The value of a maintenance management program for your truck fleet is undeniable. Improved useful life, reduced expenses, reduced vehicle downtime. But how, exactly, do you get a solid program up and running?
Eight tips for creating a maintenance management program are shared, plus advice on updating your current program.
1. Gather All the Maintenance-Related Information
First, understand your fleet.
“Knowing the average age and condition of the units gives a great head start on estimating initial ‘up-to-speed’ repairs and maintenance costs,” said Joseph Shinn, technical manager: medium/heavy-duty maintenance Merchants Fleet.
Additionally, make sure you know the difference between scheduled maintenance and unscheduled repairs.
“Understanding the difference between these two types of occurrences in the vehicle’s lifespan and being proactive rather than reactive can assist in budgeting, controlling spend, and increasing overall fleet health,” Shinn added.
2. Define Your Fleet's Goals
Before you begin to build the framework of a new maintenance management program, clearly define your fleet’s goals and objectives.
“What’s the challenge you’re trying to solve? Is maximizing uptime to keep vehicles on the road your top priority? Are you focusing on minimizing the total cost of ownership? Or perhaps most likely, a combination of several goals to varying degrees? With these objectives in place, you can begin to tailor the parameters of your maintenance strategy to support the goals of your business best,” said Joe Smith, maintenance account executive for ARI.
With your goals clearly defined, you can then explore partnering with maintenance vendors and potentially a fleet management company (FMC) whose services best align with your objectives.
“This step is often where the size and scale of your business comes into play. Often, most organizations will greatly benefit from partnering with an FMC who can help implement a consistent strategy across all your fleet vehicles,” Smith added.
Self-managing fleets should also consider whether their vehicles are centrally located or dispersed over a large area.
“This will influence where the vehicles are serviced and with which service vendors the fleet should build a relationship,” said Jamie Grams, national service department manager for Enterprise Fleet Management.
3. Get Buy-In
Have buy-in from all stakeholders involved in fleet.
“It cannot be overstated how critically imperative a fleet manager’s recognized authority is within an organization, especially when implementing a maintenance program for the first time. It is also important to solicit the feedback of the drivers and key stakeholders within the organization who historically have been involved with fleet decisions,” Shinn said.
And, make sure you have executive sponsorship.
“Driving change in any organization is hard, so make sure your leadership is setting expectations,” said David Bieber, director, sales & strategic markets for Mike Albert.
4. Plan Ahead
Managing your fleet’s maintenance shouldn’t be a guessing game. It should be well planned and thoroughly thought out.
“Plan and start with a checklist of aspects of management that should be included in a program,” said John Wuich, CAFM, vice president, Strategic Consulting Services (SCS) for Donlen.
If a fleet plans to manage maintenance themselves, it’s best to outline a preventive maintenance plan that aligns with vehicle manufacturer recommendations.
“Vendors may recommend services too early or too often, or they may recommend maintenance that isn’t completely necessary. It’s always good to have a checks-and-balances process in place,” said Grams of Enterprise Fleet Management.
5. Train Everyone
Ensure you have a robust training program, both at program inception and ongoing, for newly hired employees.
“Drivers must understand the expectations and know how to use the program for it to be successful,” said Bieber of Mike Albert.
Don’t just focus on drivers, “train the technicians and managers on preventive maintenance procedures,” said Cindy Crawford, Ryder group director of maintenance and engineering.
Crawford recommended creating written processes and procedures for inspections.
6. Have the Right Tools
Also, be sure you have the right equipment for the job.
“Utilizing the correct vehicles and equipment for the business is critical. Properly spec’ed vehicles will perform better, last longer, minimize the need for unscheduled maintenance, and increase safety for the operators,” Shinn said.
There have been tremendous innovations in telematics technologies related to maintenance.
“Those technologies have driven improvements in all aspects of managing equipment performance and related impacts on maintenance. When considering the creation of a maintenance management program, not only look at the tools made available to you but also who is making the information available to you. Typically, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the equipment being used has the most robust information and tools because it has access to the most data and is most knowledgeable about what the telematics data means. Most third-party providers may not get all the information available that an OEM would,” said Lee Brodeur, vice president of leasing operations and contract services for Mack Trucks.
7. Analyze Data
Analyzing existing fleet data is crucial to ensure long-term success with a maintenance management program.
“If you don’t have a historical data set to look back on, then it’s imperative that you set that up quickly so that you’re able to identify opportunities to reduce cost and increase uptime. You should ask yourself, is what my company doing today providing the results needed?” said Mark Malanca, manager of Truck Department, Mechanical and Maintenance for LeasePlan USA.
8. Be Prepared for Change
A well-developed maintenance management program needs to be dynamic in nature to adjust the maintenance procedures during your fleet’s life.
“The creation of such a program should be supported by proper tools and developed in partnership with the truck OEM to secure the necessary level of product knowledge and expertise. Otherwise, building and maintaining such a program could become a timing consuming and costly task,” said Evandro Silva, senior manager Connected Innovation for Volvo Trucks North America.
A new program involves a review of current processes and changes that could cost additional money upfront.
“It is important to trust the process and to realize that the program is not costing more but allowing some of your vehicles to be serviced properly. That may mean the inclusion or exclusion of certain items that had been approved previously, If you trust the company and program you are working with and have patience in the changes that are being made, the program will truly work. In no time, you will see a positive decrease in downtime and cost and an increase in efficiencies and productivity,” said Tony Hernandez, team lead – truck maintenance at Emkay.
Tips for Overhauling Maintenance Management Programs
While the subject-matter experts have varying opinions on when a maintenance management program should be updated, they did agree on one thing: review it with regularity.
“New technology gets introduced every day in every field, not just fleet management. It is hard to pinpoint the exact time an update is required. The best way to keep up with new technology is by having a solid management program in place and functioning with a reliable FMC and vendor network that continually invests in staying close to the forefront of new technological advancements,” said Shinn of Merchants Fleet.
Your fleet management partner should include a full review of the program and the data captured as part of their account review.
“Use this time to make adjustments that facilitate increased control and reduced costs,” said Bieber of Mike Albert.Review current programs anytime new brands or models are added to the fleet.“When new brands or models are introduced, it’s a best practice to review the manufacturer recommended maintenance for these new vehicles and adjust maintenance guidelines accordingly,” said Grams of Enterprise Fleet Management.
Remain agile and assess and refine your maintenance management strategy based on your business’s continued evolution and your fleet vehicles’ performance.“It is important to be realistic about the rate at which your business can effectively manage change; you don’t want to overreach. Focus on incremental, manageable changes. At the very least, commit to a regular cadence (quarterly, annually, etc.) for reviewing the performance of your maintenance program,” said Smith of ARI.
Indeed, a program can — and should — be tweaked at any time. “It may be determined that an additional vendor or added vendors are needed to support vehicles. Similarly, under-performing vendors may be removed from a network,” said Wuich of Donlen.
With the constant changes and advances in technology, there is almost a continuous need to review any maintenance management program.
“When selecting the tools and software to support a maintenance management program, a fleet should make sure the program is integrated with a connected vehicle data solution and with a suite of analytics tools, such as machine learning and AI. This will allow continuous improvements to be implemented over time, minimizing the need for constant changes in the program,” said Silva of Volvo Trucks North America.
Some advice? “Set goals. Define metrics to measure success. Assess gaps. Take steps to correct,” Wuich said.
Listen to all parties involved in helping you and gather information before making an informed decision.
“Not all fleets are created equal, so not all fleet programs should be either. The utilization and geological environments are where you will be a valuable asset when making your decision on service intervals and intricacies for your fleet. No one knows your business better than you. If you do a lot of idling, stop-and-go driving, or utilize the vehicles in extreme weather, it is important that these factors be taken into consideration when putting a program in place. Keep in mind to utilize the tools you have in place. Consider miles, hours, and time when putting a program in place,” said Hernandez of Emkay.
When reviewing your plan, consider performing a SWOT analysis to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the current maintenance plan.
“Some examples of questions to include are what has worked well and what has not? What changes are expected to occur in our business or industry? What laws, regulations, or fuel prices might present a threat, and how might we prepare a strategy for this in our new maintenance program? What reporting will help me management the fleet more effectively?” said Grams of Enterprise Fleet Management.
And, start to utilize new technologies available whenever feasible and possible.
“Once a customer is using these software tools, it is important for fleet maintenance managers to ensure those software tools are updated on a regular basis. With advancements in technology and the ever-increasing range of sensors, ignoring a software update can lead to larger repairs and extended downtime later,” said Brodeur of Mack Trucks.
Review your unscheduled maintenance data (breakdowns, repeat failures, etc.) to understand their opportunities to improve.
“Start with the basics. A good quality PM program is where it starts. Find and fix it before it breaks,” said Crawford of Ryder.
If you’re looking to enhance your maintenance management program, start with your data.
“Examine what your data is trying to tell you. What are the challenges facing your fleet? What factors are driving costs? Perhaps you’ll find that vehicles should be cycled out sooner to help you avoid catastrophic failures or maybe units are breaking down too often because they’re over-utilized or under-spec’ed for their intended job function. This insight will empower you to begin making better, data-driven decisions that will help you achieve tangible improvements,” Smith added.
Avoid trying to tackle all maintenance challenges simultaneously or make too many adjustments all at once.“If you pull too many levers and change numerous variables, it will likely be difficult to determine what is - or isn’t - working. Instead, focus on a few key metrics or pain points, address those trouble spots, benchmark your improvements, and build on those successes,” Smith said.
But at the end of the day, no changes will have any impact if no one knows how to employ them.
“Whenever you make any changes, ensure you retrain everyone involved, especially your drivers to ensure they understand how it impacts them,” said Bieber of Mike Albert.