Of the 16 million new cars and light trucks sold annually in the U.S., nearly 20 percent are fleet vehicles.  For the rental car companies, government agencies and private businesses who buy them, these vehicles are crucial for business operations.  While businesses have long debated the financial merits of leasing versus buying vehicles, there are other ways to control costs.  Preventive fleet maintenance is a proven way to extend the life of your vehicles and avoid unnecessary costs and downtime.  Here are four ways you can commit to fleet maintenance and how it can help you meet your goals.

Create a comprehensive fleet maintenance checklist 

If employees are the heart of your organization, then your fleet vehicles are the lifeblood.  As a manager, ensuring your fleet always stays in top condition should be a priority.  And the easiest way to do that is by creating a fleet maintenance schedule for each vehicle.  This checklist should be comprehensive, covering the inside and out of the vehicle.  While oil and tire replacements may already be top of mind, fleet managers should inspect other areas consumers seldom check.  Horn, transmission, and suspension system are just some of the items highlighted in our preventive maintenance checklist.

Your fleet maintenance schedule should include important dates related to any government regulations, parts replacement, and regular inspections.  It’s been reported that performing proactive maintenance on fleet vehicles could lower fuel costs by 10 percent or more.  By instituting a policy on fleet maintenance, you could avoid costly unplanned repairs and interruptions to business.

Encourage your drivers to take part in fleet maintenance

While fleet maintenance is an important part of a manager’s job, you shouldn’t be the only one responsible for compliance.  Drivers and techs are in and out of these vehicles daily, so it’s important that they play an active role.  Your fleet maintenance schedule should include regular check-ins with drivers to discuss any issues they’ve found.  This could be anything from a tear in the seat fabric to a strange noise coming from under the hood.  In its story on developing an effective fleet maintenance plan, Founder’s Guide stressed the importance of reporting those issues immediately.  In addition, that outlet proposed drivers receive training on how to look for key vehicle performance issues.  This should empower drivers to give feedback if something doesn’t look or feel the way it should.

As the proverbial boots on the ground, your drivers receive insights that an office-based worker may not.  That first-hand experience is valuable knowledge to pocket and could be part of an ongoing dialogue about each vehicle’s condition.  By working together to keep fleet vehicles in good condition, these cars and trucks may encounter fewer problems.  A well-kept fleet may be less likely to have vehicles unexpectedly go out of commission.  As a result, drivers and managers may be able to improve performance metrics by sticking to a fleet maintenance schedule.  You could even find that a proactive fleet maintenance plan brings your team together.  Plus, your drivers may very well appreciate the facetime with management through those regular check-ins.  And if there is ever a problem with a vehicle, they will appreciate prompt action to protect their safety with a repair.

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Slice and dice your fleet maintenance data 

As with any measurable business outcome, benchmarking and reporting should be a part of your fleet maintenance plan.  You can start by detailing how compliant you’ve been with your fleet maintenance schedule in the past.  Among other things, this can include replacing parts on schedule, repair time, and any vehicle outages.  In its tips to improve routine maintenance scheduling, one service relationship management provider suggested thinking hard about reporting metrics.  That provider named miles traveled and fuel usage as data point examples, but recommended managers define metrics unique to them.

For a business with a fleet that travels within a small footprint, miles traveled may not be important.  For instance, a body shop may regularly benchmark and report on the condition of the interior in its courtesy vans.  That company may routinely drive customers to and from the shop, so the customer’s comfort is most important.  Whatever your interests, reporting also allows you to find where you may be under or over-servicing.

Learn how to save more every year: Fleet Management Cost Reduction: 4 Simple Measures

Automate with a fleet maintenance schedule tool 

Automation has done wonders for managers in lightening the fleet maintenance load.  Luckily, there are many software and service providers who make complying with a fleet maintenance schedule simple.  These cloud-based systems can store important maintenance dates by vehicle, even triggering managers with alerts when service is due.  Simply put, these automated programs are more efficient and can greatly improve vehicle usage.  For companies that have team-driven trucks or assign more than one driver per vehicle, automation can help with optimization.  By using the software, you can schedule maintenance around peak times or when you know you need a full fleet.  Some solutions can even predict problems you may have based on driving history and usage patterns.  But the best perk of using a digital fleet maintenance system might be not having to worry about filing paper records.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a mechanic to stay on top of fleet maintenance.  By investing in scheduling software and being consistent with inspections, your vehicles are likely to last for years.  You can even reduce fleet spend with proactive maintenance in the same way you handle your own health.  Putting in just a little bit of work upfront may save you from future downtime and costly repairs.

For more information, check out EnSight+ Field Service Software today.

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