Any fleet manager worth their salt in the business will know the basic components of an effective maintenance program. But there is still a difference between a good maintenance program and a great one. There are essentially 10 basic components of a great maintenance program, and while every fleet operates differently and has unique needs, there are essential best practices every motor carrier should follow.
Ensure you are building on the following principles and you can rest assured your fleet maintenance program is staying ahead of the game:
- Create a culture of safety across the company.
- Recruit and retain top-tier technicians.
- Create a proactive preventative maintenance program.
- Monitor overall quality within your shop.
- Respond to customer service issues.
- Ensure data accuracy.
- Make sure management is on board.
- Limit your outside spend.
- Secure the best parts and pricing.
- Pay close attention to warranty cash recovery.
Now, let’s look at each of these aspects individually and how, put together, they contribute to a maintenance program that will keep you one step ahead of your competitors.
Number One: Safety Culture
A safe maintenance program must be backed up by the infrastructure required to maintain it. While this includes initial spend, attention must be paid to training for both technicians and managers. Your team must also be on board with business needs. Still, the most important aspects of your program should be prioritization of needs and consistency of execution.
The fact is this: Nothing should be more important than safety, and your maintenance program should reflect this. Safety topics should start every meeting, no matter who is involved. Is our executive team reinforcing safety among your technicians and truck drivers?
Similarly, consistency is critical to ensuring safety. Take a deep dive into causation and prevention. Regardless of the severity of an incident, all accidents are preventable. Take workload into account, but never back off on the importance of safety to your maintenance program.
Number Two: Top-tier Technician Recruitment
There is little argument among fleet managers that top-tier technicians are critical to ensuring fleet safety measures are not shirked. As trucking technology evolves, it is important that technicians have the certifications and training necessary to keep a motor carrier’s fleet fully operational for the (no pun intended) long haul.
Know this: Recruiting is a two-way street. Technicians need to have the skill sets required to maintain a top-notch maintenance program, but the business must also support them. We live in the age of social media and digital dominance, and it is increasingly commonplace for a technician to make an employment decision based on a company’s online reputation. Fleets must develop best practices that help to successfully recruit and retain qualified and motivated technicians. A commitment to quality and a focus on responsiveness will ensure your shop stays on top of the needs of your fleet.
Number Three: A Proactive Program
Safety should make up the backbone of any maintenance program, with a focus on preventative repairs being the spine that makes up that backbone. If your program is set up correctly, your shop should not see the vehicle between each preventative maintenance checkup.
What does this mean in practice? At an operational level, your shop should be doing everything to prevent road failures and garage visits. Any type of out-of-service repair activity should be avoided. The key to this is ensuring your maintenance program is proactive, which is something we’ve talked about in the past.
Keep your preventative maintenance parameters as tight as possible and measure changes, failures or problems within the system. Proactive maintenance is key to keeping vehicles on the road and costs down.
Number Four: Shop Quality
If you want to ensure your vehicles are properly maintained, you must keep an eye on shop quality. Use metrics and performance indicators to determine how well your preventative maintenance program is doing.
There are four critical steps to ensuring shop quality stays top-notch:
- Track the number of times a task is repeated, the quality of your preventative maintenance program, and standard repair times across the fleet.
- Use field activities to follow work inspections, which can be used to evaluate expectations and training opportunities.
- Use garage score cards and operational reviews to ensure improvements in your maintenance process.
- Repeat steps 1 – 3 to ensure quality is not only achieved, but consistent and ongoing.
Number Five: Customer Service
You may be asking yourself: What does customer service have to do with a great maintenance program? Well, a lot. First, consider your truck drivers. The people who operate your vehicles are essentially internal customers. Getting them involved in the day-to-day maintenance of their vehicles is critical to ensuring those vehicles don’t take unnecessary trips to the shop.
Furthermore, consider your partners. If you want to keep your client relationships solid, you’ve got to keep your vehicles maintained. Make sure you are identifying pain points in the process, developing custom solutions, and consistently delivering on expectations.
Number Six: A Focus on Data
We live in the age of big data, which means successful fleets have become more data-driven than ever before. Maintenance operations must have the discipline to both capture and use the data available to them to analyze, act on, and improve repairs.
Integrated data must be accessed throughout the process. The following questions should be asked as part of your data management program:
- Does the data show your vehicles are being properly serviced?
- Are repair schedules being adhered to?
- How many repairs are happening between scheduled service dates?
- Are your fleet vehicles being cycled properly?
- Are you spending too much on maintaining fleet vehicles relative to the revenue they bring in?
- Are fleet repairs consistent across the fleet?
In the end, integrated data management can help fleets find pain points, but also discover ways to improve overall operational readiness. To make a fully informed decision, motor carriers must have access to the right data.
Number Seven: Management Buy-In
Getting the buy-in from your fleet technicians is important, but it is equally as important to make sure the people at the top have bought into the program. Managers, who themselves used to be technicians, are critical to the success of a motor carrier’s maintenance program.
Are your managers able to provide advice, training, and guidance to your people? They need to be able to help your shop technicians provide accurate, safe, and quality work completed to the proper specifications.
Management also makes critical decisions that impact both cost and safety. In order to ensure continuous improvement across operations, while increasing uptime and reducing costs, management cannot be left out of the loop.
Number Eight: Limiting Outside Spend
Eliminating breakdowns and improving fleet performance should be done in-house, quickly, and efficiently. If your shop is instituting a bumper-to-bumper preventative maintenance protocol, you should be able to avoid costly external spends.
Your team must have the right skill sets and be the proper size to accommodate your entire fleet. Is your shop manager reviewing the most common outside spend? Is the spend based on a skill that can be brought in-house? Do you have any vendor downtime that correlates to their bill rates? Whatever the answers are, you’ve got to verify that it makes financial sense to outsource shop work or bring it in-house.
By evaluating managed outsourced expenses and eliminating the potential for additional downtime, your fleet can both bring these services in-house and save money. The last thing you want is an expensive call back because the work was not done correctly the first time.
Number Nine: Parts and Pricing
The question is this: Should you go with aftermarket parts or OEM equipment? To go with original equipment comes with additional costs. Will the cost be worth it? Fall back on the data and look at the parts you are procuring for your fleet. Use a blended approach to find the most inexpensive parts for the application.
Focus on cost reduction, decreased downtime, and acquisition. You also want to make sure the right part is available for the job. Are you using the part based on application? Try to create categories for aftermarket parts, depending on what part of the vehicle they are on.
Number Ten: Warranty Costs
Have you considered recouping some of your upfront costs by entering warranty information into your fleet management system as soon as the vehicle goes into service? There is an incentive to discovering warranty recovery, and that’s your bottom line.
Are you rewarding your technicians for discovering warrantable repairs? You save money when you don’t have to spend it on a part that could be replaced under warranty. This also prevents unscheduled repairs.
In the end, this is just a roadmap. To transform your maintenance program from good to great, you must examine it from all angles. Identify challenges, find solutions, and keep your technicians engaged, and you can be sure your vehicles will be on the road generating revenue when you need it most.