Best Fleet Maintenance Practices for Maximising Vehicle Uptime


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Three key objectives for any fleet manager is to reduce costs, ensure safety compliance, and keep vehicles on the road for as long as possible – all of which are only achievable with an efficient fleet maintenance plan in place. With £727 lost per day per vehicle in the UK, a proactive approach to fleet maintenance is essential. Through the use of automated fleet management tools, businesses can ensure vehicle breakdown costs are kept to a minimum.

What Is Fleet Maintenance?

Fleet maintenance is the process of performing regular and proactive checks to keep vehicles on the road for as long as possible. Through routine inspections and servicing, fleet managers can guarantee that vehicles are in good working condition. Meaning they’re able to pass MOTs and safety checks without incurring large repair costs.

Maintenance is performed on vehicles by technicians and mechanics to:

  • Ensure vehicle safety for drivers when on the road
  • Improve vehicle uptime
  • Reduce operating costs
  • Increase vehicle lifespan

A solution for delivering an effective fleet maintenance plan is through the use of Fleet Management Software. This allows businesses to integrate fleet telematics to collect vehicle maintenance data.

Fleet management tools have a significant role in building preventative maintenance strategies. As well as automating vehicle servicing and safety check tasks.

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The Importance of Fleet Maintenance

Each fleet vehicle – whether car, plane, truck, train, or boat – is an essential asset for generating revenue. The same goes for any industry or operation which relies on the use of a fleet. Including farming, rental companies, trucking, logistics, and government.

But, like any asset, when a vehicle is off the road, revenue will suffer. This is a factor that 40% of fleets fail to estimate.

The life cycle of a vehicle consists of four stages; planning, procurement, operation and maintenance, and disposal. This form of asset life cycle management is essential for ensuring vehicles optimize their useful life. But, one stage of the asset life cycle has the greatest impact for prolonging a vehicle’s life span; maintenance.

Fleet Maintenance Promotes Safety for Drivers

Fleet maintenance performs a key role in making sure vehicles are safe. Although there are outside factors that can impact vehicle safety such as driver behaviour, regular inspections and repairs determine the safety of a fleet. Manual vehicle inspections can average 1 hour 36 minutes per day, which can be time-consuming. But, the use of automated systems and tools can help speed up safety inspections.

There are five components, primarily in road vehicles, which account for 64% of roadside repairs for fleet operations. They include:

  • Brakes
  • Tyres/Wheels
  • Power plants
  • Cooling systems
  • Lighting

In 2008, 43% of all road incidents in the US were because of faulty tyres. Along with 25% of accidents citing faulty brakes.

Maintenance Impacts Fleet Operating Costs

Fleet management tools are enabling fleet managers to improve the way they perform vehicle maintenance. Especially when it comes to keeping costs low.

Without a fleet maintenance strategy, operating costs can begin to pile up. Most notably because of unplanned downtime and emergency repairs. Poorly maintained vehicles are also at higher risk than other fleet vehicles when it comes to traffic accidents. With small to medium-sized fleets paying out £6000 per year in repairs and incurring five days of downtime.

Fleet Maintenance Impacts Fleet Operating Costs

Not only are roadside accidents a direct consequence of poor maintenance, so are costs such as fuel consumption. Fuel costs alone can account for up to 30% of a vehicle’s total cost of ownership (TCO). A poorly maintained engine can burn up to 50% more fuel alone. Whereas, with the deployment of fleet management tools, businesses saw a 68% reduction in fuel bills.

Fleet Maintenance Prolongs Asset Lifespan

The final stage of an asset’s life cycle is disposal and replacement. This occurs when the typical costs of an asset – in this case, a vehicle – outweighs its return on investment (ROI). Which is typically measured by mileage or how much wear and tear a vehicle has accumulated.

The most effective way to prolong a vehicle’s useful life is to take a proactive approach to maintenance. Preventative maintenance involves regular maintenance of fleet assets to reduce the likelihood of failure. In most cases, preventative maintenance can extend a vehicle’s lifespan by 80% before it needs to be replaced.

Using Telematics to Automate Fleet Maintenance and Repair Tasks

Fleet telematics are utilised by 40% of UK businesses to obtain data regarding fleet operations. Data includes real-time vehicle locations, driver behaviour techniques, and engine diagnostics.

Data is gathered by tools such as cameras, sensors, and GPS trackers. It is then stored in a digitised system where fleet managers can analyse it and make informed decisions. In modern instances of using telematics to gain fleet data, artificial intelligence (AI) and drones have been used to predict fleet maintenance needs.

Using telematics can benefit a business’s fleet management operations by:

  • Planning more cost-effective vehicle routes
  • Monitoring driver behaviours
  • Improving driving standards
  • Monitoring the health and performance of vehicles
  • Improving the tracking of vehicles and drivers

But, most importantly, telematics is used to improve and build fleet preventative maintenance strategies.

Using Telematics to Automate Fleet Maintenance and Repair Tasks

With the use of telematics, fleet maintenance becomes an almost completely automated process. By combining Fleet Management Software with engine data, fuel usage, tyre management, and odometer readings, businesses can build an effective preventative maintenance strategy. Advantages of a preventative maintenance approach include:

  • Reduced unplanned downtime
  • Fewer breakdowns of equipment and vehicles
  • Improved reliability of mission-critical assets
  • Fewer corrective and emergency repairs
  • The prolonged life expectancy of assets
  • Root cause analysis data for future maintenance issues
  • Increased safety and reduced risk of injury to drivers or operators

The Reporting Tools Needed to Improve Vehicle Uptime

By combining telematics with a complex fleet management system, managers can create accurate data reports. Reports come in the form of fleet reports, vehicle reports, driver reports, and facility reports. Each one is essential to creating a strategy for improving fleet maintenance.

Vehicle Activity Report

A vehicle activity report presents fleet managers with the day-to-day activity of each vehicle. Including usage, operator, mileage, and work orders.

Mileage Report

Mileage reports display the distance that each vehicle has accumulated throughout each day. While presenting a comparison between expected mileage and actual mileage.

Vehicle Diagnostics

Diagnostics reports display vehicle issues that have been discovered during inspections. These include issues with engines, transmission, brakes, exhaust systems, and tyres.

Idling

Fleet managers can see how long each vehicle has been idling during a day’s operation. Allowing them to analyse how this impacts fleet maintenance areas such as engine health.

Harsh Events

Like an idling report, a harsh events report will display data on how a vehicle is being operated. Displaying what effect this has on a vehicle’s components.

Service Reminders

To avoid compliance issues and improve safety protocols each vehicle must pass regular inspections. In the form of services and MOTs. A service reminder report alerts when each vehicle is due for inspection, allowing managers to plan for vehicle downtime.

6 Tips for Building a Fleet Preventative Maintenance Plan

Having a proactive approach to fleet maintenance has a positive impact on the efficiency of a vehicle. It can improve vehicle productivity, reduce costs, and minimise vehicle downtime.

Although building a preventative maintenance plan can incur high start-up costs and a need for more resources, the positives outweigh the negatives. When Royal Mail implemented a digitised fleet maintenance system in 2017, they reduced the downtime of their 50,000 vehicle fleet by 26%.

Before building a maintenance plan, businesses need to understand when is the right time to forge a preventative maintenance strategy. It should be considered if a fleet is experiencing:

  • A delayed production schedule due to vehicle failure and unplanned downtime
  • Expensive emergency or breakdown repair costs
  • A high turnover rate of expensive equipment
  • A delay in receiving spare parts due to a lack of inventory management

1. Deploy a Fleet Maintenance Management System

Firstly, a fleet management system is needed to make data visible to stakeholders. That includes fleet managers, fleet owners, technicians, and mechanics. The right tool will help to automate work orders, inventory management, asset procurement, and reporting.

2. Take Note of all Fleet Vehicles and Equipment

To ensure maintenance can be carried out effectively, each asset requires a unique profile. This profile will include data such as service and MOT history, past maintenance, vehicle usage, and spare parts. As well as real-time location and mileage count.

3. Get Regular Reporting Tools

To get a complete picture of a vehicle’s life cycle, managers will require up-to-date and regular reports. These reports will come from operators, mechanics, technicians, and accounting teams. This allows schedules to be set and communication channels to be put in place.

4. Set Checklists and Schedules

So a fleet maintenance plan can take effect, reminders need to be set for scheduled inspections. These can be automated with a fleet management tool, sending alerts when a vehicle is due for servicing. Checklists also need to be put in place to include checkpoints of an inspection. These include brakes, tyres, exhaust systems, and engine diagnostics.

5. Integrate Inventory and Spare Parts Management

One reason for the delay in vehicle maintenance is waiting for spare parts. To be sure this doesn’t become a factor, fleet maintenance plans should include all spare parts needed for each vehicle. Along with an inventory management tool that sends alerts when stock is low.

6. Analyse Data and Action

The final act of any preventative plan is to review and analyse data. By doing so, fleet managers can determine if their approach to maintenance is meeting expectations and targets.