Some fleet companies fully equip fleet managers with telematics systems and maintenance plans, while others rely on excel sheets and driver-reported information. The problem with the latter? Drivers are notorious for failing to report potential issues, and may wait until something is completely broken to inform a manager. Unfortunately, fleet maintenance is costly and can impact your productivity and timeline.
Preventative maintenance can help reduce fleet costs and mitigate liability risk,but it’s also important for ensuring your drivers’ safety. If your fleet company doesn’t have a comprehensive maintenance plan in place, read on. We discuss the steps you need to take to build your fleet vehicle maintenance plan below.
The Importance of Preventative Maintenance Planning
Though they seem indestructible, vehicles can be delicate if not properly cared for. If a belt is faulty it can damage the engine. If your tires aren’t aligned,multiple parts of your vehicle will face increased wear. Not checking your fluids could cause your engine to overheat. Improperly inflated tires consume more fuel and pose greater risks of an accident. As the above examples highlight,, very minor, easily and affordably repairable issues turn into major problems.
Failure to properly maintain your fleet impacts more than cost; it can also affect your team’s downtime and overall safety.
When a vehicle is out for repairs, it impacts your productivity. When a vehicle isn’t functioning properly, it isn’t as efficient and it poses a safety risk. The vehicle could break down in the middle of the road or their tires may not be able to stop the vehicle fast enough due to inflation or tread--you get the idea.
Establishing a preventative maintenance schedule should be one of your first priorities. There are, however, a few steps you should take before establishing this checklist.
Steps for Building a Fleet Maintenance Plan
It can be difficult to determine where to start when building a fleet maintenance plan, especially if your current company doesn’t have any measures in place. It’s even worse if their documents are sitting in a filing cabinet in the closet instead of on the computer.
Below are the steps for building a fleet maintenance checklist and plan. Note:, the circumstances for each fleet vary, but this should give you a basic framework for building your own plan.
Step 1: Build Your Maintenance Checklist
This may seem like a premature step,but understanding fleet maintenance is the first step in examining your fleet's needs. Read your vehicle's manuals to learn their specific requirements. This will help you to build your fleet vehicle maintenance checklist.
Each vehicle model is unique but there are certain items that should be on every maintenance checklist. These items include:
- Body check
- Check frame and undercarriage condition
- Mirror check
- All exterior lights working
- Glass integrity
- Doors and windows operable
- Oil change
- Any leaks
- Fluids topped up (brake, steering, antifreeze, etc.)
- Basic engine check
- Replace windshield wipers if needed
- Brakes and rotors
- Oil filter change
- Tire pressure and tread
- Cooling and fuel systems check
- Rust check
- Transmission check (especially the mount)
- All belts and hoses in proper condition
- CV joints
- Rotate tires as needed
- Seasonal tire change
- Check seat and seatbelt integrity
- Heating, A/C, and defrost working
- Electrical system components
- Spark plugs
- Exhaust system
This should help you build your own comprehensive fleet vehicle maintenance checklist, and is a great jumping off point for maintenance planning.
Step 2: Assess Baseline
Before you can move forward, you need to determine where you are. When it comes to fleet maintenance, this is simply a matter of ensuring your vehicle data is in a database, and preferably integrated this data with fleet software for enhanced efficiency. You should also send all of your vehicles to the shop to full diagnostics, testdrive, and check fluids. In other words, run through a fleet vehicle checklist and establish every possible issue with every single vehicle in your fleet.
During your review,you may find that vehicles have run over their oil change by several thousands miles or that you need to replace vehicles because it isn’t worth it to fix them. No matter what you find, spotting the issues first will help you make further decisions. This does constitute a great deal of upfront work, but as mentioned, establishing this baseline leads to your next step(s).
If your documents aren’t digital, your next step is to make them so. Do your research on fleet software to determine which suits your needs best.
If you have digital documents and fleet software (or you've updated), start inspections.
After completing vehicle inspection, fix all vehicle issues. You may need to replace vehicles where necessary.
Step 3: Establish Policy & Maintenance Scheduling
This is the actual “plan building” phase, or the point in which you establish parameters for your fleet vehicles and drivers. Policy building and implementation help your team adjust to the changes you make but it also ensures that you’re reaping all of the benefits of preventative maintenance. This includes reduced costs for labor and repairs, reduced downtime, and improved efficiency.
What should be in your fleet maintenance plan/policy?
Pre-trip check standard: Every vehicle needs an inspection before a trip. This may be less comprehensive than a full inspection. And drivers can even conduct the inspection themselves. It may include light and horn checks, tire checks, and other minor items.
Post trip check standard: Same as a pre-trip check. To make it easier, create a form or Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR). There should be pages for pre- and post-trip inspections on this document. You can create a paper form, but it’s much more efficient if it’s digital.
Your maintenance checklist: You may have various checklists, as each fulfills a different role, such as pre- and post-trip inspections. You should always have a checklist for annual maintenance that is exceptionally thorough. But you may also want to include quarterly inspection checklists, especially if your vehicles have high utilization rates.
Maintenance schedule: Every checklist should have a schedule. Some items in your vehicle, such as oil change, depend on mileage and driver. Check other items more or less frequently, such as tire pressure or battery life. Setting a schedule helps to ensure you always catch issues before they become bigger problems.
Again, this is a lot of work. In fact, it’s almost overwhelming. Without fleet management software, you have to keep track of this yourself. This requires keeping separate calendars for each vehicle. Or, one calendar with vin numbers to help you keep track of which needs maintenance. It also requires that you keep your own files or excel sheets for each vehicle. This means a lot of time inputting data. Telematics systems, or fleet management software, can simplify the process, so you can get back to business.
Telematics in Fleet Maintenance
Once installed, telematics (or fleet tracking devices) relay information about your fleet vehicles. This includes engine diagnostics, driver behavior, idle time, HoS, and much more. It also monitors your vehicle for issues and sends alerts when there is an issue. With telematics, you can also import your fleet schedule and receive scheduling alerts. In addition, fleet tracking software stores your maintenance reports and inspection logs; this way, you never lose information in the shuffle.
Telematics also offers the following for your maintenance planning:
- Tracks odometer readings and other vehicle data
- Tracks & analyzes the trends in your fleet’s fuel consumption
- Monitors inspection integrity
- Provides drivers with inspection criteria