Maintaining fleet relationships

Published in the April 2020 issue of Fleet Affiliation

The news is filled with many consequences of COVID-19. Operations have been forced to realign using a different set of parameters and processes. On the front line, fleets must continue. Although the core operations and priorities may have temporarily shifted, trucks and equipment must continue to run. As a fleet manager, you may be wearing more than one hat. Communication methods, supply lines and vehicle needs have likely shifted. Priority is to keep staff and stakeholders protected while providing safe, reliable, and clean equipment to all users.

Having a plan
Essential equipment has a higher urgency for uptime. It is time to review preventative maintenance to ensure optimal equipment availability. While it is important not to neglect other fleet segments, it may be beneficial to review and study the current utilization curve. In these unprecedented times, it will likely need to be revisited frequently. Begin by looking at current preventative maintenance (PM) schedules. Many use a time/usage model or a combination of both. Vehicles getting less use are obviously getting less wear. Other vehicles may be seeing more use. For example, stay at home orders have resulted in dramatically increased delivery services and refuse collections. These vehicle types are experiencing an uptick in usage and wear. Adjusting PM intervals (even if it’s on a temporary basis) may be required.

Unforeseen struggles
Social distancing is difficult in a collaborative industry. Paired with supply chain disruptions, it can equate to disastrous circumstances. A communication style shift is important now more than ever. Clear, two-way communication is imperative. Staying in communication within the entire chain is crucial. Users or internal customers are having to make adjustments as well. Communicating limitations may help them adjust operations with suppliers to rank and source critical parts. Many organizations are experiencing pain points, however; they are often more than willing to creative problem-solve in ways that benefit your organization.

Avoid the bubble pop
Eventually, the current situation will change — an important reason to continually monitor operations and adapt. As stated before, employee and safety should always be a number one priority. Changing maintenance schedules does not preclude a fleet from allowing unmaintained (and possibly unsafe) vehicles back in the field. While there is no on/off switch for fleet demands, it is important to stay ahead of the curve. This is where continual monitoring and reactions are crucial to fleets’ core missions.

If you would like to discuss this, or other fleet issues with NTEA, contact Chris Lyon, NTEA director of fleet relations.