Maintenance costs are impacted by so much more than those found in the shop. - Photo:

Maintenance costs are impacted by so much more than those found in the shop.


It’s easy to focus on the maintenance shop when looking to reduce maintenance-related expenses. But there are many factors beyond the shop that a fleet manager should look into.

Beyond focusing on cost savings in the shop, there are several ways fleets can reduce their truck fleet maintenance costs.

1. Determine Fleet Age & Duty Cycle    

By determining the age of the fleet, repair vs. replace (RVR) methodology can be employed.

“There are many ways to accomplish RVR, but it basically is a function that compares the repair at hand, the worth of the unit, and the estimated cost of replacement to come to a verdict to repair or replace based on dollars,” explained Joseph Shinn, technical manager: medium\heavy-duty maintenance at Merchants Fleet.  

A truck’s duty cycle will impact many factors, including maintenance.

“The duty cycle impacts how frequently trucks must be maintained. Driver behavior highly affects the duty cycle, which cascades down to maintenance frequency,” said Evandro Silva, senior manager Connected Innovation for Volvo Trucks North America.

2. Know the Cost of Downtime

The cost of downtime is often an overlooked expense.

“Consider the cost of lost productivity, lost revenue, paying drivers to wait for services, and replacement vehicle rentals. Downtime cost can be challenging to quantify, but it’s real. Fleets can reduce downtime by partnering with service vendors who understand the needs of fleets. Institute an effective preventive maintenance (PM) plan to reduce avoidable repairs, and leverage a partnership with a fleet management company who can help to approve repairs quickly, expedite back ordered parts, and support diagnosis of challenging vehicle issues,” said Jamie Grams, national service department manager for Enterprise Fleet Management.

Drivers sitting at the shop aren’t making your company money.

“Ensure your program includes ancillary services that provide roadside assistance, downtime management, and replacement vehicle designed to support drivers and ensure they are behind the wheel — not in the sidelines waiting for services,” said John Wuich, CAFM, vice president, Strategic Consulting Services (SCS) for Donlen.

3. Employ a Preventive Maintenance Strategy    

Pay particular attention to your PM strategy and your fleet’s commitment to adhering to your PM parameters.

“When a fleet has high PM variability, it typically results in significantly higher maintenance costs and increased downtime. Customizing your PM strategy to account for your vehicles’ intended job function, age/mileage, operating region, etc. and holding your drivers accountable to ensure they comply with your PM parameters is absolutely critical to effectively controlling your maintenance spend,” said Joe Smith, maintenance account executive for ARI.

Smith added that an effective maintenance program built on a strong foundation of a comprehensive PM strategy would help keep vehicles on the road, increase the overall lifespan of fleet units, and reduce and stabilize operating costs.

4. Educate Your Operators    

Knowledge is power.

“Having a more informed operator can help reduce costs by reducing fuel consumption, moving violations, accidents, and general wear and tear from unintentional abuse of the unit,” said Shinn of Merchants Fleet.

Many costs can be reduced outside of the shop by implementing a plan to proactively prompt drivers when PM is required. 

“Well-maintained vehicles tend to have fewer costly repairs, so having a strategy in place upfront saves time and money in the long run,” said Grams of Enterprise Fleet Management.

Driver education goes a long way toward positively impacting your bottom line.

“Something as simple as understanding the basics of diesel particulate filter (DPF) regeneration and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) can prevent many trips to the shop to address DPF failures or check engine light concerns. Regular pressure checks for proper tire inflation are another way to reduce cost and downtime. Considering over 70% of tire failures can be attributed to underinflated tires, drivers play a big part in avoiding this cost,” said Grams of Enterprise Fleet Management.

5. Consider Telematics    

It is important to note the role telematics can play in helping monitor vehicle and driver performance.

“With a comprehensive telematics solution in place, you’ll have greater visibility to the vehicle’s utilization, mileage, driver behavior, etc., allowing you to more accurately forecast maintenance trends and help you tailor your PM strategy to the precise characteristics of your fleet,” said Smith of ARI.

6. Look into Alt-Fuels    

Utilizing alt-fuel trucks is often a higher up-front expense, but one that can lead to cost savings in the long run.

“Compressed natural gas (CNG) burns cleaner than gasoline, leaving less deposits in an engine, which leads to less engine oil breakdown and less internal wear and failure. Diesel technology has made huge advancements over the past two decades and continues to be at the forefront of most vocational fleets as a power unit of choice. Diesel units can withstand long idle hours and several hundred thousand road miles, providing a much longer lifespan than their gasoline partners. Electric vehicle technology is rapidly becoming the wave of the future for fleets that are eco-conscious,” said Shinn of Merchants Fleet. “By choosing units based on whole life cost when ordering the fleet can get an accurate picture of true cost during the lifecycle.”

7. Properly Spec All Units    

Properly spec’ed vehicles reduce cost in the fleet by being the right vehicle for the job.

“Proper specification increases safety and reduces abuse, wear and overall maintenance cost and unexpected breakdown cost by being built properly from the start and performing to the needs of the customer,” said Shinn of Merchants Fleet.

8. Get a Handle on Driver Behavior    

Drivers are an essential component of maintenance management and are a big factor outside the shop.“Drivers are key to identifying items on that asset in need of maintenance or repair. Company culture and training along with the importance of proper maintenance and DVIRs,” said Mark Malanca, manager of Truck Department, Mechanical and Maintenance for LeasePlan USA.Driver behavior has a big impact on a truck’s duty cycle, which impacts how frequently a truck should or should not be maintained.“Also, technicians need to have easy and clear access to maintenance operations when performing a maintenance service to ensure the proper maintenance is performed on each vehicle,” said David Pardue, vice president of connected vehicle and contract services for Mack Trucks.

9. Try Out Mobile Services    

Mobile services are growing in use and popularity and can help reduce downtime by bringing the shop to your vehicle.These can range from mobile fuel to maintenance and more.

“Consider mobile services that provide off-hour support of preventive and scheduled repairs. Mobile services can work to reduce driver downtime and overall spend when the value of downtime is considered,” said Wuich of Donlen.

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

Executive Editor - Fleet, Trucking & Transportation

Lauren Fletcher is Executive Editor for the Fleet, Trucking & Transportation Group. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

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