Maintenance costs can sneak up on you. Without warning, maintenance issues can cause vehicle downtime, thus keeping your drivers off the road and eating into your company’s profit.
When managing a fleet, unexpected maintenance costs will undoubtedly arise. The important thing is to stay proactive. Have a plan of action before problems arise!
Here are five ways to manage and reduce unforeseen maintenance expenses:
1. Strengthen communication. From sales all the way to the accounting department, communication is key in every aspect of your business. As a fleet manager, your most important communication channel is between you and your drivers. Having an open door policy will help you understand vehicle performance on a day-to-day basis. Simple conversation between you and your drivers can help you gain insight into how vehicles are being driven and cared for which can prompt early diagnosis of maintenance issues.
2. Create a routine maintenance schedule. There is much more to routine maintenance than just making sure your vehicles get an oil change and tire rotation every 5,000 miles. To avoid unforeseen maintenance costs, you should have a checklist (whether it lives on paper or in a fleet management system) that you use for each vehicle. Checking the following can help you stay in front of issues that may be headed your way:
- Check the wipers for wear and possible replacement.
- Lube the chassis and inspect the frame, joints, shocks and struts.
- Check the brake pads, rotors, drums, calipers, springs and spring shackles.
- Check the radiator, belts, fluid levels, leaks and rubbed or bare wires.
- Look for uneven tire wear, broken tire belts and unbalanced tires.
3. Handle maintenance in-house or get to know your mechanics. If you have the luxury of handling repairs at your own facility, it can save you thousands in the long run. Why? Unfortunately, some garages won’t have the proper education when it comes to the make, model and year of vehicles in your fleet. If this happens, they could be enforcing a “let’s replace this and see if it works” mentality which could trigger future issues. If you can’t do your own repairs (and many can’t), make sure you know your garage and mechanics! Ensure they know your vehicles and are going through your routine maintenance checklist thoroughly.
4. Take test rides. Even if you have great communication with your drivers, you should still take regular test rides in your fleet vehicles. If you don’t know exactly what to look and listen for, have a trusted mechanic on your team do this. Test rides give you the opportunity to make sure your vehicles are running as they should and potentially diagnose issues that haven’t been noticed or reported.
5. Be proactive. No matter how diligently you go through your routine checklist, unforeseen issues are going to pop up. The good news is that they shouldn’t happen nearly as often. When problems do arise, however, you have to be prepared. A good rule of thumb is to have one spare vehicle for every 10 vehicles in your fleet. As vehicles come in for routine maintenance or need to have unforeseen maintenance work performed, having a spare vehicle for every 10 will keep your drivers on the road and keep your business running smoothly.