Investing time and resources into proper maintenance management can reap a wide array of benefits including reduced downtime, increased life expectancy of vehicles, better fuel efficiency, cost savings, improved service reliability and, most importantly, enhanced safety.
When creating a maintenance plan, develop a strategy for both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance activities. Scheduled activities include preventive maintenance and inspections, while unscheduled activities may include recalls and accident repairs. By preparing for as many eventualities as possible in advance, you’ll be more likely to successfully control costs and maintain a high-performing fleet.
1. SELECT THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT FOR THE JOB.
The first step of an effective maintenance management plan is to utilize the right equipment for the job. Factors including travel distance, type of freight, operational environment and number of deliveries per day can cause significant wear and tear on equipment. Making sure your equipment is well-matched to your specific business activities can help preserve the longevity of your fleet and minimize the need for unexpected maintenance.
2. CREATE A MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST SPECIFIC TO YOUR FLEET.
Develop a maintenance checklist, taking into consideration the mileage, usage data and operating environment of your fleet. Remember that one size does not fit all. Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will provide suggested intervals for service so be sure to tailor your checklist or create different checklists for the various types of equipment in your fleet.
Ask drivers and maintenance technicians for input into the plan and collaborate on ways to minimize downtime.
3. CLEARLY DEFINE RESPONSIBILITIES FOR MAINTENANCE TASKS.
Who is responsible to schedule maintenance? Who is responsible to respond to a driver’s equipment repair requests and within what time frame? How will communication about equipment statuses be shared with the team? Making it clear who is responsible for what and when will ensure maintenance scheduling and reporting is as clear and easy as possible.
Proactive, conscientious drivers can be a maintenance manager’s most valuable ally. By taking driver reports and maintenance concerns seriously, you help ensure they will conduct thorough inspections and be diligent about reporting maintenance issues before they become costly repairs.
4. DEVELOP A SCHEDULE BASED ON YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS.
When operating at maximum capacity, it can be difficult to schedule downtime for maintenance and repairs. Analyze available data on peak utilization and industry seasonality for indicators of the least disruptive times to schedule maintenance. The simple act of making a schedule will often illuminate potential utilization issues to address in advance.
Include in your plan how you will utilize back-up vehicles, source rental equipment or adjust service when vehicles are out of use due to maintenance or repairs. As equipment within your fleet ages, adjust maintenance schedules accordingly to extend the life of the equipment.
If scheduling maintenance is proving problematic, consider whether mobile maintenance is right for your business. Some service providers, including Red Classic, will provide preventive maintenance and minor repairs on site at your facility while your vehicles are out of service. You gain the convenience of keeping your equipment on site and avoid wasted downtime and driver hours for drop-offs and pick-ups.
5. USE TECHNOLOGY TO STREAMLINE TASKS & IDENTIFY TRENDS.
Keeping track of a large fleet and the maintenance tasks, inspections and documentation that go along with it can be daunting. Investing in technology will allow you to streamline a number of tasks including creating maintenance schedules, tracking work orders and claims, documenting maintenance histories, monitoring warranty expirations and managing invoicing.
Technology will also help you identify trends. These could include increases in vendor parts pricing or ideal replacement intervals for certain components. The ability to identify trends, both positive and negative, is critical for proactive decision making and cost control.
6. REGULARLY ANALYZE MAINTENANCE METRICS.
Once you have your plan in place, you’ll want to regularly evaluate your progress. Here are five of the most important metrics to watch:
Utilization Percentage = Number of vehicles available for use / total fleet size. This metric calculates the percentage of your fleet available for use during a specific time frame. Identify the utilization percentage required to deliver to customer expectations and regularly compare this against performance actuals.
Downtime Percentage = Total hours of downtime / total available fleet hours. This metric reveals the percentage of time your fleet is out of service. With this metric, it’s important to distinguish between downtime for scheduled maintenance vs. downtime for unscheduled maintenance. Be proactive in reducing your unscheduled maintenance downtime percentage.
Cost of Vehicle Downtime = Average revenue per hour x number of unscheduled downtime hours. This metric calculates total revenue lost due to downtime. To calculate a simple average revenue per hour, divide your company’s total revenue for the year by the total number of running fleet hours.
Maintenance Cost per Unit = Total annual cost of maintenance / total fleet size. This metric, which calculates the total annual cost of maintenance per vehicle, is especially important for growing fleets. This calculation will help you know in advance how much each new unit will cost in terms of maintenance.
Preventive Maintenance Schedule Compliance Percentage = Number of vehicles that are current with their preventive maintenance schedule / total fleet size. This metric shows what percentage of your fleet is current with its preventive maintenance schedule. Determine your current compliance percentage and work to improve over time.
7. COLLABORATE WITH MAINTENANCE PROVIDER(S) TO OPTIMIZE YOUR MAINTENANCE PROGRAM.
Finally, one of the best strategies for optimizing fleet maintenance is to collaborate with your maintenance providers. Explain your maintenance requirements, service intervals and expectations. Evaluate their level of expertise maintaining similar equipment and their ability to comply with your desired turnaround times. Most importantly, ask your maintenance provider what kind of savings are available for repeat business. Building a relationship with the right maintenance provider can be the key to improvements in service quality, uptime and cost control.