Is downtime inevitable or preventable?
Delivering items on time in the most cost-efficient and productive manner is vital for any transportation business. To enable this, all vehicles in the fleet must be running at optimal condition.
But what about those unexpected breakdowns? What are the real costs of unplanned downtime and maintenance? How can I prevent unplanned vehicle downtime?
The real cost of unplanned vehicle downtime for your business
The real cost of unplanned downtime encompasses so much more than only the emergency repair costs. It impacts directly on many aspects of the business.
Reputation and Credibility
One element which is sometimes overlooked when analyzing the cost of vehicle downtime is the impact on the reputation and credibility of your business.
When you’ve committed to a delivery date for certain goods, the customer is reliant on the delivery to be on time as planned. Vehicle downtime affects the productivity of the fleet and could result in late or non-delivery. Penalties could be incurred for late delivery and incentives for early delivery will be forfeited.
This negatively impacts your business’s credibility and customers could consider using other companies in the future. It will also deter customers from referring your company to others, reducing your future earning potential.
Retrieval and Repair Costs
Not only are these costs unplanned and unbudgeted, but there are also many hidden components that result in huge expenses.
A breakdown can occur anywhere en route to the destination. Additional funds must be spent on retrieving the vehicle to be taken in for repairs. As breakdowns impact the overall productivity and efficiency of the fleet, emergency repairs must be done to restore the vehicle as soon as possible. Emergency repair rates are significantly higher than planned repairs and will eat into your maintenance budget.
Additionally, depending on the repair time, you might have to make use of a rental to fill the void. The cost of the rental must be absorbed into the budget.
Should other vehicles in the fleet be able to accommodate the additional deliveries, this will result in additional wear on those vehicles and will impact their maintenance costs and schedules as well.
When a vehicle is out of service, the driver can’t do his or her job, but the company still has to pay them their full salary. Additional manpower might also be required to move the cargo to another vehicle.
According to industry estimates, an out-of-service vehicle costs between $850 – $1000 per day (FleetOwner, 2 March 2018) and downtime expenses can be eight times higher than anticipated.
How to reduce fleet downtime and increase fleet productivity
It is part of the normal operations for any transportation company to plan and budget for vehicle maintenance and downtime. These costs and maintenance are planned for each vehicle. What is of the utmost importance, is to prevent breakdowns. Unplanned downtime impacts the entire fleet’s productivity and efficiency, resulting in significant expenses.
Downtime fleet management is essential and therefore, it is important to invest in a preventive maintenance program to reduce fleet downtime and costs, improve reliability and productivity, and ensure on-time delivery, every time.
What are some ways I can prevent my fleet’s downtime?
Select the right vehicles
Downtime fleet management relies on choosing vehicles that are purpose-built for the job they have to do. Do research to identify high-quality vehicles with low maintenance needs.
Overloading or over exerting your vehicles will lead to excessive wear and will increase vehicle downtime, both planned and unplanned. It is also advisable to select newer vehicles that are equipped with technology to proactively alert you when possible issues arise. This will enable planned maintenance and reduce breakdowns and unplanned downtime.
Preventive maintenance program
Downtime fleet management is at the core of a preventive maintenance program (PM program).
The PM program sets guidelines for when vehicles need to be serviced. Through regular services, maintenance crews can identify possible issues and proactively rectify these. This will help prevent breakdowns and the high cost of emergency repairs, minimize the effects on operations and reduce fleet downtime.
Surveys indicate that fleet vehicles in a PM program have approximately 20% fewer maintenance-related downtime days (Chevinfleet, 25 January 2021: The real cost of vehicle downtime for your fleet).
Minimize repair time
It is important for effective downtime fleet management that vehicles are out of the repair shop as quickly as possible. It is vital to have a well-established and efficient maintenance process.
Schedule maintenance in advance and make sure that all spare parts are available before the vehicle is taken out of service. Confirm with the maintenance facilities that everything is in place before the vehicle is sent for maintenance.
Do regular inspections
It is essential that drivers receive proper training regularly in terms of caring for their vehicles.
They must be vigilant in monitoring the vehicle’s condition. Drivers must check all their dashboard indicators continuously and act immediately if a problem is indicated.
They should also be trained in the refueling process to protect internal systems. An added benefit is training in basic vehicle inspection to proactively identify bad tires or engine sounds indicative of a possible issue.
Vehicle monitoring systems can help analyze data and send alerts, but drivers are the first line of defence as they operate vehicles on a daily basis. It is a good idea to create an incentive program that will encourage the right behavior in terms of monitoring, reporting and correcting possible issues. This will have significant benefits in the long run as maintenance can be planned and costly breakdowns avoided.
There must be an easy-to-use reporting process in place where drivers can communicate any possible issues timeously and can request the support needed to prevent vehicle downtime.
Accidents are a large contributor to unplanned fleet downtime. Not all accidents can be prevented, but the probability can be reduced by training drivers in safe driving behavior.
Additionally, vehicle tracking can be used to track behavior. This will help identify at-risk behavior such as excessive braking, speeding, and making sharp turns. Plans can be implemented to rectify this unsafe driving behavior, reducing the possibility of accidents and ultimately fleet downtime.
Can I prevent fleet downtime on my fleet or is it inevitable?
Although planned fleet downtime for scheduled maintenance will always form an inherent part of any transportation organization, the amount of unplanned fleet downtime can be reduced significantly by planning in advance and using the right fleet management tools.
What fleet management tools are useful?
Having an effective preventive maintenance program in place will reduce unplanned downtime. However, the effectiveness of your preventive strategy will be enhanced even further by monitoring your vehicles, drivers, and maintenance schedules.
One of the best tools at your disposal to help with managing fleet downtime is GPS fleet management software. This software collects data on each vehicle and driver and sends it to a central database. The information is analyzed and used as input in preventing fleet downtime. The software tracks and analyzes:
GPS and accelerometer data are used to track vehicle speed and at-risk driving behavior such as excessive braking and making sharp turns and sudden stops. Poor driving habits will be highlighted and corrective actions can be implemented.
Analyzing downtime data
Fleet management software tracks downtime and identifies patterns and recurring failures pertaining to either the vehicle or the driver. This will inform the preventive maintenance strategy and highlight retraining needs for specific drivers.
You can use your fleet management software to set reminders for specific maintenance intervals, be it mileage or hours of use.
These reminders will ensure adherence to the maintenance plan. Spares can be ordered in advance and the maintenance facilities will be ready for the repairs. This will result in optimal time in the shop and ensure the long-term integrity of your vehicle, thus reducing unplanned fleet downtime.
Track repair data
A fleet management software system tracks and stores the detailed history of each vehicle and identifies when the vehicle will be due for future maintenance.
Determine vehicle life cycle
As fleet management software tracks the entire maintenance history of a vehicle, it can be used as an indication that the asset is nearing its end of life and needs to be replaced.
Partner with downtime fleet management services
It is important for a transportation company to partner with downtime fleet management services to create an economy of scale, cost reduction and ensures quality and efficiency of repair work.
Downtime fleet management services have well-established nationwide premier vendor networks. These networks can be leveraged to reduce maintenance costs and deliver prompt, high-quality work.
Downtime fleet management services render comprehensive support that includes tire repairs and replacement, mechanical breakdowns and repairs, fuel services, and towing and recovery services. Thus streamlining the entire downtime fleet management process.
Planned fleet downtime will always be part of your life when you are managing a fleet. Vehicles must be maintained properly to ensure asset integrity and reliability.
Downtime fleet management can be done by implementing a sound preventive maintenance strategy, supported by driver accountability , investing in the latest fleet management software and partnering with reputable downtime fleet management services. This will minimize downtime and maximize fleet productivity.
Always deliver on time and keep driving your fleet forward!