In this fast-paced world of truck fleet management, minimizing downtime is a top priority. Every minute a truck is out of commission costs you time and money. To effectively reduce downtime, fleet operators need to implement a combination of strategies that address various aspects of fleet management.
From improving driver training to embracing technology and data-driven approaches, there are several key elements to consider, all of which are discussed on this page.
The Price of Fleet Downtime
The most obvious consequence of downtime is lost productivity. This translates to missed deadlines, delayed service, and perhaps most damaging of all, reduced customer satisfaction.
Repair and Maintenance Costs
When your trucks are out of action, the first thing on your mind should be getting them back on the road as quickly as possible. This won’t be for free, of course. So you’re already losing money from downtime, and now you’re also forking out the costs of labor, diagnostics, and repair parts.
Increased Insurance Premiums
Repeated accidents, breakdowns, or claims will only send your insurance premiums one way, and it isn’t down.
Reputation and Brand Damage
The most costly effect of fleet downtime is its damage to your overall reputation and brand image. Delays, unreliable service, and missed connections are the easiest ways to lose customers, and word of mouth about your issues will soon spread.
Ways to Minimize Fleet Downtime
Now that you know why you should avoid fleet downtime, it's time to look at strategies you can implement to ensure your fleet stays on the road for as long as possible.
As the old saying goes, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Routine maintenance is an essential part of keeping your fleet healthy. It is designed to nip any potential issues in the bud before they develop into more expensive and time-consuming problems down the road.
This could involve inspections of critical components such as tires, lights, fluids, and belts. Or replacing components at the end of their lifecycles rather than waiting for them to fail. Be sure to keep up with the manufacturer-recommended maintenance intervals to ensure you’re getting the most out of your heavy-duty truck’s components.
Utilize Fleet Management Software
Fleet management software is a type of computer software that fleet managers can implement into their operations. Using advanced reporting capabilities to manage various aspects, including inspections, preventive maintenance programs, and shop operations, can streamline everything in your day-to-day life.
Firstly, it can help you keep track of previous maintenance that your fleet has undergone. This can be sorted either by the entire fleet or by specific vehicles. You used to have to keep track of these things on paper, which can easily be lost or damaged. Fleet management software allows you to store all this data in the cloud and access it from anywhere on any device.
You can automate any preventive or routine maintenance tasks based on recommended or regulatory intervals, meaning that you will never miss an appointment again.
Fleet management software also includes vehicle tracking options, which, along with driver behavior, can help monitor overall fleet performance. This includes fuel consumption and engine diagnostics.
Being able to recognize trends and issues causing downtime is invaluable. Using this data, you can implement a predictive maintenance schedule, which has been proven to be more effective than preventative maintenance.
Improve Driver Behavior
Did you know that an accident results in 20% of all fleet downtime? Although some downtime is unavoidable, statistics like this prove that others aren’t. You can have all of the schedules in place and the world's best software at your fingertips, but it’s all pointless if your drivers aren’t following best practices on the road.
Forceful or sudden gear shifts, aggressive lane changes, abrupt stops, speeding, and sharp turns are all examples of driving that will increase stress and wear on your truck’s components.
Improving fuel efficiency can help not only your bottom line when it comes to fuel expenses but also your downtime. Driving on an empty or close to an empty tank can increase strain on your engine, making it more susceptible to failure. Vehicle tracking devices are a great way to monitor driver behavior. Geofencing features allow you to set the most efficient routes, sending an alert to the driver and fleet manager when this is broken. Speed, fuel usage, and driving habits can also be monitored to ensure they align with your expectations.
Finally, when it comes to driver behavior, emphasize common sense. During a pre-trip inspection, if the driver notices an issue, make sure they report it. If a warning light appears on their dashboard, don’t ignore it. Train them to be aware of signs of component failure and what to do in these situations. And most obviously, do not overload your truck, no matter how tempting it may be to throw a little extra on.
Prepare For Downtime
Downtime is going to happen at some point. That doesn’t mean that you can’t utilize this time to your advantage, firstly to perform any required checks and maintenance.
Once a truck starts to go down on the road, make sure your drivers know exactly what to do and how to find a local mechanic. This could be anything from basic repairs to emergency towing services; whatever the issue, time is of the essence.
Stocking spare parts and having replacements ready can save you time waiting for them to arrive. Hiring extra vehicles during busy times and maintaining a network of rentals with a fleet maintenance contract for when your fleet is out of action can help keep your operations running smoothly.
Downtime is an inevitability. But you can take steps to keep your fleet on the road with the tips we’ve spoken about in this article, as well as make the most of a bad situation and use this time as an opportunity to check and maintain your fleet so it is in peak condition when operations resume.