The term “vehicle downtime” rightly strikes fear in the hearts of fleet owners everywhere. Downtime, defined as unscheduled periods of vehicle unavailability, can cost a commercial trucking company lots of money. A little downtime is expected – it’s a fact of life – but too much downtime can have a ripple effect on business, stalling operations, displeasing clients, undercutting revenue and dampening morale.
And what causes the majority of unscheduled vehicle downtime for fleets? Poor fleet maintenance. Always a balancing act, fleet maintenance requires a shrewd mixture of preventative action, actionable policy-making, leveraged technology and professional equipment financing.
To avoid downtime, and keep your fleet running safely and competitively, follow these four simple tips.
Prioritize Prevention, Not Repair
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” isn’t just an outworn adage – it’s a relevant guiding principle for fleet managers and owners everywhere. It is categorically less expensive to run routine maintenance on fleet vehicles than to suffer sudden repairs and unscheduled downtime.
Turning this guiding principle into an actionable set of procedures involves building out schedules for each vehicle and designating a “fleet inspector.” If you don't yet have a dedicated fleet inspector role at your company, consider creating one.
Partner with an Equipment Financing Expert
Major repairs will still happen, regardless of how well you plan. And trucks will reach the end of their functional lives. To mitigate the disruptive effects of major repairs, obsolescence and replacements, partner with an equipment finance expert.
Equipment finance experts offer commercial truck loans and leases when you need them, allowing you to avoid the protracted, red-tape experience of working through banks. They also provide financing for major repairs – engine rebuilds, tire replacements, etc. Rather than paying upfront, risking a hit to your working capital, you pay the cost back periodically with interest. This helps you stay safe, up-to-date and competitive with the latest vehicles.
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Deploy Clear Policies and Encourage Responsible Procedures
Your policies and procedures surrounding vehicle use, inspection and responsibility form the backbone of your fleet maintenance efforts. If you haven’t yet done so, commit policies and procedures to writing, disseminate clear guidelines to all staff, incorporate comprehensive training into your onboarding procedure, and schedule regular meetings to review policy.
Trucks don’t drive themselves. Drivers significantly impact the functionality of a vehicle through their use (or misuse). Keeping everyone educated on proper driving techniques and inspection methods (i.e., how to check for tire pressure) will save you money in the long run.
Finally, this wouldn’t be a fleet maintenance advice article if “telematics” didn’t come up at least once. Telematics refers to fleet management tools that monitor trucks using GPS and onboard diagnostics. They can tell you if a driver is using reckless driving techniques. They can send engine diagnostics and track fuel consumption. And they give you a direct line of communication to drivers. Telematics tools are pricey to implement, but they may be worth it for your fleet.
Between clear policies, useful technologies and streamlined equipment financing, you can stay in the driver’s seat of your fleet.