High Maintenance: How PMs can help prevent breakdowns

You heard it here first, folks: Repairs are expensive. Especially roadside repairs.

Well, OK, you probably didn’t hear it here first. You know firsthand how pricey repairs can get. But the TMC/FleetNet Vertical Benchmarking Program tracks roadside repairs and their cost, and they’ve gone up for the fourth straight quarter.

How much did they go up this time? Twenty-six percent.

That’s pretty wild.

That’s also a lot of money no matter what kind of part you want.

Why the increase?

FleetNet’s executive VP of marketing, Jim Buell, gave three potential reasons for the skyrocketing rates. The newer equipment on modern trucks is often more complex and requires more time and effort from the technician. The parts these techs use have gotten more expensive, too – partially because of their complexity, but partially due to tariffs on parts imported from China. Some of these tariffs are up to 30% – which shops have to pass on to customers.

The Big Kahuna in all this, of course, is the heavy-duty tech shortage that we keep bringing up. The fewer techs we have, the more valuable the existing ones become, and the more their rates go up.

(We don’t begrudge them this, by the way. Everyone’s gotta make a living! But it is making roadside repairs more difficult and expensive.)

How can we stop this?

Fleetnet ran this survey to better understand why breakdowns were happening and how to get ahead of them. Really, some breakdowns happen, but they don’t have to happen.

We think one of the keys to halting these breakdowns is our old friend preventive maintenance.

The FleetNet report was designed to help fleet owners understand why some breakdowns were happening – and how to get ahead of them. The data it collected grouped trucks by vertical (tanker, truckload, and less-than-truckload) and detailed how vehicles within those verticals fared. The data also indicated which truck system needed the repairs – think cooling, brakes, powerplant, etc.

This sort of information is invaluable to just about everyone in the industry, from shop owners to fleet owners. If trucks are breaking down more often, or at specific mileages, or have a particular part going wrong, that’s a pattern – and we can get ahead of patterns.

Preventing breakdowns through preventive maintenance

This is where preventive maintenance comes in.

The entire point of preventive maintenance is to stop breakdowns before they can happen. It’s the repair or replacement of parts that show wear and tear, or other types of damage, but are still functioning for the time being. If you ignore this type of maintenance, you run the risk of a breakdown further down the line.

As we’ve stated above, breakdowns are expensive; Buell remarked that getting someone to meet you on the road for a repair can cost four times what it would if you had that same repair in your shop.

Option A: Your truck’s preventive maintenance schedule indicates it needs a part replaced for $300. You authorize it. The part is replaced and your truck gets back to work. The whole operation takes about four hours.

Option B: Your truck’s preventive maintenance schedule indicates it needs a part replaced for $300. You shrug it off and say “Next time.” Maybe money is tight; maybe you want the truck out there sooner rather than later.

The part fails. It may even do some damage to surrounding parts as the rest of the vehicle tries to compensate. Your truck breaks down 100 miles from the nearest repair shop. A mechanic is dispatched. They poke around. The new part will need to be shipped. The mechanic will have to get it and install it. We’ve already established they’re expensive due to the shortage. Suddenly you’re looking at forking over $1200+, and that’s without factoring in days of lost freight time.

You can’t get back that time and money.

Preventive maintenance might have kept that money in your wallet where it belongs.

So how do you get in on the PM awesomeness?

We’re so glad you asked.

Tracking software rocks

A lot of fleet owners and shop managers like the idea of preventive maintenance, but are put off by the thought of tracking it. That’s a lot of paperwork, right?

Fullbay has stepped up to make life a little easier. Among its many other features, it handles and organizes PM work so you don’t have to. All you need to do is enter the necessary information on a vehicle when it first arrives, and the software manages the rest from there. If you opt in to using the customer portal, it will even send clients notifications when their vehicles are due for PM work.

We think it’s pretty cool, but we can admit that we’re biased. So here’s a tidbit from one of our own customers: Their shop uses Fullbay as a marketing tool to attract customers who like the idea of PMs but are leery of tracking them on their own.

Save yourself some money and time, and keep your fleet ahead of the breakdown curve. Demo Fullbay today!

Suz Baldwin