The key to asset utilization is improving uptime by reducing downtime. The notion seems straightforward enough, but anyone who's managed a commercial vehicle fleet knows it's not that simple. It's tough to stay on schedule for regular fluid changes, much less for a major rebuild. Paid loads tend to take precedence over taking the time for routine maintenance.
Of course, the more information you can capture to automate the visibility into pending, due and overdue preventive maintenance (PM), the better you can manage that routine maintenance. The trick is organizing the data. Here are some things to consider when walking that tightrope.
- Consider your metrics: Miles traveled, engine hours, fuel usage, or simple calendar time — all are valid routine maintenance scheduling parameters and event triggers. The question is not which measure is best; the question is which routine maintenance issues are you associating with the measure? And do you have a data-driven understanding of your procedures?There may well be nothing wrong with scheduling your fleet's routine maintenance the way the company always has; chances are good that some really smart folks handled the program in the past. But no matter how bright and experienced the previous generation was, or even the managers in charge of fleet maintenance just 10 years ago, trucks and vehicle systems have changed radically since 2007.Engines, transmissions, suspensions, reefer units, trailers and tires — you name it — all are much more integrated and electronically controlled. The good news is that those sensors can be monitored and logged, thanks to the modern magic of the data bus protocol.Indeed, telematics solutions that can provide the needed meter data are rapidly becoming an essential uptime tool.If you're not capturing performance data, and comparing it to your service events and your routine maintenance plans, you're missing an important piece of the asset utilization puzzle.
- Consider utilization: Keeping a truck on the road 24/7 is not an option for everyone, but for some applications “slip-seating,” or assigning more than one driver in rotating daily shifts in the same vehicle, is a viable option. And, as with a team-driven truck, routine maintenance is at once difficult to schedule and all the more important in these highly utilized assets.Particularly with the ever-tightening limits on a solo driver's time behind the wheel, time is more valuable than ever.Essentially, when it comes to planning your routine maintenance, make sure you have a clear alignment between asset availability and driver availability. You don't want to get into a situation where there's a mismatch, because that lost productivity comes out of your bottom line and out of that driver's paycheck — to say nothing of its effects on customer service.
- Consider secondary measures: Changes in an asset's average mpg, typically a significant decline, indicate a costly problem. The trick is isolating which part of the system is failing.First things first, however: Are you collecting the data you need to make the call?And do you understand the signs well enough to know if it's a problem with driver behavior or an engine issue? Has the route changed, or the brand of lubricant?Has your routine maintenance plan been followed? If not, why not? If so, does the PM schedule need to be re-evaluated? Do you or your service provider perform regular inspections? Are pre- and post-trip inspections making it into your system of record?Likewise, without a robust data capture and analysis program in place, remedial correction, even after you've identified the source, is problematic.
Focusing on your metrics, utilization and key secondary measures provides better insight into PM, which will in turn helps fleet managers improve routine maintenance scheduling.