What is fleet maintenance and what does it involve?
Your fleet is an integral part of your business; it’s an investment. Managing that fleet is hard enough without having vehicles breaking down. And when that happens, you need to think about safety for both your employees and your fleet, compliance inspections and downtime. Not to mention the costs incurred when unplanned, emergency repairs are required. Keeping your vehicles in good health is keeping your business running. And that’s why fleet maintenance is an aspect of paramount importance to your business, as a fleet owner, fleet manager or fleet operator.
What is fleet maintenance
Fleet maintenance is the aspect of fleet management where a fleet owner, manager or operator creates and optimizes a process to keep all fleet vehicles in good working order and fully operational. There are at least three main objectives in sustaining this process:
- Keeping fleet vehicles safe for your employees, customers and everyone else on the road
- Maintaining a reliable fleet without unexpected problems or downtime
- Allow all vehicles — your assets — a longer lifespan, minimizing repair costs and fleet replacement costs
Additionally, a fleet in good condition will leverage customer satisfaction. This is no small feat for a fleet manager.
Why is fleet maintenance so important?
A safe and reliable fleet is inextricably linked to almost all aspects of a fleet management business. That is, from personnel kept safe, to legal considerations and compliance to laws and regulations, to customer satisfaction to a business’ bottom line. It’s all part of the same picture. And, of course, reducing and optimizing costs may make the difference between a viable and flourishing fleet business, or a stagnant one. Additionally, extending the lifespan of fleet vehicles, delaying fleet replacement, while still getting a great resale value when the time comes, greatly reduces the overhead.
Fleet maintenance pro safety
While fleet maintenance is a bit technical in nature, it’s relatively easy to keep tabs on it. Especially when fleet maintenance software comes into the picture. And, while fleet maintenance describes the entirety of the process in maintaining a fleet, in full detail, nearly 80% of the job can still be done with 20% of the actions required. A brief list of the systems a fleet operator needs to keep in check would include:
- Coupling devices
- Steering & Suspension
There are also a couple of factors that greatly affect fleet safety:
- Driver’s fatigue
In understanding why all these systems and considerations are important, suffice it to say that according to the latest study, 43.3% of accidents in the US were caused by faulty tires or wheels. Then, another 25% were caused by faulty brakes. And those caused by steering, suspension or engine failure reached 10.5%.
(Source: NHTSA National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey)
The numbers may slightly differ when it comes to larger trucks, but they still remain troubling.
Keeping the fleet reliable
A reliable fleet can make the difference between an operational business or one that’s limping through its lifetime. It’s easy to understand the reasons behind its importance by simply taking some of the practical aspects of it into account:
- Lost revenue, due to a single vehicle out of commission
- Cost of towing and repairs for said vehicle
- Loss in productivity and man-hours during downtime
- Damaged goods or equipment.
Performing proper fleet maintenance is the best way to reduce or even eliminate mechanical problems. For example, in keeping a fleet reliable, proactive maintenance can do most of the heavy lifting. And that’s what fleet operators should consider to include in their daily operations. Most important is the fact that some basic scheduling for fleet maintenance, along the minimal cost to perform it, can work wonders in keeping a fleet in shipshape. In fact, all a fleet manager needs to do is use the owner’s manual and the appropriate piece of software.
It helps if most or all of the vehicles are of the same make and model, as it speeds up the process and minimizes the requirements. Of course, it’s harder for all vehicles to be of the same make and model in smaller fleets. But, it’s worth the effort to try and strike a deal with the car salesman; specifically, see if they can provide you with vehicles the same make and model, if not the same year, as well.
Extending the lifespan of your assets
Preventative maintenance is key to extending the lifespan of a fleet’s vehicles. Depending on usage, it has proven to extend the lifespan of a vehicle up to 80%. And, though this number differs according to how a vehicle is used, if it’s used respectfully and according to the manufacturer’s specifications, it’s still impressive how long low cost, preventative maintenance can get you towards an extended fleet lifespan. To tackle the human factor, a fleet manager should keep her or his drivers in the loop. For instance, perhaps, training them and developing a culture towards a common goal.
Keeping drivers in the loop — or using software
Oftentimes, a fleet vehicle spends its life with minor or more severe mechanical problems, resolved long after their due time — if at all. Training drivers on basic technical problems and developing a daily routine to help solve them as soon as they occur is exceptionally important in extending the lifespan of fleet vehicles. Notwithstanding that this method involves fleet maintenance after a mechanical failure has occurred, it still prevents more severe problems from occurring.
Fleet management software typically solves the problem of keeping tabs on the fleet’s health by notifying the fleet manager — and, perhaps the driver, as well — when a mechanical failure has occurred. Perhaps it is a warning, or it could even be a serious breakdown. Above all, either way, the fleet manager is able to know the exact nature of the problem and work with haste to resolve it.
Preventative fleet maintenance is based on being proactive. Vehicle manufacturers will typically include a recommendation on how often each vehicle will need maintenance, in the owner’s manual. But, depending on each fleet’s particular needs, vehicles might need to be serviced more frequently than the recommended interval set by the manufacturer. Dealing with it is feasible using some basic fleet maintenance scheduling. But, it can also be optimized and made to fit a fleet’s needs with fleet management software.
Fleet management systems help fleet managers stay on top of maintenance by providing vital information about the fleet’s status:
- Hours of service
- Mileage travelled
- Fuel use & Idling
- Driver behavior
- Malfunction notifications (using DTCs)
These indicators do a great job of giving them what they need to optimize their maintenance schedule, optimize their budget and prevent downtime. Equally important is the fact that they can even help in hiring new staff more wisely. All that makes for a more profitable business. After all, a fleet that can stay in great working order and on the road for as much as 80% longer is almost double the ROI from vehicles and equipment.
Efficient fleet maintenance will keep drivers satisfied too, since they’ll be driving vehicles that are safe and free of mechanical problems. Interestingly, it will also work towards improving driver retention. A problem that has well increased in severity in the last few years.
Reducing repair, fuel and operational costs and unexpected downtime
As mentioned, routine maintenance can help fleet managers detect any problems before they become serious. As such, they can fix them at a fraction of the cost. Taking that to the next level, it costs much less to replace the brakes, tires and engine fluids on a vehicle a few times over, than replacing the entire engine once.
That includes the downtime — and related costs — needed to perform a routine maintenance, versus having the vehicle in the shop for a few days. Extensive repairs are almost always related to unplanned downtime, increased repair costs, wasted wages and delays in serving customers. Which, in turn, affects the bottom line of the business.
Fuel costs are no less related to increased operational costs. It has been estimated that a poorly-maintained engine can burn up to 50% more fuel. And the quality of the fuel might not always be the culprit. In like manner, underinflated tires can also reduce mileage, compounding the problem. Keeping tabs on the cadence of maintenance and fuel consumption may be the solution to the age-old problem. And it’s now perfectly feasible, using fleet management software.
Better resale value for fleet vehicles
One of the issues a fleet operator needs to deal with is replacing their fleet, from time to time. Cutting their losses in resale value is not an acceptable solution. Granted that, there is a way to maintain resale value; by conducting preventative routine fleet maintenance at regular intervals. Fleet maintenance service records help prove that all vehicles are well maintained and in good health.
Driving behavior can also help maintain the resale value of a fleet. At least, when it proves that a vehicle has been used with care.
On the other hand, fleet maintenance also helps get better terms on a contract for leasing out fleet vehicles. Even if the vehicles are not to be resold, optimizing costs for leasing is always a good way to go.
Fleet management software can help in all of these cases. Maintaining a mileage log, along with maintenance records and driver behavior reports will help interested buyers understand how a fleet has been used and how it has been maintained. And, of course, what needs to be done to bring it up to par before it’s put to good use under a new owner.
Fleet maintenance for inspection compliance and environmental regulations
Fleet maintenance is a great practice, in any book. It ensures fuel efficiency and cost optimization, preventing severe malfunctions and costly breakdowns from happening. Vehicles that are safely and efficiently maintained cost much less to run. Not to mention, they are less likely to cause extended downtimes or be involved in crashes.
There is also the human equation, with respect to environmental regulations. It’s a good practice to attempt — or achieve — compliance with these regulations, as well.
Fleet inspections: How to remain compliant
Inspection compliance differs from State to State, or from country to country. All fleet operators are required to observe local laws and regulations in compliance with the guidelines set by local authorities. In fact, poor compliance practices can result in fines and grounded vehicles or even permit revocation. All of which will damage a fleet business to a great extent; irrevocably even.
Also, in case of an accident, and from a liability perspective, underlying problems to vehicle or equipment detected after the fact, may lead the company to be ruled against for negligence. And that’s also quite harmful to business. Customers — and, more importantly, partners — are highly likely to evaluate and judge a company by what they know. And bad news tends to travel faster.
Environmental regulations and healthy employees
Vehicle emissions have been proven to cause respiratory and neurological health issues. That’s yet another reason to schedule and perform fleet maintenance at regular intervals, making sure each fleet vehicle is in the best possible condition, reducing emissions to the absolute minimum.
Showing respect to employees, customers and everyone else on the road shows a company with integrity and ethos. An environmentally conscious company that cares enough to act and, perhaps, take pride in their achievements.
Hiring skilled technicians
Proper fleet maintenance requires skilled staff. And, considering the ever-advancing vehicle technologies, these skilled technicians need to put in the effort to remain skilled. And they need to understand the importance of meticulous preventive maintenance.
A fleet operator needs to invest in an ongoing training process, through which all technicians will always be able to perform maintenance tasks effectively and efficiently. This investment will ensure seamless operation of the entire fleet, reducing unpleasant surprises to a minimum. Which, in turn, means minimal losses.
Such training programs are available from vehicle or maintenance equipment suppliers, covering all procedures pertinent to preventative maintenance and new technologies, as they come out. In any case, having ever-skilled technicians will yield significant benefits in the long run. Employee retention, high quality service and being known as the company with the most skilled workforce, are only some of them.
Fleet maintenance inventory and parts and how to manage it
Managing inventory and parts for efficient fleet maintenance is nearly impossible without some kind of fleet management software. In truth, it may take a season or two before enough data is gathered to help understand which parts definitely need to be readily available and which don’t. Having the right parts in stock enables technicians to service and repair fleet vehicles within reasonable time, reducing downtime and labor costs.
That’s not the only purpose of this optimization exercise. Having just enough stock of commonly used parts and an easily accessible and manageable inventory helps keep fleet maintenance on schedule. That way, everyone knows what to expect and when to expect it. This strategy will dramatically reduce delays or unnecessary downtime and everyone will be able to do their job.
Why fleets need fleet maintenance software
A fleet manager is responsible for the fleet’s health. Not only will they need to ensure proper fleet maintenance; they will also need to manage inspection compliance, vehicle resale or acquisition, driver retention, fuel usage and customer satisfaction. The more the work fronts are, the more difficult it will become. And that’s why fleets need fleet maintenance software.
Fleet tracking is the most basic and most frequently used selling point on most types of fleet management software. But, the part about fleet maintenance comes with a host of practical advantages a fleet manager will need to make things work and keep the business profitable. Fleet maintenance software will help them:
- Know when a malfunction happens
- Manage fleet aging, knowing when to replace a vehicle with a newer one
- Be notified on routine maintenance for each vehicle and when it should be done
- Get recall information based on each vehicle’s registration information, and take them in for a part replacement
- Handle parts and inventory, keeping service and repair times to the absolute minimum
- Manage fuel consumption and get a hint when a vehicle has become inefficient
- Understand which processes are sub-optimal and make changes
- Track drivers and vehicles in the unfortunate event of an accident
With each benefit from a fleet maintenance system, a fleet manager will be able to solve a problem they are faced with daily. This is how the benefits offered would solve a few fleet maintenance and fleet management problems:
- Knowing about a malfunction as it happens they can bring the vehicle in for repairs, in time, preventing a more severe damage from happening
- Getting notified when a vehicle has become too costly to maintain allows them to replace only the vehicles they need to keep the fleet performing well, saving on costs
- Reminders about routine maintenance allows the fleet operator to service vehicle before they need to use them for duty hours, eliminating the need for downtime
- Notifications about recalls can help replace the right parts before they become a liability, perhaps saving lives in the process
- Keeping stocked parts and inventory in ship shape helps technicians do their jobs without delay, minimizing — and optimizing —downtime and labor costs. It also keeps everyone’s morale at a satisfactory level
- Managing fuel consumption will identify vehicles that are no longer cost-effective and fix or replace them. And it will even help reduce or eliminate idling and deal with fuel theft
- Identifying processes that are sub-optimal gives them a chance to make any changes required to reduce costs and labor time, allowing everyone to do their job efficiently. Consequently it makes for better driver retention and customer satisfaction
- Knowing about a fender-bender or a more severe crash and where it happened allows for immediate action, mobilizing all parties needed, to offer medical assistance, road assistance and recover the driver and vehicle as soon as possible
Using Veturilo: Who is it for?
Veturilo is a fleet management platform that can help fleet managers, and fleet owners or operators to better understand their business, identify problems they didn’t even know they had and solve them on a daily basis. That way, they can optimize fleet performance and efficiency, minimizing operational and labor costs, and extending the lifespan of their fleet and equipment, maximizing ROI. And, as a fleet manager’s job becomes more and more complex, Veturilo is there to provide vital information and reports. That is, to assist fleet managers in making the right business decisions and effectively helping their business become more profitable and flourish. And they can even do it remotely.
How Veturilo can help fleet maintenance
Veturilo features a malfunction indication system that will immediately notify fleet managers about any small or more severe problems that may occur, per fleet vehicle. Such knowledge provides the opportunity to bring a vehicle in for a repair before the malfunction causes a breakdown; thus, minimizing downtime, lost wages and frustration.
A mileage report, along with the trip log can help identify vehicles that are less efficient than expected; and replace them, if needed. Additionally, the mileage report can be sent directly to an accountant, for deductible mileage or expenses; while the trip log can offer valuable information about how drivers treat fleet vehicles, indicating ways to optimize their driving and minimize maintenance costs and fuel consumption.
In case of a breakdown or an accident, the fleet manager is able to locate the vehicle and mobilize all parties needed, to offer medical assistance, road assistance and recover the driver and vehicle as soon as possible. That is a set of circumstances that would be very difficult and time consuming to deal with, were it not for the tracking and notification features available in Veturilo.
Who needs Veturilo?
Veturilo may not be the ideal solution for anyone who needs a fleet management or fleet maintenance system. Kept simple and affordable, Veturilo does not offer CRM or ERP integrations, keeping logistics maintenance out of the equation. Veturilo is all about the health and status of fleet drivers and fleet vehicles. And it’s here to help small or medium businesses solve the same problems faced by large fleets, at a fraction of the cost and unparalleled ease of use. For instance, it requires absolutely no technical knowledge and anyone can easily install it, by simply plugging it to the vehicle’s OBD II port. You can learn more about how it works here.
It is compatible with most Light Duty vehicles manufactured in 1996, or later. These are a few of the types of businesses Veturilo is made for:
- Contractors (includes Woodworkers, Plumbers, Painters, Electricians, Builders and more)
- Delivery fleets (includes Food delivery, Low volume goods delivery) that don’t need inventory integration
- Facility trucks
- Small taxi fleets
- Limo/VIP vehicle fleets
- Other Light Duty vehicle small to medium fleets that need telematics (e.g. car rental)
TL;DR — Key takeaways
All things considered, fleet maintenance is an integral part of any business that employs a fleet. Fleet management can get exceptionally complicated; even more so, as the business grows and scales up. Having a good grasp of the fleet’s health and status is a game changing advantage for every fleet manager; a competitive one, at times. Fleet maintenance goes way beyond fleet tracking, route planning and work hours. It helps optimize cost centres, minimize downtime and wasted labor time and keeps the business running smoothly.
From routine fleet maintenance to malfunction repairs to fleet aging and from inventory and parts management to fuel consumption to handling accidents, a fleet maintenance system has a lot to offer in optimizing fleet performance, return on investment (ROI), standard operating procedures (SOPs) and makes for better business decisions. Hence, fleet maintenance keeps a business profitable, helping it grow and scale, using knowledge and experience. And that’s true, even if the fleet manager — or owner — has managed to avoid the most common mistakes.