usually having to do with the vehicle type or its use — to determine effective interim maintenance for each vehicle, a manager has to take into consideration:
- The vehicle type and class — as well as make and model
- Vehicle age and operating conditions
- The manufacturer’s manual for maintenance needs
- The vehicle’s mileage (on its current engine block)
5. Following a holistic maintenance schedule
The last thing a fleet manager needs is unscheduled downtime, due to asset failure; not just in terms of unexpected expenses — that may easily get out of hand, but also in terms of business viability and sustainability.
Regardless if a fleet company keeps an in-house auto repair shop or prefers outsourced service work, a well-organized fleet maintenance schedule is essential to streamline fleet maintenance management. All things considered, a holistic maintenance schedule can minimize downtime and reduce operating expenses, offering a window for business growth; the lack of which is something many fleets seem to suffer from, these days.
Fleet maintenance management software — the final piece of the puzzle
The final piece of this whole effective fleet maintenance management puzzle is, of course, technology. Bringing fleet maintenance management software into play is the optimal solution to keep track of maintenance; that is, among other fleet functions and activities.
An all-around vehicle monitoring tool offers visibility into everyday fleet activities, and helps stay up-to-date with each vehicle’s real-time status; and, if it comes to it, every employee’s driving behavior. In brief, such a tool’s basic features include:
- Location detection
- Trip log and mileage tracking
- Vehicle status
- Diagnostics function (in conjunction with the vehicle’s ECU)
- Driving behavior analytics
With a fleet maintenance management system, most of the daily tasks regarding fleet operations are completed successfully, and with minimal effort. Simply by automating and monitoring fleet maintenance, the manager has more time to focus on other important aspects of the business.
Systematic fleet maintenance management is among the industry’s best practices. As a rule of thumb, adhering to a few basic aspects of maintenance task planning and supervising, can ensure that fleet operations run optimally. Nonetheless, orchestrating an effective maintenance management strategy can prove to be challenging for any manager. To that end, a fleet vehicle monitoring solution offers access to important fleet metrics that are catalytic for staying up-to-date with fleet maintenance. In addition to monitoring vehicles and keeping track of maintenance, a fleet tracking system helps prevent breakdowns, with instant alerts, and keeps high repair costs at bay, with in-depth diagnostic reports.