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Fleet Maintenance

October 16, 2020

What Is Fleet Maintenance?

Fleet maintenance is the process of keeping company vehicles in good operating condition for safety, reliability, and longevity. It involves performing recommended periodic maintenance, replacing parts, and tracking asset history to avoid unexpected breakdowns. 

Overview

Comprehensive fleet preventative maintenance (PM) programs strive to improve vehicle inspection outcomes, reduce operating and maintenance costs, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. 

Organizations in verticals across the board—haulers, couriers, sales, service, utilities, public transport, and emergency services—depend on fleets to stay productive, meet deadlines, and serve key stakeholders.

 Just like personal vehicles, commercial vehicles require routine servicing for continued performance. Similarly, fleet maintenance technicians are responsible for performing both short- and long-term checkups. Oftentimes, vehicle conditions directly impact company profitability. Missed delivery deadlines from mechanical failures can ruin brand reputations, jeopardize business, and threaten safety.

Examples of Fleet Maintenance 

Short-term vehicle inspections often include evaluating: 

  • Oil and Filters: Engine motor oil must remain at optimal levels to lubricate moving parts, seal against debris, and keep the engine cool.  
  • Tires: Well-maintained tires are crucial to safe, fuel-efficient rides. Technicians must check tire pressure, depth, and need for rotation. 
  • Air Filters: Not only are properly flowing air filters good for driver health, they’re also vital for engine health. Regularly changed air filters increase fuel efficiency, decrease harmful emissions, and extend engine life spans. 
  • Coolant Levels: Low coolant levels lead to engine problems. 
  • Headlights, Turn Signals, and Breaks: These elements are vital to safety. 

Long-term fleet inspections often include inspecting: 

  • Transmission Fluids: Similar to engine oil, transmission fluid lubricates moving parts that keep transmissions working. 
  • Transfer Case Fluid: Transfer cases shift power from the transmission to the axles in both four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles.
  • Shocks and Struts: Wearing shocks cause a decrease in smoothness, steering control, and driver safety.  
  • Coolant Fluid Exchange: Regularly flushing coolant systems rids engines of contaminants and ensure radiators are properly operating. 
  • Spark Plugs: Malfunctioning spark plugs cause engines to slowly lose power over time, which can lead to costly replacements. 
  • Serpentine Belts: Belts play an important role in powering peripheral devices including alternators, power steering pumps, and air conditioner compressors. 
  • Front/Rear Differentials: These devices help transfer torque, or power, from the engine to the tires. Differentials must be kept lubricated. 

Furthermore, fleet vehicle needs vary by season, weather, and driving conditions. For example, batteries are more prone to draining during hot weather than in the winter. Other fleet parts that are heavily influenced by external factors include windshield wipers, tires, and coolant levels. 

What Are the Benefits of Fleet Management?

Organizations are increasingly recognizing the benefits of adopting good fleet management programs. According to Statista, the fleet management industry is expected to grow to nearly $30 billion by 2022.  Some of the gains inspiring more companies to prioritize fleet maintenance and management include:

  • Improved Inspection and Testing Outcomes: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires vehicles to undergo routine inspections and testing to ensure safety on public roads. Organizations with solid and credible fleet management programs have better chances of getting positive results and safety approval.
  • Reduced Operational Costs: Robust fleet maintenance programs translate to reduced operating costs. One reason is that good-working vehicles use less fuel. An even bigger reason is the reduction in unplanned downtime, which translates to increased organizational productivity. 
  • Reduced Repair Costs: It’s cheaper to perform periodic maintenance than to prematurely replace expensive parts. This helps to manage maintenance costs for the organization. Fleet management enables an organization to detect problems and take care of them before they escalate.
  • Retained Resale Values: When leasing out or disposing of vehicles, companies can provide maintenance service records as proof of the vehicles being in good working condition. This enables them to get the best price possible for their vehicles.
  • Improved Customer Satisfaction: Fleet management contributes to excellent customer service by ensuring that products and services are delivered to customers on time.

Companies that don’t prioritize proper fleet maintenance run the risk of unplanned downtime, costly emergency repairs, and safety hazards. Put simply, fleet management is integral to the forward momentum of any organization dependent on motor vehicles for success. 

Which Industries Practice Fleet Maintenance?  

Several industries implement fleet maintenance programs to ensure their vehicles operate optimally at all times. Organizations that use fleet maintenance include:

  • Government Institutions: Government institutions have transport departments that oversee the maintenance of all vehicles. They ensure that the vehicles regularly undergo inspection and maintenance.
  • Car Rental Companies: Car rental services need to ensure that every vehicle leased out to a customer is safe to use. Because customers have different driving styles, car rental companies have individualized fleet maintenance programs for each car.
  • Agricultural Companies: Farm vehicles such as pickup trucks, plows, harvesters, and tractors also need to be put under a maintenance program.
  • Various Corporations: Many organizations provide transportation for their employees. Employers who want safe, happy, and productive employees practice fleet maintenance. 
  • Long-Distance Trucking Companies: Long-distance cargo trucks travel many miles through varying conditions. The cost of delayed deliveries due to breakdowns can be massive. Preventive fleet maintenance helps minimize disruptions. 

Other companies that use fleet maintenance programs include utility companies, courier companies, home maintenance companies, learning institutions, and mining companies.

Types of Fleet Maintenance Workers

Fleet maintenance requires several different types of workers to implement successfully. The three types of workers involved in fleet maintenance are:

  • Drivers: Drivers spend more time with fleet vehicles than anyone. For this reason, they have a responsibility to perform daily diagnostics. Fleet drivers should be the first ones to notice and communicate vehicle warning signs. 
  • Fleet Mechanics: Large organizations often invest in dedicated in-house mechanics to perform regular maintenance on pools of vehicles. However, many organizations find it more cost-effective to outsource their fleet maintenance needs to service centers and licensed garages. These technicians perform maintenance work as needed.
  • Fleet Managers: Fleet managers are in charge of overall fleet and maintenance programs. All maintenance plans and schedules go through them. Additionally, fleet managers oversee the selling of old vehicles and acquiring of new ones. Besides upholding safety standards, their most important objective is upholding vehicle value by organizing routine maintenance, strategizing fuel-efficient routes, and making sound purchase/resell decisions. 

How Can Fleet Management Be Improved? 

The easiest way to improve fleet management and maintenance programs is through the use of fleet management software. These platforms enable organizations to track all vehicles within one centralized database. Managers can also assign standard operating procedure (SOP) checklists, monitor driver behavior, integrate inventory and parts management, and schedule recurring work orders. 

Often referred to as Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), fleet management software also sometimes provides tracking systems, remote speed and engine revolution control, and remote security features. The software enables  managers to monitor assets for maintenance efficiency, cost-control, and optimized driver scheduling opportunities. MaintainX is one such provider that includes smartphone compatibility, instant messaging, and a user-friendly interface. 

Machine Maintenance Certifications and Training 

Maintenance personnel need to have professional qualifications to undertake their duties. Training and certification programs test an individual’s working knowledge and skills. Some of the most popular programs include:

  • IMI Certification: This certification by the International Maintenance Institute targets professionals throughout the overall maintenance industry. There are different levels of certification depending on experience.
  • Certified Maintenance & Reliability Technician (CMRT): The CMRT certification by the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) is for maintenance technicians experienced in corrective maintenance, predictive maintenance, preventive maintenance, and troubleshooting.

Minimum requirements for fleet certification enrollment can vary substantially. Some programs are solely performance-test-based while others also require coursework. Most programs, however, require a given number of years of experience in the maintenance industry for entry.

FAQ: 

What Does Fleet Size Mean?

Fleet size refers to the total horsepower of all vehicles owned by an organization. It’s calculated by adding the horsepower of all the different vehicles under an organization’s ownership.

What Are Fleet Expenses? 

Fleet expenses are daily operational costs incurred from running a company’s vehicles. They include fuel, servicing, insurance, and maintenance costs.

What Is a Fleet Service?

Fleet service refers to activities aimed at helping an organization select, maintain, optimize, and manage its fleet. It includes choosing the right vehicles, tracking all of the licenses and titles for each vehicle, and implementing a comprehensive maintenance and repairs program.

How Do You Manage a Fleet?

Managing a fleet entails organizing, supervising, and recording all aspects of company vehicles. Fleet managers implement cost-saving policies, organize fleet maintenance schedules, and ensure drivers undergo effective training. The primary goal of fleet management is to minimize costs while improving productivity, efficiency, safety, and customer satisfaction.

How Does a Fleet Management System Work?

A fleet management system is a digital platform used to monitor fleet vehicles and fleet maintenance workers from a centralized dashboard. The software helps to minimize the complexities of fleet management and maintenance costs. A fleet management system consists of software, telematics, maintenance planning, security systems, parts management, and warranty tracking.

What Is The Best Fleet Management Software?

There are several fleet management software available in the market that assist with electronic logging device (ELD) compliance, GPS tracking, and route planning. The top  popular fleet management platforms are Connecteam, US Fleet Tracking, and RTA Fleet Management. Managers seeking additional support organizing fleet maintenance tasks and regulatory inspections (e.g. DVIRs, DOT and BIT) should consider MaintainX.

The MaintainX smartphone app includes creating, assigning, and tracking work orders; inspection checklist templating; digital audit recording; and instant messaging features that enhance maintenance team communication. 

Should I Purchase a Fleet Vehicle?

Fleet vehicles can make for a good second-hand purchase. This is because they usually have a robust maintenance program that keeps them in good condition and is less expensive. The only downside is that they may have higher mileage because of frequent use. They also have a lower resale value.

How Do You Maintain Fleet Vehicles?

The best way to maintain fleet vehicles is through strategic preventive maintenance programs. Vehicles should regularly receive both short- and long-term inspections to change parts, refill oils/coolants, and ensure everything is in tip-top shape. Fleet vehicles owners should also retain thorough records of maintenance history to manage scheduling future upkeep. 

Conclusion

Fleet maintenance is an integral part of organizations that depend on vehicles for success. Companies with large vehicle pools should use fleet management systems to streamline their maintenance and operations, decrease costs, and keep everyone safe. 

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