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Fleet Vehicle Maintenance and Repair

Fleet vehicle maintenance is an essential expense for companies that operate and maintain their own fleet of vehicles. This maintenance is an essential part of the businesses operating expenses. Cutting corners on maintenance of fleet vehicles will do more harm than good not just to the fleet but the service crew, overall net operating expenses, and in extreme cases, fines and criminal charges can be brought up if someone is injured or killed by said equipment.

In 2010 a 14-year-old boy from Poquoson, VA was pulled into a wood chipper and died. His uncle/legal guardian owned the company and wood chipper the boy was using.¹ Numerous safety stops and shields were not installed or inoperative. This coupled with poor technique led to the boy’s demise.

It is for this reason and many other guidelines need to be set and maintenance schedules need to be strictly followed. These items will provide a clear-cut definition of what to do, when, and why. Hard and fast rules about what to replace or rebuild should be considered at the onset. To accurately set these rules a time study should be performed to measure the amount of time it takes to complete either a task on a single component or piece of equipment. Once the time factor is determined an analysis of labor and materials cost should be considered. This alone should determine whether a component or item is rebuilt, replaced or replaced and rebuilt at a later time. An example may be a fuel pump or starter. In addition to this, the fixed cost of operating the equipment multiplied by the amount of down time added to the dollar amount the equipment grosses in the same amount of time should be applied. What you will have is and equation like this:

Time down: 5 hours (Labor cost: repair rate@$150 per hour – Fixed operating cost per hour: $75 + Gross profit from equipment per hour: $500) + Materials: $1000

5(150-75+500)+1000=$3875 Total amount spent for one repair

Routine maintenance is the least amount of effort to keep fleet vehicles and equipment is service. Criteria for the maintenance is key. Changing the oil based on hours instead of mileage works with fleet vehicles because they are more likely to spend more time idling than acquiring miles. This will keep the cost of replacing capital equipment down. Another example is to inspect and check all fasteners on every part of the vehicle at every service. Things come loose that you may not expect to come loose. What is performed, when and how will be fleet equipment specific.

Operator use or abuse is another variable. It may actually be an employee that is costing the business excessive amounts of maintenance cost. Labor, parts, and down time cost the company money no matter what the source is.

Tracking or metrics should be two tiers to separate routine maintenance from repairs if the business generates their own work orders. These two tiers should be defined as scheduled maintenance and unplanned repairs. A separate work order should be generated if a piece of equipment comes in for routine maintenance and the discovery is made that the item needs repairs. The purpose of two work orders is to track explicitly the amount of labor and parts each piece of equipment costs to maintain. This may be overkill to some, but to justify purchasing new equipment it is important to know why it is being purchased. The work order history will prove this. If all maintenance has been completed as scheduled and the equipment fails, it may be determined that the piece of equipment in question is not satisfactory for the task. It is at this time a more durable item should be considered and consequently justified if it costs more. A repair history of unplanned repairs may also lend itself to this equation as well as the next. Unplanned repairs may be evidence of neglect, damage or wrong application for the equipment in question. By separating the scheduled maintenance from unplanned repairs, the business has covered the angles to justify replacement, new purchases, or employee training on the fleet equipment.

Everything has a cost associated with it. Know the cost. What type of fleet do you own, operate or maintain? How do you determine maintenance intervals and when to replace components? Are you consistent with these decisions? Why or why not?

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