Fleet maintenance seems like it would be self-explanatory: the practice of keeping all of your fleet’s vehicles maintained. But there are a lot of steps involved in fleet maintenance if you want to keep your fleet safe and productive. There are many benefits to prioritizing preventative maintenance for your fleet, which we will outline later in this article. However, if your fleet’s top priorities are safety, efficiency, and cost savings, then fleet maintenance should be at the top of your to-do list. There are different approaches to fleet maintenance and vehicle replacement, but each method involves building a checklist and conducting regular inspections to ensure your vehicles are in their best shape.
The Importance of Fleet Maintenance
Fleet maintenance, particularly preventative fleet maintenance, is immensely vital to keep your fleet safe and productive. If your vehicle has a mechanical failure on the road, it can cause an accident that puts your driver and everyone else on the road at risk. Your drivers will be much happier in their jobs knowing that they are driving safe, well-maintained vehicles.
Furthermore, when your vehicle is not in its best condition, it causes unnecessary wear and tear on the vehicle, and you’ll have to replace it sooner. For example, if your tires aren’t aligned, different parts of your vehicle will face increased wear. If you don’t check your fluids, your engine could lock up or critical systems like brakes and transmission could fail. These are easily preventable problems that could increase the lifetime of your vehicle.
When you wait for a part to break completely, your vehicle spends more time in the repair shop. That means more time wasted and a more significant impact on your workers and your revenue. Smaller, routine repairs take far less time and make far less impact on your business’s operations.
How to Create a Fleet Maintenance Plan
If you don’t have a fleet maintenance plan currently, it can be challenging to determine where to get started, especially if you haven’t been tracking your fleet’s maintenance records so far. Each fleet has different needs, but these steps should provide a basic framework for creating your fleet maintenance plan.
1. Build a Fleet Maintenance Checklist
Building a maintenance checklist is the first and most crucial step in creating a preventative fleet maintenance plan. You must understand your fleet’s needs to best assess what action is needed. Of course, each vehicle is different, but certain items should be on every fleet maintenance checklist:
- Frame and undercarriage
- All exterior lights
- Glass integrity
- Doors and windows
- Oil change
- Any leaks
- Fluid levels (brake, steering, antifreeze, etc.)
- Basic engine check
- Windshield wipers
- Brakes and rotors
- Tire pressure and tread
- Cooling and fuel systems
- Transmission (especially the mount)
- All belts and hoses
- CV joints
- Rotate tires as needed
- Seasonal tire change
- Seat and seatbelt integrity
- Heating, A/C, and defrost systems
- Electrical system components
- Spark plugs
- Exhaust system
2. Assess Baseline
You can’t move forward if you don’t know where your fleet is. For proper fleet maintenance, you’ll want to ensure that each vehicle is in a database, preferably integrated with fleet maintenance software. Once connected, run full diagnostics on all vehicles to determine their condition and record your findings thoroughly. If you find that your vehicles have issues to address, register each problem to help you make further decisions. For example, you may find that some vehicles have so many issues it isn’t worth fixing them.
If your documents aren’t digital, you will want to change that at this step. You will need to find fleet software that meets your fleet’s needs so you can keep track of updates and changes to your fleet’s maintenance.
Only after you’ve completed and recorded this inspection should you fix the issues that you’ve found. Be sure to note all actions that you take on your new electronic maintenance logs. This way, your vehicles start with a positive maintenance baseline.
3. Establish Policy and Maintenance Scheduling
At this step, you finally begin building your maintenance plan. You’ll need to establish parameters for your fleet vehicles and drivers. Once you create this policy and implement it, make sure your drivers have the support they need to adjust to these changes. Once this plan is in place, you can begin to enjoy the benefits of fleet maintenance. We list examples of policies and features that your plan should include below:
- Pre-trip Check Standard: Perform inspections on all vehicles before all trips. It doesn’t have to be as comprehensive as a full inspection, and the driver can conduct it, but it is important to check minor items to ensure the vehicle is safe.
- Post Trip Check Standard: For this step, you can create a form or Driver Inspection Vehicle Report (DVIR) for pre- and post-trip inspections that drivers can fill out to note anything they find during these inspections. Make this form digital if possible.
- Maintenance Checklist: You should have various checklists, including the pre- and post-trip checks, an annual inspection checklist, a quarterly inspection checklist, and perhaps others depending on your fleet.
- Maintenance Schedule: You should have a schedule for every item on your list. It may be based on operational hours, mileage, driver, tire pressure, or battery life. Either way, be sure to track all of these metrics and check what’s needed as each item comes up.
The Benefits of Fleet Maintenance
Fleet maintenance offers a variety of benefits for your fleet that will impact factors across the board. We will outline three of these benefits below.
1. Improve Fleet Safety
Safety should be the top priority for any fleet. When vehicles are well-maintained, they’re much easier for your drivers to handle and much less likely to malfunction, meaning your drivers are far less likely to be involved in an accident. You’d be surprised how many accidents are caused by simple vehicle issues. For example, 27% of accidents involving a truck are caused by brake failure, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). That’s a higher number than speeding and driver fatigue combined. It’s an immense danger to everyone on the road and should be taken very seriously. Luckily, the problem is easy to resolve with a robust preventative fleet maintenance plan.
2. Increase Fleet Reliability
Fleet breakdowns are one of the most significant inconveniences a fleet can face. While your driver waits on the side of the road, your fleet loses money, wastes time it could be productive, and is likely displeasing a customer. This doesn’t even include the cost of repairing the vehicle or the lost revenue from the time it takes to fix it. You need your vehicles to be consistently reliable. Losing money due to vehicle breakdowns means you do not have a good preventative maintenance plan in place. As soon as you take proactive action, you’re sure to see an improvement in your business’s bottom line.
3. Spend Less on Maintenance
Maintenance can be a hefty cost for fleets that don’t have a preventative maintenance plan in place. It may sound counterproductive, but routine maintenance on your vehicles can cost less than occasional significant repairs. These repairs are often less expensive, less time consuming, and less invasive. Instead of waiting for an entire part or system to break, you’re simply repairing it before it does. For example, regularly changing your oil is far less expensive than cleaning a clogged engine or replacing a worn-out piston. Because your vehicles will likely even last longer, you can get more work out of every asset.
Why You Need to Optimize Fleet Performance Now More Than Ever
Many of the challenges that we’ve faced over the last couple of years make fleet maintenance more important than ever. Here are some reasons you should focus on fleet maintenance now if you haven’t been already.
1. Employees Want Safe Fleets
The driver shortage is getting worse than ever, and drivers can pick and choose when it comes to where they want to work. Of course, they often prioritize safety over anything, and they want to work for fleets that prioritize their safety as well. If a business has them driving an old vehicle with malfunctioning parts, they may not stay with that company for very long. However, if a company prioritizes preventative maintenance rather than reactive maintenance, they’re sure to feel much safer and perform better in their jobs.
2. Combat Rising Fuel Costs
Fuel costs continue to rise, and of course, fuel is an immense expense for fleets. Fleet maintenance can have a significant impact on lowering your fuel costs. All it takes is simple maintenance to your vehicles’ tires and wheels to take huge steps towards improving your vehicle’s fuel economy. Automotive Fleet Magazine estimates that proper maintenance can improve your vehicle’s fuel economy by up to 40%. If you’re missing out on these savings, you’re spending way more than you need to on your fleet’s fuel.
3. Improve Customer Service
Customers have higher demands than ever before, especially when it comes to delivery fleets. When your vehicles have breakdowns, you can’t complete your jobs for the customer and leave them feeling dissatisfied. If they aren’t getting the service they need or expect, they will simply turn to a competitor. Luckily, fleet maintenance can prevent these breakdowns and help you follow through for the customer every single time. Customer service is more important now than ever, and you want customers coming back to your business for more.
4. Regular Inspections and Maintenance Logs Maintain Compliance
When it comes to saving money, maintaining compliance with federal, state, and local laws is also critical. It’s surprising how often fleets are hit with substantial fines for easily avoidable maintenance issues. A maintenance plan helps your fleet maintain compliance in a couple of ways. First, when you regularly complete inspections, you’ll be complaint with DVIR requirements and you’re more likely to catch issues that would typically be brought up in an FMCSA inspection. Secondly, fleets often get docked for not having their maintenance records on hand. If you have your digital maintenance records as part of your fleet maintenance plan, you’ll never have that issue again.
How Fleet Maintenance Software Helps Your Fleet Manage Its Maintenance Plan
All of this may sound a bit overwhelming to implement, and it is if you don’t have the right tools at your disposal. However, fleet maintenance software exists to make your life much easier when keeping your fleet well-maintained. Fleet maintenance software helps you in a variety of ways.
First, it uses telematics to track your vehicle’s health and lets you know when you need to address an issue. That way, if something is missed during an inspection, you have an extra set of “eyes” to catch the problem.
Secondly, it alerts you when it is time for your vehicles’ scheduled maintenance. It can be hard to keep up when you have dozens of vehicles to deal with, but fleet maintenance software makes it a breeze by keeping track of all of that information for you.
Finally, fleet maintenance software houses all of your vehicles’ maintenance logs electronically. You’ll have no problem accessing any information that you need with no problem at all. This will make FMCSA inspections much easier, along with tracking all of the information you need to make decisions regarding your vehicles’ health.
Azuga offers state-of-the-art maintenance software that integrates with our fleet management software to create a streamlined and comprehensive fleet management experience. Our customers boast that managing their vehicles’ fleet maintenance is much easier with our software’s many features. You can try it for yourself with a fleet demo online and see the benefits you’re missing!