A Quick Guide to VMRS

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Ever heard of VMRS?

Here’s a hint: it has nothing to do with virtual reality.

(That was this writer’s bet, anyway.)

It is also not any kind of software.

VMRS stands for Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards, and it’s a universal language used for maintenance recording. It was developed over 40 years ago and is currently under the watchful care of the American Trucking Association’s Technology & Maintenance Council.

Fleets love and adore VMRS, but it’s been slow to catch on in repair shops, hence some curiosity when it gets mentioned. To help clear up some misconceptions, we spoke to the VMRS mythbuster himself: Jack Poster, the VMRS Services Manager at the TMC.

VMRS: The Language, The Myth, The Legend

As ATA worked to improve the industry, something became clear: communication was all over the place. Fleet managers, owners, and everyone else involved needed a maintenance language, a way to speak to each other clearly no matter where they were located or what they were working on.

The ensuing language—VMRS—is a coding convention. It assigns a numeric code to all the parts of a truck and the repair process it might undergo. That means instead of using a manufacturer’s part number, a fleet would use one code for, say, an alternator and another code for a starter. The brand or fitment of those parts doesn’t matter. Code 013, for example, covers brakes.

There are codes for:

  • Brand/Manufacturer/Suppliers
  • Equipment Classification
  • Parts
  • Labor

The code allows a technician, or fleet manager, or anyone else to concisely describe what exactly is going on with any type of vehicle at any given time. Because the numbers that represent a part, brand, or issue are the same across the board, it’s easy for someone who is trained to use the coding to see that a Peterbilt needed a front brake drum repaired last time it was in the shop.

Jack compares the process to musical notes, which are also universal. “You can bring together five people who don’t speak the same language, put some notes in front of them, and they’ll all be able to play Beethoven,” he says.

Who uses VMRS?

Like we said, fleets love VMRS. It’s widely used across a heck of a lot of commercial fleets.

While it was first developed in 1969/1970, VMRS really took off in the 1990s, when fleet maintenance software arrived on the scene. “The firms realized they had an existing language already,” Jack says, “so they licensed VMRS and used it in their software.”

Beyond that, though, Jack acknowledges that TMC hasn’t seen a lot of adoption from independent repair shops. Those who do come to TMC looking for information about VMRS have usually been alerted to its existence by their potential customer base; the fleets they service (or might service eventually) may use or want to use VMRS, which is typically enough to prod a shop into investigating.

Should repair shops use VMRS?

We’ll say it here: If you’re pitching your services to fleets, you can’t go wrong with knowing VMRS, or at least being willing to pick it up.

When you advertise proficiency in VMRS, you’re telling a fleet that you speak their language. While we chatted, Jack relayed the story of a mom-and-pop shop up in Canada that kept fielding questions from fleets about VMRS; eventually they came to Jack, licensed the codes, and have been using it (with great success!) ever since.

A particularly interesting benefit of VMRS is that it allows fleets to spot trends. Because all parts and problems have their universal codes attached, you can easily see where problems crop up. Let’s say an alternator from a particular brand is failing at a rapid pace at lower mileage. If a fleet observes this happening across multiple vehicles, they can try outfitting trucks with a different brand of alternator.

In short, VMRS helps you do away with anecdotal information. If you’ve got doubts about a type of part or a vehicle, you can pull the VMRS codes and see exactly what kind of problems you may be dealing with.

Learn More About VMRS

VMRS isn’t just a list of numbers. Each coded section provides exactly the information you need to know about a truck at any given time, without taking up a ton of space and without resorting to guesswork or opinions.

“Maintenance data has a story to tell,” Jack says. “VMRS gives it a voice.”

Maybe a potential customer has been asking you to learn VMRS codes to work on their fleet. Maybe you’ve only just now learned that it’s not the latest virtual reality fad. Regardless of how you landed here, we hope you came away with a greater appreciation of how a universal language can make it all the easier to share data. If you’d like to learn more, or license VMRS for your shop, head on over to TMC and start exploring!

Suz Baldwin

About Suz Baldwin

Suz Baldwin got her start in the automotive industry, writing and editing for several motorcycle and classic car magazines straight out of college. In the years that followed, she’s written all sorts of copy for brands big and small while consuming enough coffee to paralyze a dinosaur.

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