Giving your preventative maintenance program a checkup

Published in the October 2017 issue of Fleet Affiliation

With any operation, it is imperative to look at procedures to ensure they are working optimally. Preventative maintenance (PM) is often categorized as, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” As technology changes, and subsequently truck design, an effective PM program will change as well. A concrete PM program reduces downtime and keeps repair costs to a minimum. Poorly defined programs and policies are expensive — in terms of time and money. Periodically reviewing and optimizing PM programs can reduce costs and increase a fleet’s efficiency.

More than an oil change
Many people who do not understand fleets often equate a fleet’s PM program with a personal vehicle’s stop for a quick lube. They fail to understand the cost associated with a quality program as compared to time and money savings.  First, any organization’s PM program should begin with the manufacturers’ recommended and required maintenance — then build from there. Fleet managers should assess several areas in order to create a successful PM program.

Big data
Data is often the building block of cost savings. Vehicle design typically begins with data. Additionally, it plays a critical role in defining a PM platform. The first question to consider: Are you collecting the right information to make educated decisions? For example, a record indicating “suspension work” is not detailed enough. Records need to include condition and a correction, allowing fleet managers to begin looking at trends. The records should include, at minimum, the vehicle’s make and model, date and mileage at time of service, and a list of specific components that were serviced.

Analyzing data
All the data in the world is useless until it is analyzed. Data sitting idle can lead to lost opportunities. Taking time to examine data can lead to cost savings in a PM program. Data revealing unscheduled maintenance required between PM intervals is a red flag. It is imperative to identify trends. If there are inclinations of particular failures on certain vehicles, this is an indicator that something should be adjusted to a PM program.  In addition, look at vehicle operating environments and unscheduled repair trends. One generic PM program will not work efficiently for all vehicles in a fleet.

Predictive maintenance
Big data can also assist fleet managers with predictive maintenance. With many moving parts operating in harsh environments, components eventually wear out and fail. Using your specific fleet data, you can calculate component’s average service life. For example, if your data is showing that after 85,000 miles, specific component X on vehicle Y fails, a PM schedule could be built to replace component X at the scheduled service prior to the predicted failure. This equates to one less breakdown and one less unscheduled service call — in turn reducing downtime and unscheduled expenses.

NTEA member fleets also have access to our technical services division who can help them with weight distribution calculations, chassis specification issues, and other similar questions.  An NTEA fleet membership is for your entire organization and is extremely cost effective.  Small fleets (100 or fewer work trucks) can avail themselves of all of the NTEA’s services, including both engineering and regulatory questions for only $300 per year.  For larger fleets (over 100 trucks) the annual membership fee is only $600 per year.

Attention fleet managers: You may have recently received a link to NTEA’s annual Fleet Purchasing Outlook Survey. Please set aside less than 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire. If you did not receive it, and would like to participate, please contact NTEA Senior Director of Fleet Relations George Survant at 248-479-8191 or