Keeping Your Fleet on the Road: What is Fleet Maintenance?

Fleet maintenance is a recurring process which ensures fleet vehicles are safe and reliable. Without maintenance, fleet vehicles are at higher risk of breaking down, which are costly to fix. It also means your vehicle is off the road which will affect your bottom line.

If your fleet’s vehicles aren’t regularly maintained, you might find yourself dealing with mechanical issues or worn out parts that affect vehicle and driver safety.

In this guide we’ll take you through the different ways you can maintain your fleet, which include preventative maintenance, predictive maintenance, reactive maintenance, and risk-based maintenance. All of them have pros and cons, and we’ll help you decide which is the best for your business.

Typically, the best fleet maintenance software systems will offer these maintenance tools as part of it's basic package.

We’ll also run through the importance of fleet maintenance and how it might benefit your business, as well as the  pros and cons of outsourcing fleet maintenance.

What is Fleet Maintenance?

Fleet maintenance is the practice of ensuring your fleet vehicles are reliable, safe, and fully operational. When managing your fleet, a preventative maintenance approach is important as it helps to reduce costs and ensure driver safety.

Fleet maintenance typically focuses on various moving parts found on vehicles which are prone to wear and tear and therefore need regular checking. These include the wheels and  tires, brakes, engine and lubrication fluids, and safety features such as headlights. Another key part of fleet maintenance is parts and inventory management.

Your drivers play an important role in fleet maintenance as they interact with the vehicles the most. They should be trained in how to perform daily inspections, and learn to identify any early warning signs with the vehicle so your fleet managers can jump on any potential issues.

The Different Types of Fleet Maintenance

Below we delve into the various types of fleet maintenance, so you can choose the best one for your fleet:

Preventative maintenance

This is a proactive approach which uses manual processes, to eliminate and deal with issues before they lead to accidents, breakdowns, or expensive repairs. Preventative maintenance is suited to large fleets that need to ensure reliability and a smooth operation like delivery services and commercial trucking.

This type of fleet maintenance helps to extend the lifespan of your fleet as it reduces the risk of breakdowns and minimises unexpected downtime. Both of which lead to costly repairs and affect your business’s day to day operation.

Preventative maintenance can be a hassle for small fleets as it requires time, effort, and resources. The additional workload can be a drawback for fleets with limited resources, which is why we suggest predictive maintenance for smaller fleets as it relies on AI algorithms to pick up on potential issues.

United Parcel Service (UPS) is an example of a service which uses preventative maintenance. Operating a large number of fleets, it relies on a program made up of regular inspections, tire maintenance, fluid checks, and scheduled repairs. These preventative measures help UPS meet customer expectations and deliver on time.

Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance is similar to preventative maintenance in that it also attempts to flag potential problems before they happen.  The difference is, predictive maintenance uses AI technology to do this as opposed to manual processes.

This type of maintenance is suitable for fleets equipped with telematics that collect and analyse vehicle data in real-time. While we think predictive maintenance is great for small businesses as it means less manual processes, it’s also good for complex or high-value fleets as these fleets typically involve intricate systems with several components that need specialized maintenance. Predictive maintenance can help stay on top of these critical components and reduce the chances of costly breakdowns or big repairs.

The pro to predictive maintenance is that it uses less man-power than other types of fleet maintenance as it relies on AI technology. However, there may be an issue with ensuring data accuracy and proper integration with analytics platforms, especially with fleets that have older vehicles with limited data connectivity. Plus, if the right technology isn’t already in place you’ll have to invest a hefty amount of cash to get the fleet up to scratch for predictive maintenance.

Quartix, a fleet telematics provider, uses predictive analysis and collects real-time vehicle data which is then run through algorithms to detect potential maintenance requirements. To learn more, read our Quartix review.

Reactive maintenance

This type of fleet maintenance carries out repairs or tasks after a breakdown or failure has occurred. Smaller fleets with limited resources use this type of maintenance, as do fleets with less critical equipment where vehicle downtime required to carry out repairs is less impactful to the business.

The pro to this type of maintenance is that it’s initially cheaper as no money or resource is spent on maintenance processes or software. However, it can end up costing you a lot more if you have to deal with costly repairs and downtime that could have been avoided.

Risk-based maintenance

This type of fleet maintenance prioritizes resources towards vehicles and components that carry the most risk if they were to have an issue. Fleets with high-value equipment will often use this type of maintenance, as well as large scale fleets, so that resources are used where necessary.

The benefit to using this type of maintenance is it ensures appropriate resource allocation. However, it can also become a waste of money as it’s a fairly complex system. You’ll need to have an expert in risk assessment and data analysis to ensure the right decisions are made. Businesses that have the capacity to hire and train for this skill-set might do well with this type of maintenance, especially if there is a big need to cut back on unnecessary spending, but a lot of fleets will do much better with preventative or predictive maintenance.

Did You Know?

According to research carried out by Deloitte, predictive maintenance increases equipment uptime by 10 to 20% while reducing overall maintenance costs by 5 to 10% and maintenance planning time by 20 to 50%.

The Importance of Fleet Maintenance

Because fleet maintenance jumps on issues before they become bigger, your vehicle's fleets will avoid accidents, breakdowns, and mechanical issues. This helps to keep costs down and prevents malfunctions in the day to day operations of your business. A smooth fleet means happy customers.

Compliance with regulations and safety standards is also much easier with fleet maintenance as it reduces the chances of accidents and penalties. Fleet drivers must work in line with Hours of Service regulations which outline the maximum number of hours drivers can work without taking a break. Fleet maintenance helps to ensure that scheduling and vehicle maintenance is carried out in line with these regulations to keep both drivers and the vehicle safe.

According to a study by Deloitte, unplanned downtime costs manufacturers around $50 billion per year. On average, predictive maintenance can save businesses around 5-10% on material cost.

The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Fleet Maintenance

While we recommend fleet maintenance, you might not yet be convinced that it’s worth implementing into your business. So, we’ve broken down the benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing fleet maintenance:

The Pros of Fleet Maintenance 

  • Streamlines Operations: Using maintenance tools such as scheduling helps streamline the entire fleet's operations.
  • Improves Fleet Management: Fleet maintenance tools such as predictive maintenance make it much easier for fleet managers to focus on more important tasks rather than having to worry about unexpected breakdowns or repairs.
  • Cost-effective: Aside from risk-based maintenance, using fleet maintenance tools and solutions prevent the need to hire and train staff, reducing expenses.
  • Better Budget Forecasting: Fleet maintenance can help you track and stay on budget much easier as you can accurately plan how much to spend on maintaining the fleet and you’ll experience less unexpected repair costs.

The Cons of Fleet Maintenance 

  • Less Control: When you leave your fleet’s maintenance to tools and algorithms, you’ll have less direct control over the timing and quality of maintenance and repairs. Although, bear in mind that manual maintenance uses up a lot more resources than automation.
  • Dependency: Outsourcing your maintenance to a fleet provider could mean that you become reliant on their software running smoothly to ensure that your fleet managers can run everything smoothly. If there's a hitch with a scheduled maintenance, for example, it could mean less operational vehicles on the road.
Verdict

Fleet maintenance is important for every business with a fleet. It protects drivers, vehicles, and your pockets by ensuring the continued reliability and safety of each vehicle.

We think predictive maintenance is the best types for all fleet sizes as they’re the most effective. We recommend regular maintenance practices even if you don’t currently have a fleet management system, as it will keep your fleet healthy and operational. However, fleet maintenance software is your best bet for streamlined operations and in the long run, is the most cost-effective.

If you’re on the hunt for fleet maintenance software, you can use our free quote comparison tool. We just need a few details about the size of your fleet and your industry to start matching you up with trusted providers. You’ll then be contacted by these providers with obligation-free quotes.

FAQs

What are some signs that indicate the need for immediate maintenance?
Here is a list of signs we think mean you’ll need to carry out immediate fleet maintenance:

  • Warning lights
  • Fluid leaks 
  • Decreased vehicle performance
  • Engine overheating 
  • Uneven or rapid tire wear
Are there any specific regulations or guidelines for fleet maintenance?
Yes, there are the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations which dictate the maximum number of hours commercial drivers can drive their vehicle before needing to take a rest. The HOS regulations are in place to improve road safety by protecting the health of commercial drivers.
What types of fleet maintenance and repairs can be outsourced?
If you wanted to, you could outsource almost everything related to maintenance and repairs, including routine maintenance, repairs, tire servicing, vehicle washes, and software support.
How can fleet management software assist in implementing preventative maintenance?
Fleet management software can help implement preventative maintenance through scheduling, automated reminders, and insightful data. Fleet software can collect copious amounts of data so your fleet managers are able to make more informed decisions.
Written by:
Zara Chechi
Zara is a Payments Expert, specialising in writing about Point of Sale systems. With a Law Degree from City University of London, she has used her legally-honed research and analytical skills to develop expertise in the Business Services world. Featured in FinTech Magazine, she quickly became an expert in payroll, POS systems, and merchant accounts.