Fleet Maintenance

Best practices for establishing a fleet preventive maintenance (PM) program

All fleets need to maintain their vehicles and equipment in order to provide safe, efficient and reliable performance. The best way to achieve this is with an aggressive preventive maintenance (PM) program.

By planning, scheduling and performing the appropriate maintenance at the right time, fleets will have a safer, more reliable and more cost effective operation.

All fleets need to maintain their vehicles and equipment in order to provide safe, efficient and reliable performance, as well as have their vehicles reach their maximum useful life.

The best way to achieve this is with an aggressive preventive maintenance (PM) program that consists of scheduled servicing, inspections and vehicle repairs. Such a program – which can be based on time, mileage, engine hours or gallons of fuel used ­– will help:

  • Promote vehicle reliability by preventing potential problems.
  • Maximize fleet uptime by decreasing downtime due to breakdowns.
  • Lower operating costs by reducing the number of road calls and the high cost of unplanned maintenance.
  • Ensure operational and operator safety, which helps with driver morale because when vehicles are kept in top condition, drivers are more likely to handle the equipment with care.
  • Increase resale value.
  • Enhance the fleet’s/company’s image with clean, well-maintained vehicles.

Furthermore, breakdowns from lack of PM tend to occur when least expected and possibly when the vehicle is needed most. Vehicles may become unsafe due to lack of PM or repair, and proper maintenance can help prevent litigation from negligence should faulty brakes, tires, steering or other vehicle malfunctions result in a vehicle accident.

PM Methods

Vehicle maintenance and repairs can be performed in one of two methods:

  • PROACTIVE – Scheduled preventive maintenance, which consists of PM, planned component repairs and driver inspections.
  • REACTIVE – Unscheduled breakdown maintenance. This type of service work, which can be costly, is most often the result of the lack of regular PM.

The objective is to have the majority of vehicle maintenance and repairs scheduled rather than unscheduled.

Key Elements of an Effective PM Program

Checklist of routine PM service tasks to be performed

☐ Engine oil and filter changes
☐ Transmission fluid
☐ Fuel system
☐ Cooling system
☐ Engine and transmission mounts
☐ Driveshafts or CV joints
☐ Belts and hoses
☐ Tune-ups
☐ Electrical system components
☐ Braking system
☐ Steering and suspension system
☐ Tires, wheels and rims
☐ Exhaust system
☐ Undercarriage and frame
☐ Exterior and interior lights
☐ Body, glass and mirrors
☐ Windshield wiper system
☐ Horn, seatbelts and seat structures
☐ Fluid leaks
☐ Auxiliary systems

PM service interval or frequency

Check the vehicle owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended PM intervals. However, be aware that PM service intervals depend upon vehicle operating conditions during either “normal” or “severe” duty.

Typically, severe-duty operation includes:

  • Towing a trailer or using a camper or car-top carrier
  • Extensive idling and/or low-speed driving (inner-city driving and stop-and-go traffic)
  • Vehicles used for such applications as deliveries, taxi, livery or patrol car
  • Vehicles used by multiple drivers, such as fleet or motor pool operations
  • Vehicles operated in off-road or dusty conditions

Driver write-up inspections and/or complaints

The vehicle operator is the first line of defense against unexpected breakdowns and repairs. Therefore, it is important that drivers communicate vehicle problems immediately to fleet management.

Among the vehicle systems that should be monitored by the driver:

  • SAFETY ITEMS (tires, wipers, horn, brakes, steering, etc.)
  • DRIVABILITY ITEMS (misfire, rough idle, etc.)
  • BODY (glass, body damage, cleanliness, etc.)
  • MISCELLANEOUS REPAIR ITEMS (heater, radio, etc.)

The vehicle operator must be trained on proper inspection procedures, plus must be held accountable for inspecting vehicle systems and reporting any problems. Otherwise, a potential problem may go unnoticed and cause a breakdown or unsafe condition.

This requires the support of each department and senior management. As a team effort, the PM program can be a great success.

PM tasks performed by trained professional automotive technicians

PM can be performed by either in-house certified automotive technicians or outsourced to a local automotive service center specializing in fleet preventive maintenance.

If done in-house, technicians need to understand the importance of performing thorough PM service. This service is only as good as the person performing it. The technician must proactively service each vehicle to reduce breakdowns and repairs, and shortcuts must never be taken.

If PM services will be outsourced, use a local vendor that has certified technicians who specialize in maintaining fleet vehicles. It is a good idea to meet with the vendor’s service manager to discuss Expectations, Requirements, and Scheduled PM intervals.

For both in-house and outsourced PM, track and compare scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. This will provide a measure of the success of the PM program, and can provide insight needed to make adjustments to PM frequency or the PM task list to best suit a fleet’s requirements.

Scheduling and recordkeeping

PM maintenance can be scheduled manually or by using fleet maintenance and management software.

Manual systems can be tedious and time-consuming to manage, especially for larger fleets. These days, technology is affordable, even for the smallest fleet.

Computerized systems specifically for fleet management and maintenance are a more efficient method for gathering timely reports on all aspects of fleet operations. Reports can be generated faster and more accurately, allowing the fleet manager to make timely proactive decisions.

Regardless of the scheduling method chosen, it is important to purchase a system that can be customized to a fleet’s specific application requirements. Depending on those requirements, the system should enable a fleet to design customized PM schedules, create and track work orders, track fuel usage, record detailed maintenance histories and tire logs, track accident and claims, manage inventory and monitor labor, invoicing and stock reports.

Monitor the Costs

Since maintenance and repair costs are considered a variable operating expense, fleets should track parts, labor, vendor, fuel, and collisions. These costs should be monitored and analyzed routinely to determine which vehicles cost the most to operate. This enables proactive decisions regarding vehicle efficiency and replacement.

A properly maintained vehicle provides the lowest operating cost. If a vehicle is running poorly, it is prone to costly breakdowns, higher fuel costs and additional maintenance and repair.

Using data collected from tracking PM activity and cost, assemble a detailed report using an Excel spreadsheet. The report should be generated on a monthly basis and submitted to senior management for review.

Outline the total number of completed vehicle jobs, both scheduled and unscheduled. Provide detailed information on the type of scheduled and unscheduled work performed. Also include fleet variable operating cost items.

By establishing and following a customized fleet PM program, the necessary vehicle maintenance will be done at the right time. That will help keep vehicles safe and dependable, reduce vehicle operating costs and minimize breakdowns, road calls, and downtime.

Helming’s Provides Special Fleet Account Benefits

Call us for details!

(650) 988-0460

Click to Call Us