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For Fleet Managers, Preventative Maintenance is the Name of the Game

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Understanding the Role of Preventative Maintenance in Fleet Management

f you’re charged with managing a fleet of vehicles, then you know just how important it is to master the art of maintenance. Unnecessary maintenance drives up short-term expenses and hurts profitability. A lack of maintenance puts your assets at risk and threatens the long-term viability of the company. Is there a happy medium?

Photo by Redd on Unsplash
Photo by Redd on Unsplash

The Importance of Preventative Maintenance

Preventative maintenance isn’t the most attractive topic. It’s not something that you lie awake at night dreaming about. And you certainly don’t show up to the office giddy to implement new preventative maintenance strategies. But if you zoom out and look at the big picture, there’s no questioning the value it plays in keeping your fleet going. Benefits include:

  • Shrinks costs. It might seem more expensive upfront, but a proper preventative maintenance strategy always generates long-term savings by preventing small issues from becoming serious/costly problems. 
  • Lowers vehicle downtime. When your vehicles are cared for, it’s less likely that you’ll experience an inconvenient breakdown or time-consuming repair. In other words, less vehicle downtime. 
  • Enhances fuel savings. An effective preventative maintenance strategy accounts for important tasks like changing air filters, regular oil changes, tire rotations, etc. All of these factors combine to produce fuel savings. 
  • Reduces compliance issues. As you know, your fleet is subject to a long list of federal and state compliance laws and regulations. When you perform preventative maintenance, you never have to worry about these issues. Problems are taken care of ahead of time, which makes compliance a breeze.

These are just some of the benefits that can be tracked with data. There are also plenty of other “soft” benefits that stem from proper preventative maintenance. For example, your drivers will be happier, your customers will get better service, and there will be a greater overall sense of confidence and stability throughout the department and organization. In other words, it’s something you need to invest in.

How to Improve Your Approach to Preventative Maintenance 

The value of preventative maintenance is clear. The question is, how do you improve your strategy so that you can maximize these benefits? Here are several ideas:

  • Implement Fleet Maintenance Software

When you have two or three vehicles, it’s fairly easy to stay on top of maintenance. But when you have 25 or 50-plus vehicles in your fleet, it’s a much more challenging endeavor. Fleet maintenance software makes it easier to schedule maintenance and automate backend processes. This saves time and money while simultaneously increasing reliability. 

  • Collect Regular Driver Reports

Your drivers should be active participants in your preventative maintenance strategy. One way you do this is by requiring drivers to provide you with regular driver reports. These reports ask them to document things like oil and tire pressure, mileage, dashboard warnings, concerning signs, strange noises, and even cosmetic defects (like chips or cracks in windshield glass).

  • Maintain a Strong Parts Inventory

Maintenance and repairs are inevitable. Why, then, do we often act so surprised when a vehicle needs new spark plugs, belts, tires, or a water pump?

Keeping commonly used parts and equipment on hand will speed up the time it takes to repair a vehicle. And since most maintenance jobs require just a few common replacement parts, it’s easy to keep the proper stock on hand. (This also allows you to order in bulk, which lowers costs.)

  • Invest in Regular Training

It’s not enough to train your drivers a couple of times per year and send them on their merry way. If you’re serious about keeping your vehicles maintained, you need regular training. 

Don’t just give drivers safety tips. You also need to coach them on compliant driving, fuel efficiency, and smart habits they can cultivate to maximize fuel efficiency. It may even be a good idea to incentivize fuel efficiency. 

Adding it All Up

Understanding the role of preventative maintenance is the first step. Improving your approach is the second step. As you iterate your strategy, be sure to communicate the changes you’re making to your team. It can take time for these improvements to play out, so you want to make sure everyone is dialed in and focused. Over time, you’ll start to enjoy some of the benefits that were discussed earlier.