A Simple Guide to Fleet Maintenance Software

April 14, 2020

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Key Takeaways

Learn how a telematics solution with fleet maintenance tools can help your company implement a maintenance schedule, increase the health of its vehicles, and save your business money.  

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A fleet’s operations rely heavily on its fleet vehicles to accomplish their goals, whether that’s transporting people or goods, or performing a service. In many cases, the success of your business also depends on meeting or exceeding customer expectations. In order to deliver a high-quality customer experience, it’s important that your vehicles are well-maintained so your clients don’t become subject to delays caused by breakdowns. 

But if you don’t have visibility into when your vehicles need a tune-up, it’s possible an unanticipated maintenance issue might crop up. Without a proactive and preventative maintenance system in place, vehicles are more likely to break down unexpectedly, which can often require costly emergency repairs. 

To help keep your fleet in working order, it’s important for your fleet to have a maintenance schedule in place. Read on to learn how a telematics solution with fleet maintenance tools can help your company implement a maintenance schedule, increase the health of its vehicles, and save your business money.  

Why is maintenance important for fleets to manage?

Fleet maintenance costs have been rising over the past 12 months in the trucking industry, mostly due to more highly-complex vehicle systems and rising material and labor costs. 

To help manage these costs, fleet managers are turning to telematics software to provide in-depth insights into the health of their fleet. Because fleet management software, like Samsara, pulls engine data directly from a vehicle’s OBD port, it can provide your fleet with information about your vehicle’s health in real time. Samsara can also notify you with alerts based on mileage or engine hours, so you can schedule a maintenance check-up before there’s an unexpected issue. 

In this way, fleet maintenance software solutions can help you effectively implement a preventative maintenance plan to help you avoid problems before they occur.

Here are three ways a preventative maintenance plan can help your fleet:

  1. Vehicle health and lifespan: A well-maintained vehicle will last longer and experience less downtime due to preventable issues. 

  2. Safety: A vehicle that has not been checked and properly serviced presents a danger for drivers and the public. Blown tires, bad brakes, or other potential maintenance operation risks can be costly to fix and at worst, cause accidents and injuries. 

  3. Bottom line: Every unscheduled visit to the shop or major breakdown can cost a company money in repairs. Implementing a preventative maintenance schedule can help you get ahead of those major repairs. 

How does a fleet maintenance system work?

To help monitor and analyze your vehicle and equipment maintenance needs, fleet maintenance software like Samsara works to detect maintenance-related data directly from the engine. It can then report it back to a dashboard that’s accessible to your business. These systems can analyze groupings of vehicles for trends, taking into account vehicle type, regional needs, and other variables.

Reports on engine hours, mileage, potential battery failure, and vehicle diagnostic fault codes can all be sent to you at regular intervals, and alerts can be set up to monitor concerns specific to your fleet. 

For example, if your fleet is concerned about idling in excess it can create an alert that will notify you when a vehicle idles more than a specified time. This can help your fleet decrease instances of idling across your vehicles. Or, if your vehicles are only making it to the shop when there’s a serious issue you can set notifications to alert you when vehicles are due for service based on mileage.

Additionally, some fleet maintenance software solutions also offer a mobile app.This can allow drivers to remotely perform inspection reports, communicate issues, and request services.

What can fleet maintenance software do?

Fleet maintenance software can help your fleet be more productive in many ways. Here are some of the leading ways it can help:

  • Streamline maintenance workflows: Monitoring and managing your vehicle’s maintenance needs can be complicated. As vehicles age or accumulate mileage, preventative maintenance helps keep them running for as long as possible. Because the routes and needs of each vehicle in your fleet can vary, vehicles don’t always fall into a neat maintenance schedule. That’s why it’s important to adopt a fleet maintenance solution that can help you keep track of all your vehicles, taking into account their individual mileage and usage to manage wear and tear. 

  • Save time: Responding to maintenance issues takes time but setting up custom alerts can help you stay on top of vehicle health, so you rarely face a situation where a vehicle is unexpectedly in the shop, instead of on the job.

  • Avoid breakdowns: When vehicles are properly maintained, you can avoid dealing with unexpected breakdowns caused by low oil, worn tires, and more. 

  • Reduce idling: By carefully monitoring your vehicles, you can understand which drivers are accountable for idling in excess. Not only will this help your fleet reduce fuel use, but it can provide an opportunity to coach drivers on idling best practices. 

  • Ensure proper maintenance for regional fleets: If you operate nationally, you may have some vehicles operating in sunny San Diego, while other trucks are driving in snowy conditions in Minnesota. Making sure your vehicles receive maintenance and services based on their regional needs is important. Fleet maintenance software can help you understand what is happening on a vehicle-basis, so you’re not applying the same maintenance schedule to vehicles operating in completely different climates. 

  • Perform vehicle inspections: Drivers are required to perform pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections and vehicle walk-arounds before operating a vehicle. Fleet maintenance software and associated mobile apps can streamline this process. Reducing inspection time and paperwork can also help motivate your drivers to perform these essential tasks, while also better preparing them for a DOT inspection.  

  • Predict problems before they occur: By monitoring vehicle systems, fleet maintenance software can help identify a problem before it occurs. If you can charge or replace a low battery before a driver gets stuck at their first drop-off, you are reducing vehicle downtime and saving money that would otherwise go toward wasted wages and service calls.

  • Enhance communication: A flat tire, dead battery, or other maintenance issue can take a long time to fix. This can cause your driver to spend hours at the shop waiting for these repairs to be completed. Immediate communication between the vehicle and back office via software allows you or a dispatcher to respond to a concern immediately. You can then either direct your driver to a local shop or send help, as needed. Certain fleet maintenance management software, like Samsara, also let you create a dashboard view (or user type) specifically for your shop. This allows your maintenance team to keep track of all the work orders that need to be done and gives admins visibility into how the shop is performing as well as the vehicle’s maintenance history.

Choosing the right fleet maintenance software 

Fleet maintenance software can be a huge help to your operations, but there’s a lot to consider when you’re selecting the right fleet maintenance software for your fleet. Implementing a solution can require a significant initial investment, both in time and money, so it’s important to make sure you select the best solution for your fleet’s needs.

Here are some key things to consider when evaluating software: 

  1. Your overall fleet size and vehicle mix. Consider both the number and type of vehicles in your fleet. Both factors can limit the scalability and options that some fleet maintenance solutions offer. 

  2. Your fleet operations. Consider whether all vehicles return to base each day, or if some drivers are on the roads for weeks. Do your drivers operate on extended routes on the road for hours, or do they drive shorter distances, often idling for extended periods? These and other variables impact when and where your vehicles will require maintenance. 

  3. Solution capabilities. You may not be able to implement all components of a fleet maintenance software program right away. Most systems have a learning curve, and it’s smart to work any new solution into your workflow over time. But be sure that the solution you use will be able to grow with your operation and that it offers the capabilities that you need now or might need in the future.

  4. Your return on investment. Be sure that the amount you are saving with fleet maintenance software outweighs the total costs. But remember, true savings can take time and effort to accomplish, so be willing to put the time into any fleet maintenance solution you choose.  

  5. System integration. Making sure that all your existing systems or software can work together is helpful. Some fleet maintenance software solutions have an open API so you can connect to your most used existing systems.

  6. Pilot your options. Many solutions will offer a pilot or trial program that allows you to test their software before fully committing. Once you have narrowed down your options, invest the time to make sure that it truly meets your needs. 

  7. Ease of installation. Not all fleet management solutions work the same, and some require hours of vehicle downtime, technician training, and more. Others require little more than a simple plug-and-play device connected to the vehicle’s OBD-II port. 

Managing fleet maintenance with Samsara

Without a successful fleet maintenance plan, you can quickly lose control of what’s going on with your fleet. Regardless of your fleet size, real-time vehicle diagnostics and preventative maintenance scheduling can help you decrease vehicle downtime and maintenance costs. Here are three ways Samsara features can help you streamline your maintenance processes and increase vehicle uptime:

  1. Use real-time engine data to monitor the health of your fleet. Preemptively check fuel levels on your dashboard before the next job, or make sure vehicles are in tip-top shape to ensure passenger safety.

  2. Set up a Vehicle Faults Alert that notifies you the instant an engine fault occurs. Understanding the details can also help your team diagnose problems remotely and respond appropriately. If a vehicle needs to be serviced immediately and can’t finish the shift, this alert can keep your drivers safe while quickly notifying customers and employees that there’s been an unexpected change to the schedule and that there will be a new ETA.

  3. Streamline and automate your vehicle maintenance workflow by giving your mechanics access to your Samsara dashboard so they can make decisions in real time. Sharing information like maintenance records with your service team will also help the entire team stay up to date on maintenance issues so there’s never a question about whether a vehicle is cleared for duty. Keeping your maintenance information up to date will also help reduce time spent on data entry in the future. 

To learn more about how Samsara can help your fleet stay on top of preventative maintenance management as well as GPS fleet tracking, reach out for a free trial or demo today.  

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