Any mechanic who works in fleet maintenance will tell you that preventative maintenance will save you time and money. Managers who run a well-maintained fleet have trucks that break down less and save fuel. However, many fleet managers still come up short when it comes to fleet maintenance. As a mobile mechanic, I have worked with many fleet managers to ensure that their fleet vehicles are running at their best. Here are a few tips for fleet managers to help make sure fleet maintenance is being done regularly and in an effective manner.
1) Create a preventative maintenance schedule
Don’t wait until something breaks to fix it. One of the biggest problems I see with fleet managers is that they wish we could fix the vehicle while it is driving down the road. I understand the sentiment, since a vehicle off the road is not making you any money. However, I would recommend scheduling blocks of time for preventative maintenance regularly. Schedule time in advance to change fluids, change batteries or check on the oil. Many mechanics who work with fleets understand the business and will be willing to conduct jobs after or before business hours. Scheduling preventative maintenance during off-hours or during meetings will ensure your fleet runs properly without leaving your drivers short enough vehicles to operate.
2) Record all maintenance work and inspect vehicles daily
Always keep an accurate record of when maintenance was done on any fleet vehicle and make sure every employee inspects the vehicle they are using before taking it out on the job. Records should include when the last oil change was done, the last time tires were changed as well as any other maintenance work.
Employees should inspect maintenance vehicles at least once per day. This inspection should come with a checklist that asks the employee to look at and maintain things such as proper tire pressure, engine, transmission, brakes and windshield and glass condition. Drivers are not always going to use the same vehicle every day and different people drive in different ways. It is important that every employee check the functionality of fleet vehicles every day because many different drivers using the same vehicle can cause all kinds of wear and tear that, if caught early, will not be an issue.
You can track all maintenance work manually on paper or you can use a fleet management software program to help keep track of complete and incomplete maintenance.
It is also helpful to set a couple of standards metrics on when maintenance should automatically occur. This means servicing all vehicles at a certain mileage and the number of hours the vehicle has been in operation.
3) Change batteries and check brakes more frequently
Fleet managers need to err on the side of caution when it comes to changing their batteries and checking their brakes. Many fleet managers only change a vehicle’s battery when it dies, but you should be safe and change the battery every three years even if it is functioning. The rationale for this is simple: you can save thousands of dollars in fleet management costs by doing maintenance ahead of time. You can change a battery when it dies, but then you lose money while an inoperable vehicle waits for a new battery. Why not change it ahead of time and save yourself some money in the long run?
Brake maintenance is another area where fleet managers fall flat. I have seen companies lose thousands of dollars due to bad brake maintenance. I recommend having a professional come in and check the status of your brakes every three months. This scheduled maintenance could be the difference between having to simply pay for new brake pads or having to pay thousands to fix shot rotors and calipers.
Fleet maintenance is incredibly important, and conducting maintenance properly and frequently can be the difference between your company making money one day and losing money the next day. Working with your mechanic to create a preventative maintenance schedule and ensuring drivers conduct regular checkups on the vehicles they drive will go a long way in keeping your fleet on the road.
Matt Farnham is a mobile mechanic and owner of Auto Repair 2 You, which specializes in preventative maintenance options that keep your fleet healthy.