the June 2016 issue of Fleet
Most fleet purchasing professionals grasp the
basic principles of process improvement, such as understanding the
value of reviewing current asset performance, identifying operational
deficiencies and improving design. Often the concept of maintainability – the
ease at which a unit can be maintained or repaired – is far from the lime light.
Improvements to design are often driven by end user and operator experiences.
There can be a fine line between
maintainability, reliability and durability – as these are completely separate
issues. Usually it’s not difficult to address reliability and durability, as
these commonly include specifying more rugged components. Typically this adds to
the cost, can add weight, or both.
Think ahead, plan for ease of
maintainability into your equipment design can result in lifecycle maintenance
costs. Simplified maintenance design can result in time savings; you will see it
in the bottom line of labor costs for your technicians.
Why is maintainability important? Manufacturers
are also looking at product design efficiencies. As the old saying
goes, trucks are meant to be put together – not taken apart. How often have you
had to remove a half dozen components just to access a specific part? Another
challenge is that work trucks are complex – they often have a combination of
components manufactured and supplied by multiple manufacturers. These may or may
not have been designed to be combined into a single unit. Lastly, manufacturers
may not have an understanding on how the end user will be using their products.
Taking all of these issues into consideration and looking at your vehicle design
can reduce your overall maintenance cost, while adding minimal costs to the
Where to begin
Understanding how operators use (or abuse) equipment is
a critical starting point. You have to get past the idea that operators follow
the intended or designed use and learn about the actual use of the equipment. A
few examples include:
objects on loose wiring harnesses or exposed hydraulic hoses along the wall of a
body compartment or bed area.
anything that can be grabbed near an access step, as a grab handle.
- repurposing grab handles as “D” rings for hanging
anything with a hook or snap.
This is why it becomes critical to understand
how equipment is actually being used. It may be beneficial to go out into the
field and evaluate actual versus intended use.
In the past, we’ve discussed becoming a fleet advocate.
Now it’s time to utilize some of that headway. Before making changes, talk to
your maintenance team – as they are in the best position to offer specific
maintenance suggestions. Get the departments that use the equipment involved.
Educate them on vehicle design and the importance of maintainability. Ease of
maintenance can directly result in lower downtime, which is normally positively
received by the using departments.
Finding that sweet spot
With all complex truck designs, it is nearly impossible
to have the perfect truck. Working with your maintenance staff and the actual
operators, you should be able to incorporate a decent amount of design
considerations when looking at longterm maintenance requirements while
minimizing operational issues.
If you want to learn more about the process of
developing safe, efficient and productive work vehicles, consider NTEA’s two day
on-site specifications training program. This economical program
covers multiple aspects of developing vocational truck specifications ranging
from basic payload and weight distribution analysis to suggested best practices
for the actual writing of specifications. Each class can accommodate up to 25
participants; by partnering with other fleets in your area, you can share the
costs for even more savings. Learn more .
If you would like to discuss this or any other
fleet issue with NTEA, contact NTEA Director of Fleet Relations Chris Lyon at