Fleet Vehicle Maintenance: A Comprehensive Guide

July 27, 2020

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Key Takeaways

Fleet vehicle maintenance is essential for keeping your fleet on the road, maximizing profits, and avoiding unexpected costs. The best fleet vehicle maintenance programs combine real-time telematics with preventative maintenance to deliver maximum efficiency. Keep reading to learn how to create an effective fleet vehicle maintenance program—including a 3-step fleet vehicle maintenance checklist and tips for choosing fleet management software.

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What is fleet vehicle maintenance? 

Fleet vehicle maintenance is the practice of keeping your organization’s vehicles in optimal driving condition. Through a combination of planning, diagnostic work, and real-time service and repair scheduling, good fleet vehicle maintenance ensures reliable and efficient performance. It not only preserves the short-term health of fleet vehicles, but also saves thousands of dollars in long-term repair and maintenance costs while preventing costly downtime.

3 ways fleet management software can help you improve fleet maintenance 

Establishing an effective fleet maintenance management program is essential for a company’s long-term sustainability and financial health. Fleet management software like Samsara can help you maximize your existing resources. From engine diagnostic alerts to preventive maintenance scheduling tools, fleet management software can help you predict maintenance needs, reduce downtime, and save money. Here are a few ways that fleet management software can help you improve fleet maintenance:

1. Anticipate maintenance needs, reducing downtime and repair costs

When it comes to fleet vehicle maintenance, it’s best to address issues before they become problems that could seriously impact your bottom line. Last-minute emergency repairs can be up to four times more expensive and cause unexpected downtime, so it pays to invest in a telematics solution that can alert you to maintenance issues in real time.

By providing remote visibility and real-time alerts for engine fault codes, fuel usage, idling, and more, fleet management software can help you anticipate maintenance issues and prevent catastrophic failures from happening. By consistently monitoring vehicle wear and tear, you can plan preventative maintenance and anticipate when unavoidable major repair work will be needed. This can help you create a manageable maintenance plan, minimize unexpected vehicle downtime, and reduce repair costs.

2. Make informed decisions based on real-time DVIRs and fault code alerts

One of the biggest challenges in fleet management is keeping tabs on dozens, hundreds, or thousands of vehicles across different locations. Many fleet managers rely on paper-based driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) to make essential decisions about maintenance services. However, paper DVIRs are inefficient. Once drivers fill them out, they have to make their way back to your office. This can take hours or even days, causing an unnecessary lag in critical fleet vehicle data.

Fleet management software can help you make more informed maintenance decisions based on real-time data. With electronic DVIRs (or eDVIRs) and real-time fault code alerts, you can be immediately notified of any vehicle maintenance issues—including issues with a fuel system, exhaust system, fluid leaks, transmission fluid, engine oil, and more. This way, you don’t need to rely on driver updates to make essential maintenance decisions. Instead, you can make informed, efficient decisions with real-time fleet vehicle data, increasing safety and avoiding more serious repairs in the future.

3. Optimize for the long term

An additional benefit of real-time telematics is access to utilization data and reports. Utilization data can be used to schedule preventive maintenance, know when to bring vehicles in for tune-ups, measure downtime, and even rightsize your fleet. Executives can use fleet management software like Samsara to gain valuable insight into things like when to decommission vehicles, schedule new vehicle purchases, and reallocate equipment within your company or geographic area. Predictive data can also help your company measure progress toward long-term goals and assist in strategic operations planning for both the short-term and long-term.

3-step checklist for improving fleet vehicle maintenance

How can you ensure your vehicle maintenance program delivers the benefits listed above? Follow this three-step checklist to ensure you’re maximizing your investment in your fleet vehicles:

1. Assess and record data on current fleet vehicles 

Before implementing a fleet maintenance program, getting a clear picture of your fleet’s health is essential. Make sure you have data on the following for all your fleet vehicles:

  • Ownership and transaction history (this may include all previous owners, dealers, and the initial manufacturer)

  • Repair and maintenance history

  • Accident history

  • Current mileage on odometer

  • Fluid levels

  • Condition of tires, braking system, cooling system, suspension system, etc.

  • Condition of smaller components, like windshield wipers and seatbelts

  • History of oil changes

  • Most recent DVIR

  • Any current maintenance work orders

2. Establish a consistent maintenance schedule

One of the most important aspects of a successful fleet vehicle maintenance program is a structured maintenance schedule. An effective maintenance schedule should consider:

  • The type of vehicle

  • Frequency of use

  • Operating conditions

  • Accumulation of normal wear and tear

You may want to schedule preventive maintenance based on: 

  • Mileage

  • Time since last service check

  • Hours in operation

You can automate preventive maintenance scheduling with Samsara. Samsara can track the status of all vehicles in your fleet, help you create preventive maintenance schedules based on your own criteria, and provide real-time notifications to your maintenance team so service intervals are maintained. As more fleets modernize their maintenance programs, preventative maintenance solutions like Samsara make it possible to automate tedious tasks, streamline maintenance management, and significantly improve efficiency.

3. Develop and use a fleet vehicle maintenance checklist for drivers 

After establishing a baseline schedule for maintenance needs, it’s also helpful to create a fleet vehicle maintenance checklist for drivers. This ensures inspections are thorough and cover all key areas of a vehicle’s performance. Help drivers maintain uptime by identifying maintenance issues as they arise. With Samsara, you can create a mandatory checklist for DVIRs that reminds drivers to always check: 

  • Exterior of the vehicle

  • Windshield and glass

  • Engine

  • Transmission 

  • Brakes 

  • Wheels and tires 

  • Cab and interior

  • Any other inspection points you specify

The Samsara Driver App allows drivers to submit DVIRs from their mobile device. They can even include mobile photos of any visible maintenance issues. This can help streamline communication between your drivers and back office. Plus, with Samsara, you can customize your DVIR using different fields, like required/non-required or vehicle type—so you can create DVIRs custom to your industry or different vehicle needs.

3 factors to consider when investing in vehicle maintenance software 

Vehicle maintenance software can make fleet maintenance easier for drivers and managers. But how can you choose the right vehicle maintenance software for your specific needs? Here are a few key areas to consider when choosing the right platform for your fleet:

1. Scalability 

Client demand, regulatory requirements, and other factors can lead to fleet sizes changing fluidly from year to year (or even month to month). This means that choosing a fleet maintenance solution that offers scalability for fleets of all sizes is essential. For example, some fleet maintenance software solutions have an open API so you can connect to your most used existing systems. Furthermore, look for a solution that offers a mobile app that can be used on any device, so you don’t have to buy expensive proprietary hardware for each new vehicle. The Samsara Driver App, for example, can be used on your existing tablets or mobile phones.

2. Real-time alerts

Fleet maintenance software has a lot of benefits. One of its main benefits is that it can help streamline information and communications. An ideal fleet maintenance solution offers real-time, customizable alerts—including notifications for unsafe DVIRs and engine fault codes, like overheated oil. For example, Samsara’s customizable maintenance alerts make it possible to instantly respond to maintenance issues before they become more expensive problems.

3. Compliance features 

For fleets subject to FMCSA regulations, navigating compliance can be time-consuming. A complete fleet management solution that includes both maintenance and compliance features can make it easier for you to ensure vehicles are on track to meet any inspection standards. By allowing you to monitor any fleet vehicle issues centrally, you can avoid costly fines or safety rating penalties. Look for a unified fleet management platform, like Samsara, to consolidate your maintenance and compliance data in one place.

Streamline fleet vehicle maintenance with Samsara

Without a fleet maintenance software solution, it can be difficult to manage fleet vehicle maintenance at scale. 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’s maintenance solution can help you streamline your fleet vehicle maintenance:

  1. Get real-time visibility into vehicle diagnostics: Proactively spot issues such as failing batteries and engine fault codes through over-the-air vehicle diagnostics. Avoid road breakdowns and quickly identify vehicles in need of service to protect vehicle health and extend vehicle lifetime.

  2. Maximize uptime with paperless DVIRs: Streamline your maintenance workflows, perform pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections or walkarounds, and upload photos or eSignatures on any mobile device using the Samsara Driver App.

  3. Instantly respond to maintenance issues: Customizable alerts ensure that mechanics are informed as soon as vehicle faults are detected or DVIRs are submitted. Samsara's real-time GPS tracking enables quick dispatch to minimize vehicle downtime.

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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