What is fleet preventive maintenance and how to master it

What is fleet preventive maintenance and how to master it

As the company’s fleet manager, you are well aware of the value of your vehicles – or at least you should be. They’re the means of getting the job done and the main source of profit for your company. This is why it is critical that they’re in the best operating condition for as long as possible, without (m)any unexpected breakdowns that would cause a whole cascade of other issues you’ll want to avoid, such as:

  • vehicle downtime and lost productivity
  • wasting time and money on allocating replacements
  • changing delivery deadlines
  • increasing operational and maintenance costs
  • reduced vehicle safety

To keep all these headache-provoking issues at bay and prevent small problems from spiraling out of control, you’ll need to have an efficient Preventive Maintenance (PM) program in place.

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To keep your vehicles running smoothly, you have to develop a foolproof preventive maintenance plan (Source: giphy.com)

First things first: what is preventive maintenance and what does it accomplish?

In general, preventive maintenance is the regular upkeep of your equipment to reduce the risk of it breaking down. In fleet management, preventive maintenance of vehicles and other related equipment includes:

  • planned servicing
  • regular checkups
  • scheduled repair work

These are all aimed at preventing or at least reducing the occurrence of unexpected breakdowns and repairs, as well as other problems related to inadequate maintenance of your fleet vehicles.

Proper preventive maintenance has multiple advantages

If you have a fitting preventive maintenance program in place, you’ll notice many benefits as a direct result, including:

  • fewer breakdowns
  • optimized fleet uptime
  • maximized vehicle reliability
  • fulfilled delivery deadlines
  • reduced operational and maintenance costs
  • compliance with the law
  • increased public and driver safety

All these advantages will make your job as a fleet manager much, much easier and more streamlined. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

Why is preventive maintenance better than unscheduled maintenance?

Preventive maintenance is the proactive approach to commercial vehicle upkeep. Vehicle maintenance can also be reactive (unscheduled) but, unlike the proactive strategy, it only deals with problems as they arise, not before. Also, unscheduled maintenance usually happens due to an improper preventive maintenance program (or lack thereof).

Relying on reactive vehicle maintenance alone means you’ll find yourself running around putting out fires instead of preventing them from starting in the first place. As these ‘fires’ continue erupting, they will spiral out of control and turn into a raging wildfire, causing enormous expenses in unplanned repairs (not to mention their ripple effect on other areas).

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Source: giphy.com

How to implement proper preventive fleet maintenance?

A responsible fleet manager needs to develop an efficient preventive maintenance plan that will include these best practices:

1. Setting a baseline of your fleet’s health

In order to organize an effective PM, you’ll need to be aware of the current condition of your fleet. This means you’ll need to conduct detailed analyses determining and documenting which parts need replacing, current driven mileage, typical fuel use, fluid levels, how many hours do trips take, and any other relevant information.

When vehicles are being added to your fleet, whether new or used, they also need to undergo detailed inspections to determine their condition and maintenance requirements. In addition to this process being valuable in terms of preventive maintenance, it will also allow you to record essential information like serial numbers, model and make, components, and so on. This information will be useful in the future when acquiring related equipment and new parts.

2. Creating a checklist

Developing a checklist of specific areas to cover during preventive maintenance tasks will make the process enormously simpler. However, be careful when creating it. Double-check everything and ask for professional assistance where needed. Leaving out a vital part may result in under-maintenance and put your vehicles and equipment at risk of future failures.

Also, every task should be defined as precisely and clearly as possible, with enough details to avoid confusion but without being overly lengthy or redundant. For example, the checklist should include the description of activities, how they’re carried out, what equipment is used to perform them, and the like.

The most common areas that should be addressed in a preventive maintenance checklist include:

  • tires, wheels, and rims
  • engine and transmission mounts
  • CV joints, belts and hoses
  • body, glass, and mirrors
  • engine oil and filter
  • electric system components
  • undercarriage and frame
  • fluid leaks
  • transmission fluid
  • fuel system
  • fuel usage
  • cooling system
  • braking system
  • exhaust system
  • drive shafts
  • steering and suspension system
  • seat structures and seatbelts
  • auxiliary systems
  • windshield wipers
  • interior and exterior lighting
  • horn
  • regular tune-ups

This is by no means a one-size-fits-all solution, so you should only take it as a basis for putting together your own preventive maintenance checklist. The content of your checklist will depend on the primary focus of your fleet maintenance – improved reliability, reduced expenses, more efficient fuel use, vehicle safety, etc., or a combination of two or more of these goals.

It will also be largely influenced by the type of vehicles used in your business (semi-trailers, vans, cars, forklifts, and so forth) as different types and models have different components, wear and tear patterns, and fleet maintenance requirements.

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Make sure tail lights are included in your preventive maintenance checklist (Source: giphy.com)

3. Determining the preventive maintenance intervals

The tasks in your fleet preventive maintenance checklist will need to be organized by frequency. It is important to note that they shouldn’t occur too frequently or infrequently. 

If these tasks are carried out more often than necessary, it means you’re wasting time and resources (both human and material) on redundant effort with no value to the output. If the maintenance tasks are scheduled too far apart, then problems are being overlooked and more unexpected breakdowns and repairs will occur.

The optimal frequency at which preventive maintenance tasks should be performed is typically described in your vehicles’ owner manuals but may also depend on the operating conditions of different vehicles (i.e. load, trip length and frequency, average vehicle speed, and so on).

You’ll need to more frequently maintain vehicles used in heavy-duty activities like deliveries, trailer towing, inner-city driving (that typically includes a lot of idling and slow driving), off-road trips, as well as in operations where vehicles are used by multiple drivers (like fleet pools).

Some of these tasks will have to be carried out individually, while others may be performed simultaneously, for the sake of saving time and resources. This means that you may need to create separate checklists for tasks that occur daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.

Having accurate and detailed data on your fleet’s operations will help immensely in setting and optimizing the preventive maintenance frequency (e.g. by observing idling, fuel utilization, engine hours, etc.).

4. Bringing in experts in the field

It doesn’t matter if the people that carry out the preventive maintenance process are in-house or outsourced automotive technicians. That is the decision your business will make on the basis of its resources and operations.

What matters is that they’re certified, skillful, and using the best equipment available. They also need to be aware of the fleet’s requirements, PM checklist, your expectations, and the servicing frequency – and it is your job to make sure they are.

Do note that some simpler tasks don’t require specialists’ attention and may be done by your drivers, such as the Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR). 

5. Using driver feedback

Despite your technicians’ and your own best efforts to stay on top of all the subtle details related to preventive maintenance of each unit in your fleet, it is still your drivers who spend the most time with their vehicles. This means that they may be the first to notice a potential problem, even before a scheduled servicing term.

To avoid possible problems going unnoticed, your drivers should do their part in preventive maintenance by monitoring and reporting all the potential issues they notice when driving (and otherwise) that perhaps weren’t part of the regular servicing. These include issues with:

  • drivability (rough idling, misfires, etc.)
  • safety (soft brakes, worn-out wipers, tire problems, etc.), 
  • body (cleanliness, body damage, glass cracks, etc.)
  • miscellaneous items (A/C, navigation, etc.)

It is your job to provide your drivers with a simple and handy way of reporting any of these matters to the fleet maintenance department. The sooner these issues are resolved, the less headache you’ll have in the future.

The driver may be the first person to notice when a vehicle is in need of maintenance and repairs (Source: giphy.com)

6. Keeping up with the costs

Fleet maintenance expenses aren’t fixed. They will vary over time influenced by different factors such as the prices on the fuel market, labor and equipment prices, as well as the unforeseen situations like vehicle accidents.

That said, you can achieve some certainty by carefully observing these factors over time, optimizing your strategies, and planning your budget accordingly. Of course, by implementing an efficient PM program, you’ll ensure that fewer breakdowns happen and minimize the overall costs for maintenance, to begin with.

7. Using fleet management software instead of obsolete methods

Scheduling preventive maintenance, developing checklists, and creating work orders (documents outlining the maintenance tasks) manually is a valid choice. However, the reasons for using modern technology, i.e. an automated system via fleet management software to this end are far more numerous.

First of all, manual scheduling, recordkeeping, and checklist filling are time-consuming and wasteful. Just imagine the countless hours, heaps of paper, or confusing Excel sheets you would have to deal with when carrying out these overwhelming tasks manually, and you’ll feel your blood pressure soaring, especially if your fleet is among the larger ones. Capable fleet management software eliminates these problems and increases productivity by moving the entire process into the digital sphere.

Secondly, manual scheduling and recordkeeping operations are less accurate, as large amounts of data have to be processed in a limited time frame. Competent fleet management software possesses high data processing speed, removes the need for bulky paper logs, requires less manpower, and is more precise and efficient.

Finally, fleet management software has a better price-to-value ratio than manual operations. It doesn’t just make the process of maintenance scheduling easier and faster (and therefore cheaper) but also allows you to monitor and detect other elements that play a role in preventing future problems, such as:

  • fuel usage
  • vehicle mileage
  • engine hours
  • accident events
  • poor driving habits
  • inefficient routes
  • other problems that cause wear and tear

When choosing fleet management software suitable for your business and its fleet, make sure that it’s cost-effective, user-friendly, and that the learning curve is as low as possible, allowing everyone on your team to get on board easily. Let’s face it: you don’t have the time or money to waste on organizing training for complicated software.

It’s better to be safe than sorry – level up your preventive maintenance with radar-based collision prevention

Safe Drive Systems’ fleet management platform is simple yet comprehensive – it allows you to monitor multiple areas relevant to preventive maintenance. It lets you track and analyze your assets, their performance and utilization, as well as create reports you can use as a basis for predicting requirements and scheduling preventive maintenance tasks in the future – all from one place.

It can also help you prevent damage caused by traffic accidents and this is where our handy radar-based collision prevention system comes in. The industry-leading RD-140 radar unit actively monitors the situation on the road. It provides audio and visual warnings to your drivers if it observes any issues that might lead to collisions, such as the presence of pedestrians, cyclists or animals on the road, tail-gating, line-swerving, and more.

Prevent damage from collisions with our handy radar-based collision prevention system
Prevent damage from collisions with our handy radar-based collision prevention system

Our unique, tried-and-tested platform provides access to a large body of data gathered from various points of interest:

  • Electronic Logging Device (ELD)
  • Telematics
  • AI cloud data
  • real-time dash camera
  • a radar-based collision prevention system

Combining all these different pieces into one efficient solution allows us to provide you with a complete, data-driven, real-time and retrospective overview of every part of your fleet. Thanks to our platform, you’ll be able to:

  • plan out your preventive maintenance schedules
  • monitor the whereabouts of every single vehicle in your fleet
  • optimize fuel efficiency and prevent wasting
  • observe your drivers’ driving habits to correct them where needed
  • ensure compliance with regulations
  • effectively prevent traffic collisions involving your vehicles

This is something you won’t get from any other service on the market. 

So are you prepared to step up your preventive maintenance game with the most capable and versatile fleet management partner at your side? Then look no further because you’ve found the right match. Don’t wait – book a free consultation today and one of our expert advisors will reach out to you to recommend a solution based on your fleet’s specific needs.