We’ve heard it all our lives: time is money. And in the trucking and fleet industries, this saying rings especially true.
Let’s say you’re a transportation company shipping produce across the country. If even one of your semis breaks down while out hauling a 57-foot load, the odds are stacked against you that someone will arrive in the nick of time to service the problem and get the truck moving ASAP so that the goods are delivered on schedule. There could be traffic delays, weather delays—even job delays in just getting the trailer hitched and rolling in the first place. When a vehicle or other valuable asset is rendered useless because of a mechanical failure at the worst possible time, there might be a whole team of people impacted who’ll need to be contacted so that the proper adjustments are made to get everything sorted out.
Know what that means? Unexpected costs—and possibly avoidable ones, at that.
Fleet assets are only as good as the money they bring in, so if they’re not moving, they’re costing you. What preventive measures do you have in place? Does your fleet management program automatically schedule daily servicing of your fleet or track the maintenance schedule as recommended by the manufacturer? If the answer to any of these is no, or you’re just not sure, there’s a good chance you’d benefit from putting a fleet management system in place.
Read on for six quick tips on how fleet software reduces downtime, saving you money in the long run.
Fleet management software helps put a dollar amount to what downtime is costing you
You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. The same idea applies to the true cost of downtime. We all know that downtime affects the bottom line. But do you know how much? It’s hard to improve something when you don’t know where you stand. A good fleet management platform will help you track how long vehicles and other fleet assets have been out of service over the course of their lifetimes so that you can put a number to that downtime.
There are two things you can look at that will help you measure the impact of downtime and get you started down a better road. The first is the actual time that your assets are out of operation. This can be seen as a percentage of time that each vehicle is down. Overall downtime is calculated by taking the total number of hours that all vehicles are down, divided by the total number of operational hours across your fleet. This will be your overall downtime percentage. The goal is to reduce this percentage as much as possible.
The second thing you should be watching is what downtime is costing you. Just how every asset brings its own value to your company, the same goes for downtime—depending on which asset is out of service. Knowing which vehicles or assets are worth more and bring in the most value will help you prioritize what needs to be repaired or replaced first. Fleet management software can help you focus your efforts and mitigate any losses.
You can automate manufacturer-recommended maintenance scheduling to extend the life of your fleet assets
This one is less of a tip and more of a starting point when it comes to extending the useful life of your fleet. Every vehicle comes with a manufacturer's recommended schedule of maintenance. This is a bare-bones schedule of when to service various aspects of the vehicle. Typically, a manufacturer’s schedule follows the number of miles the vehicle has driven, but for more heavy equipment assets, it can be based on total hours of operation.
But following manufacturer maintenance schedules aren’t just a first step to minimizing downtime. Generally speaking, they’re required to qualify for manufacturer warranties. These maintenance schedules are based on averages across all vehicles of that type. While they may be starter examples of the basic maintenance of your fleet requires, they are critical to keeping things running.
You can also automate preventive maintenance schedules with fleet management software to avoid unnecessary downtime
The third tip in this list is to automate your preventive maintenance schedule as much as possible. Preventive maintenance includes the manufacturer's recommended maintenance as well as any other type of maintenance that needs to be performed regularly. This includes oil changes, fluid refills, filter replacements, and changing tires, just to name a few. By putting these tasks on a schedule, you help eliminate the possibility of them being forgotten or overlooked.
Preventive maintenance schedules should also be tailored to each asset. When following an ongoing schedule, you decrease the likelihood of any unexpected breakdowns and can extend the lifecycle of your vehicles. This also brings in a level of predictability—you’ll know when work orders are coming up.
Fleet maintenance software better supports regular inspections so every asset gets attention
It’s true—not all maintenance assignments can be predicted. The important thing is to conduct regular inspections of your fleet and watch for wear and tear. Some industries require DVIRs or Daily Vehicle Inspection Reports. But even if your industry doesn’t require them, conducting regular inspections can help you notice issues before a breakdown actually occurs. Like many things in life, preventive measures cost less in the long run and take less time to perform than a full-on, comprehensive servicing.
Ideally, the fleet management software you use for inspections should auto-generate work orders that can also be scheduled for ongoing services, depending on what line items failed the vehicle inspection. These work orders then become part of the planned maintenance schedule for the next time that specific vehicle is brought in.
You can conduct more repairs in less time by using fleet software
One of the most counter-intuitive tips to reduce fleet downtime is to make better use of the downtime that ends up happening anyway. All vehicles must be brought in for maintenance at times. When an asset is in the shop for repairs, effort should be made to perform as much maintenance during that time as is possible. This could be as simple as pairing an oil change with a filter or tire replacement, like many repair shops do.
This also applies to unscheduled downtime. If a breakdown occurs, forcing the necessary repairs to be done, good fleet management software will help you look to see if there’s any other work that’s coming due soon. By simply checking what other work is planned in the near future, you can reduce the amount of downtime that a particular vehicle will have by getting ahead of schedule and conducting multiple service orders at the same time.
By providing you with key performance insights, fleet software can help you make decisions that minimize downtime
When recording the time a vehicle remains out of service, you collect data that can be analyzed to gain insights into your operation. You may notice that certain assets experience more downtime than others—this indicates a replacement might be in order. You might notice a pattern of specific causes that may be resulting in more breakdowns. When this happens, you can put preventive measures in place to minimize these occurrences.
Analyzing downtime helps you set goals and measure your progress toward those goals. Your goal might be as simple as aiming for a specific percentage of downtime, or perhaps as complex as reducing the number of service hours spent on one vehicle. Either way, with the right tools, you’ll be well-equipped to understand the overall health of your fleet program.
Fleet management itself can be a challenge but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult or confusing. If you’re looking for a good place to start, having a maintenance management platform is an important first step. You’ll be able to measure downtime, set preventive maintenance schedules, conduct inspections, take a look at overall fleet performance, and much, much more.