Be sure to choose a provider that specializes in FHWA inspections, diesel and gas engine diagnostics, suspension and steering, and transmission/driveline maintenance specific to work trucks and...

Be sure to choose a provider that specializes in FHWA inspections, diesel and gas engine diagnostics, suspension and steering, and transmission/driveline maintenance specific to work trucks and trailers.

Photo: AWP Safety

In today's fast-paced business environment, keeping a safe and functional vehicle fleet on the road is a tall task for any company. What often gets overlooked is that adhering to strict preventive maintenance (PM) schedules makes it much easier to minimize your vehicle’s out-of-service rates and costs.

Over the past 12 months, a thoughtful approach to preventive maintenance has helped cut out-of-service rates in half for AWP Safety’s own fleet of thousands of traffic safety vehicles. Supported by driver training and fleet management technology solutions, the service process for employees is further streamlined through establishing national contracts with a variety of partners across the country, helping to ensure maintenance is timely, thorough and conducted by technicians trusted to perform the work.

In this article, we touch on PM best practices for work trucks and how national contracts help to facilitate efficient operations.

Steps to Avoid Emergency Repairs

Strict preventive maintenance is the cornerstone of maintaining work truck fleets.

By implementing best practices such as developing a comprehensive plan utilizing fleet management software, training and empowering drivers, leveraging the latest technologies, and establishing full-service partnerships with qualified mechanics, fleet managers can optimize vehicle performance, extend longevity and enhance safety.

Embracing a preventive approach fosters predictable maintenance cycles and makes work trucks more likely to be consistently reliable when needed.

No. 1 Developing a comprehensive PM plan

This plan should include recommended service intervals, routine inspections and a list of components to monitor. Consult with vehicle manufacturers and mechanics to tailor the plan to your fleet's requirements. The right fleet management software also makes tracking schedules easier, generating automated reminders and providing instant data on vehicle health, streamlining operations and creating a robust repair log.

Regardless of the software platform you choose, the important thing is that maintaining detailed records such as inspections, component replacements and costs enables precision tracking of fleet performance, early identification of worrisome trends, and the data to make informed decisions.

No. 2 — Training and empowering drivers

Drivers play a crucial role in fleet maintenance and should be mindful to report any unusual sounds, vibrations, or warning lights. Drivers should also receive comprehensive training on basic vehicle inspections, reporting procedures, and maintenance tasks to play an active role in preventative care.

This includes a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) to be completed daily for any commercial vehicle in operation. Federal Law 49 CFR 396.11 and 396.13 and enforced by the United States Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration specified that the DVIR aims to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities related to poor vehicle maintenance.

No. 3 Leveraging the latest technologies

Technology is also helping fleet managers better control their vehicles and manage maintenance requirements by preventing unexpected repairs. AWP Safety has specifically improved fleet performance using Derive VQ efficiency technology that seamlessly reduces vehicle idle rate without impacting ventilation or heating performance.

The technology can also govern speed and adjust automatic transmission parameters to minimize fuel usage along a driver’s route. The result is a fleet that consistently operates within the manufacturer’s parameters, that consumes less fuel and is less likely to experience premature wear and tear.

No. 4 — Establishing partnerships with qualified mechanics

Collaborating with reputable repair shops or certified mechanics who specialize in work truck fleets is equally critical to proper preventive care. At AWP, our constant mission is protecting the motoring public with a special focus on keeping our drivers and their vehicles safe on the road.

And while quick-service maintenance such as oil changes, tire repairs and basic inspections has its time and place, the reality is that express services tend to fall short when it comes to ensuring the long-term reliability of work trucks. Full-service maintenance, on the other hand, offers a comprehensive approach addressing not only routine tasks but also a complete, scheduled examination of crucial systems and components.

Scheduling professional preventive work truck maintenance helps to avoid emergency repairs. - Photo: AWP Safety

Scheduling professional preventive work truck maintenance helps to avoid emergency repairs.

Photo: AWP Safety

Seeking Full-Service PM Providers

To ensure all work truck maintenance visits are conducted meticulously, businesses should consider establishing national contracts with a variety of trusted partners across the country. This approach offers the advantage of consistent quality and oversight as full-service contracts generally provide a standardized set of maintenance protocols and expectations across locations.

These contracts often require technicians to undergo standardized training and adhere to specific guidelines for individual fleets, ensuring a higher level of professionalism and expertise than is typically provided by quick-lube services.

Full-service contracts also facilitate streamlined, proactive scheduling of maintenance opposed to waiting for issues to arise and best position companies to negotiate favorable pricing terms due to the volume of work promised. In fact, savings can be significant compared to the variable pricing structures typically encountered at quick-lube destinations, potentially saving large fleets hundreds of thousands of dollars or more annually.

Setting Service Benchmarks for Fleets

Regular service intervals provide an opportunity to inspect work trucks for signs of wear, damage and potential issues. Skilled technicians can identify minor problems before they escalate into major repairs. This is why AWP adheres to a strict 5,000-mile OR 200-engine-hour OR six-month service schedule — whichever comes first — for all traffic safety vehicles.

Frequent service is crucial for spotting issues such as leaks, worn-out belts and loose connections early, and ensuring that essential components such as filters, fluids, and lubricants are clean and functioning optimally.

This also lets fleet managers plan by knowing, for instance, that a vehicle that travels 15,000 miles annually will need to be serviced at least three times throughout the year, meaning visits can be strategically scheduled with minimal disruption to operations.

As another rule of thumb, AWP aims to perform 80% of vehicle maintenance according to the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. In other words, no more than 20% of service and repairs should be unscheduled over the life of a vehicle. Adhering to manufacturer guidelines is essential for preventing potential disputes over warranty claims and helps ensure that the vehicle operates safely and dependably within its intended parameters.

Take Time to Prevent Repairs

Developing a comprehensive PM plan is vital for work truck fleets aiming to maximize efficiency, minimize downtime and reduce operational costs. By establishing a comprehensive schedule, conducting routine inspections, documenting maintenance data, training drivers, utilizing technology, and partnering with trusted full-service providers, work truck fleets can operate smoothly and contribute to the success of their respective industries.

To ensure fleet longevity, it is advisable to establish a partnership with a specialized full-service maintenance provider who understands the specific needs of these heavy-duty vehicles. Investing in quality maintenance practices ultimately pays dividends in improved vehicle uptime and increased customer satisfaction when jobs stay on schedule.

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About the Author: Bob Adamsky is the director of Enterprise Fleet for AWP Safety. AWP Safety coordinates work zone projects requiring the use of sophisticated traffic control devices and vehicles in combination with services administered by certified protectors. This article was authored and edited according to WT editorial standards and style. Opinions expressed may not reflect that of WT.