Data science

How Fleet Managers Can Simplify Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is essential for keeping a fleet on the road. By using a maintenance schedule and regularly inspecting essential vehicle components, fleet managers can extend the lifespan of their fleet vehicles and reduce unplanned downtime.

While preventive maintenance prevents costly repairs in the future, it can be both time-consuming and difficult to schedule in-the-moment. For managers, knowing how to streamline this maintenance approach will make it easier to avoid disruptions without making inspections or repairs less effective.

1. Digitize Paperwork and Scheduling
Administrative work can be one of the most time-consuming portions of preventive maintenance. Every inspection or repair generates paperwork that must be logged and stored properly to create effective records of maintenance.

Digital solutions can make storing, accessing, and analyzing this information much simpler. Support staff and mechanics can generate templates for common repairs using information from previous work, streamlining the process of documenting maintenance.

Once all information about the fleet is properly stored in the system, managers and technicians will be able to see at a glance all fleet vehicles and upcoming repairs, plus an overview of the business’s maintenance backlog. Having this information stored in one location will make it easier to track the movement of the fleet and forecast maintenance needs.

This technology can also simplify scheduling and planned downtime. By integrating a fleet management system with the scheduling system, fleet managers can more easily catch potential schedule conflicts and better plan maintenance-related downtime to minimize disruption.

2. Train Drivers
Effective maintenance practices can go to waste if drivers don’t know how their behavior can preserve fleet vehicles.

Harsh driving, for example, isn’t just dangerous. It can also have a real impact on vehicle health. Harsh braking can wear out brakes and trigger a vehicle’s automated braking system, potentially causing it to fail earlier. Harsh acceleration can reduce a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Idling is bad for the environment, can be in violation of local anti-idling ordinances, and may result in an under-lubricated engine, which can cause a wide range of problems in any vehicle.

Training fleet vehicle operators to drive in a way that minimizes these behaviors can reduce a business’s need for maintenance. For example, drivers should know how to cut down on their fuel use and facts about fuel efficiency, like the fact that idling uses more gas than shutting off and restarting an engine. They should also know how to avoid harsh braking and acceleration, as well as the impact these behaviors can have on their vehicle.

Often, vehicle telematics systems and tools like electronic logging devices (ELDs) include features that help managers monitor for harsh driving, idling, and other unwanted driver behaviors.

A dashcam, for example, connected to certain ELDs can monitor for distracted driving, hard braking, reckless turning, and speeding. Most telematics systems can detect idling and automatically alert drivers and managers.

3. Maintain Part and Equipment Inventory
Keeping a part and equipment inventory that’s up-to-date will streamline maintenance. Most preventive maintenance involves the same few common replacement parts — like a new oil filter, new battery, or new belt. If a fleet is mostly made up of the same types of vehicles, managers can keep the right spare parts on hand to reduce repair time and maintenance costs.

With a regularly updated inventory record, the maintenance team will be able to instantly see if they have those parts in stock and plan maintenance without having to manually check part storage. This can make it easier for a business to further streamline preventive maintenance.

This inventory system can also assist technicians and managers in culling obsolete or expired stock. These items will take up storage space, clutter workspaces and can make finding the right part more difficult.

Digital inventory solutions can make this process easier. Barcoding essential items and equipment, for example, will allow mechanics or support staff to quickly perform inventory counts and update equipment status in an inventory tracking system.

4. Perform Regular Tire Pressure Checks
Prioritizing certain maintenance tasks can prevent repairs and simplify checks down the road. Regularly checking tire pressure is probably one of the most important ones — tire pressure affects a massive range of vehicle characteristics, including handling, rate of tire wear, rate of suspension wear, and fuel economy. All of these factors can influence driver safety — handling or suspension issues can pose serious risks to drivers — and may require premature maintenance or fuel stops.

Changing air temperature can also raise or lower tire pressure, meaning tire pressure will change over time, even without a leak. Regular air pressure checks prevent underinflated tires and the risks they can come with.

Automatic tire inflation systems, which bundle together gauges and inflators, can make the process of regularly checking and filling tires more convenient if a business’s fleet management team currently relies on separate devices.

In addition to regular tire pressure checks, fleet managers can also use digital solutions to track tire pressure across the fleet. Modern vehicles often have tire pressure sensors that monitor the current pressure in each tire. A telematics system with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) can help fleet managers and other staff access this data remotely and provide alerts when tire pressure for any fleet vehicle falls below a certain level.

5. Review Maintenance Data
A regular review of maintenance data will take time, but it’s the best way to spot recurring bottlenecks and process issues at a business.

For example, it’s not unusual for maintenance practices to generate process waste — like the waste generated when a poorly performed repair leads to additional work on a vehicle down the line. Identifying and removing the conditions that caused the poor repair will prevent these mistakes in the future.

Making maintenance records easy to store and access can help make this review a little simpler. If fleet managers know where all essential maintenance data is, they and their team won’t have to spend as much time prepping for the review.

The Right Practices Can Streamline Preventive Maintenance
Preventive maintenance is the gold standard for vehicle upkeep, but it can be both costly and time-consuming. Finding ways to streamline maintenance without sacrificing repair quality will help any fleet manager make their preventive maintenance strategy more efficient.

Digital maintenance and fleet management solutions are often useful in streamlining maintenance operations. Driver training and prioritizing specific types of maintenance — like tire pressure checks — will also be helpful.

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