“Most fleets spend a great deal of time evaluating and calculating the total cost of ownership (TCO) for a fleet vehicle,” says Deryk Powell, president of Velociti Inc., a global provider of technology deployment services. “However, one area that may be easy to overlook is the maintenance of technology products installed on the vehicle.
“Ancillary technology products, whether included as part of an OEM build specification, or added in the aftermarket, have become increasingly common,” Powell relates. “Examples of products may include GPS tracking systems, in-cab tablets, printers and scanners for workflow management, video monitoring systems, driver behavior systems, collision warning systems, lane departure systems, tire inflation or monitoring systems, light bars, solar panels and more that are added to that list every day.
“Typically, maintenance and repair of these technologies requires special skills and replacement parts that aren’t typically stocked by in-house maintenance operations,” Powell continues. “As these systems have become pervasive in daily operations, either to provide an intended ROI such as fuel savings, improved process efficiencies or to remain compliant for impending FMCSA mandates on hours-of-service and driver safety, fleets rely on them to be in working condition. And when they aren’t, they need to be repaired in a timely manner; otherwise fleets are looking at additional costs related to lost vehicle efficiency or fines and penalties from non-compliance.”
As a result, Powell notes, fleets can find themselves in a position of having to take a truck out of service for a period of hours or even days to facilitate often critical technology system repairs. “The availability of parts, limited experience of in-house technicians and other hurdles extend this repair timeframe,” he states. “As an example, the cost of ordering and warehousing spare inventory for the myriad of products a fleet may utilize to minimize downtime, in many cases, would be prohibitively expensive. Fleet owners also need to factor in the time and expense of managing that inventory because without available parts downtime can be increased dramatically.
“To control these inevitable technology repair costs and reduce cycle time, fleet operators should consider relying on outsourced vendors that specialize not only in the repair and maintenance of technology systems but in managing inventory as well,” Powell continues. “A vehicle and the technician working on it are revenue-producing assets, so when they are down, the true cost of that downtime is often much more than the internal repair costs originally estimated.”
Powell advises looking for a company with the ability to perform a wide variety of technology system repairs and maintenance options; that has a facility capable of managing a large inventory; that will work onsite at the fleet’s location; and that can offer flexible scheduling such as working during the days and/or hours when the vehicle is scheduled to be off-duty.
“Having the inventory on-hand and the flexibility to cater to the fleet operation’s schedule are key components of controlling TCO,” Powell concludes. “In the transportation industry, time is money, so when a vehicle is taken out of service, it carries significant cost far beyond just the cost to repair. From a TCO perspective, fleets must not just consider the cost of the repair itself, but the lost revenue directly related to vehicle downtime.”