Vehicle Maintenance – Plan for the Unexpected

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    All of us depend on technology, some more than others. If you’re a trucking professional — whether an independent operator or a fleet manager — the technology you use every day, including GPS fleet tracking, supports both your life and your livelihood. So you’re well aware that a schedule of preventative maintenance not only keeps everything going, it helps hinder costs and other issues from getting out of hand.

    It’s easy to see why. One major technical failure in a commercial vehicle, for instance, has a ripple effect and those waves erode more than your repair budget.

    Costs can include the potential expense of a tow to bring disabled equipment to the garage. Or the amount of time the vehicle may be sitting idle, at the site of the breakdown or in the days afterward while it’s being repaired to drivability.

    There are overhead costs including a vehicle lease or payment that does not pause just because the truck is not moving or an unhappy driver who is cooling their heels for a while. Add to this the loss associated with a delivery postponed, or deadline missed. On top of that, the expense of doubling up, having to send another vehicle to do the job.

    And we haven’t even discussed the cost of the repair itself.

    In contrast, there are benefits gained when vehicles are tended to regularly.

    Extended Service Life With Proper Fleet Maintenance

    It should go without saying that a schedule of regular maintenance is a necessary expense that can preclude a much larger one. Nevertheless, many operators will opt to pinch pennies on this budget item, only to rue their decision.

    This is especially true in smaller fleets, where money may be tight. But it is arguably more important for these truckers to accept the expenditure.

    A study publicized in the Sept. 26, 2016, issue of Heavy Duty Trucking revealed that small fleet operations tend to retain their vehicles nearly twice as many years as larger outfits (5 years as compared to 2.7). Considering that the likelihood of mechanical failure escalates as equipment ages, maintenance service would be money well spent.

    Regular Fleet Maintenance Can Save Fuel

    A well-maintained vehicle will repay the operator a portion of that maintenance expense by racking up smaller fuel bills. Even a small return can be worthwhile, as petroleum consumption makes up so large a drain on the balance sheet.

    Trucking Efficiency, an interest group composed of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency and the Carbon War Room, conducted a survey of commercial vehicle carriers that included a question on regular maintenance and fuel economy. The survey shows that 75 percent of operators believe there’s “a strong or very strong link between the two.”

    Lower Repair Costs

    Vehicle service that is preventative instead of reparative is almost always less expensive. Repairs are inevitable — but without regular care, they are going to be more frequent. Few professionals would argue this point.

    Fewer Inspection Issues

    Commercial motor vehicle operators know that their industry is subject to a lot of regulation. Whatever an individual’s opinion of that, any fleet manager would welcome the opportunity to reduce the number of roadblocks placed in the way of conducting business. A driver’s pre-trip inspection is good at spotting visible problems, but servicing the equipment at regular intervals is better at detecting what might emerge — and what might, in a post-accident investigation, be ruled as dangerous negligence.

    Fleet Tracking Technology to the Rescue

    If there is agreement that a program of vehicle preventative maintenance can forestall problems and maybe even pay for itself, the question is: what’s the best means of implementing such a program?

    The answer happens to be the same as that word in the first line: technology. For vehicle fleets, preventative maintenance is one of the business functions that telematics can simplify.

    GPS fleet tracking is not limited to helping out with more efficient routing, recording hours of service for driver logs and reducing fuel expenses. A complete telematics solution includes engine analytics that can send you alerts of pending maintenance. Diagnostics provide fault codes directly from the truck to the office, so that identifying the work to be done is a streamlined process.

    The ideal fleet management solution is one that can be customized to your application, and that covers your maintenance needs as well as your operational profile. You can find one that even keeps track of work orders, maintenance history and parts inventory — with any necessary records.

    Be sure to shop around and determine which product is the best fit for you. When you do, you will find that preventative maintenance can transform from an expensive, time-consuming task, to something very close to a no-brainer.

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