What are Preventive Maintenance Programs?

August 05, 2021

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Key Takeaways

To keep your fleet running smoothly, address maintenance problems right away instead of waiting until they become bigger issues. Preventive maintenance programs save you from unexpected downtime, costly repairs, and extend the lifespan of your vehicles.

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) makes their requirements pretty clear: businesses need to “systematically inspect, repair, and maintain” their commercial vehicles and equipment. But not every fleet manager can fulfill the “systematic” part of this regulation as regularly as they’d like.

But if you don’t consistently maintain your vehicles or even have visibility into when they need a tune-up, you risk having an unanticipated maintenance issue. Without proactive maintenance in place, vehicles are more likely to break down unexpectedly,  which can often require costly emergency repairs. 

A large part of keeping your fleet in good working order is implementing preventive maintenance. Read on to learn about the types of preventive maintenance programs, a program’s benefits, and steps for starting one.

What are the two types of preventive maintenance programs? 

Preventive maintenance programs fall into two categories: 

  • Calendar or time-based preventive maintenance. This program determines routine maintenance schedules based on chunks of time such as months, quarters, or years.

  • Usage-based preventive maintenance. This program determines maintenance schedules based on a usage number like miles traveled or hours worked.

If you drive a personal vehicle, you’re already completing preventive maintenance. For example, you need to complete a safety or emissions inspection every year or two in some states. This is an example of calendar-based preventive maintenance, regulated by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you take your vehicle for oil changes every 3,000 miles or so, this is usage-based preventive maintenance. As the vehicle’s owner, you do things like rotate your tires and check your car’s lubrication to reduce your chances of a breakdown.

Managing preventive maintenance work

Commercial fleets need the same kind of preventive care. Businesses can use preventive maintenance software like Samsara to keep track of their calendar or usage-based maintenance strategy. 

Preventative maintenance software is a key part of a modern computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Companies use it to simplify and automate various forms of maintenance. Some CMMS solutions are designed for general use, while others are available for specific industries. CMMS functions include equipment management, preventative maintenance, predictive maintenance, vendor management, inventory management, and more. Typically, CMMS software can be hosted on a company server, an external server at a service provider data center, or a cloud-based provider.

What are the benefits of preventive maintenance programs? 

When it comes to vehicle and equipment maintenance, like most things in life, it’s better to take a proactive approach to prevent larger issues. Reactive maintenance, or worse, last-minute emergency repairs can be up to 4 times more expensive, so it pays to set up a calendar or usage-based preventive maintenance plan to help your bottom line. Benefits include:

Enhanced equipment or vehicle lifespan 

The longer your equipment or vehicles are working, the better your ROI is. Routine maintenance helps you invest in the long-term health of your fleet. By investing the time and money to maintain vehicles and equipment, you’ll extend their life, reduce maintenance costs, and minimize the need for replacements. Plus, you’re also able to collect valuable data about how your fleet is performing over time, enabling you to make informed investments in future assets. 

Decreased vehicle or equipment downtime 

Unplanned downtime is a problem that gives fleet managers headaches regardless of their industry. This is because downtime and equipment failure often has an unforeseen ripple effect throughout fleet operations. First, there are customers whom you don’t want to let down with a bad experience. Second, fleets with continual mechanical problems and equipment breakdowns can cause low morale and stress with maintenance teams and drivers as they constantly address problems instead of working in a planned way. 

A preventive maintenance program ensures needed maintenance tasks are completed, decreasing unplanned repairs. Less unplanned repairs mean your vehicles are arriving as intended and on time.

Reduced maintenance related costs

With the average cost of mechanical repairs for commercial trucks reaching record highs, you’ll want to do everything you can to keep vehicles out of the shop. Unfortunately, emergency maintenance can be costly, not just because of the repair bill itself, but also because of equipment downtime. 

In 2015, downtime cost a fleet an average of $448 to $760 a day per vehicle. Those costs add up fast, and with inflation, those numbers have likely gone up. You need to account for many different factors: the potential cost of renting a replacement vehicle, buying spare parts, paying technicians overtime to do repairs, paying drivers expedited fees, and more. Planning corrective maintenance reduces the risk that your vehicle will be taken off the road and you getting stuck with unexpected bills.

Improved compliance 

Did you know that 30% of roadside violations are about lights? And more than 11% are related to tires. Maintenance issues can quickly add up to a high Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score. Keep your fleet running smoothly, and your CSA score low with a preventive maintenance program. For example, if you’re using a fleet management system like Samsara, drivers can submit paperless DVIRs. These immediately get uploaded to a Maintenance Dashboard for mechanics to address.

How to implement a preventive maintenance program 

Starting a preventive maintenance program may seem daunting at first, but it can eventually result in ROIs up to 545%. Once set up, the right software can do all the heavy lifting by keeping track of data and auto-scheduling maintenance. Here are our tips for getting started

1. Gather a list of equipment and vehicles to include in the program

If you’re already using software for managing your fleet, this step will be fairly simple. If not, you’ll need to inventory all your equipment and vehicles to add to the program. This is where tools like GPS tracking come in handy for knowing exactly what you have and where it is, especially for expansive fleets. You’ll also want to note any other details like health status, date of last maintenance, and if the piece of equipment is a high-priority or a critical asset.

2. Be aware of OEM maintenance requirements and best practices to set standards

Owner’s manuals usually include manufacturer guidelines for maintaining your vehicle or equipment to a high standard. Reading through these guidelines and warranty conditions, though somewhat time-consuming, helps you figure out what the best tasks are for your maintenance goals.

3. Create a preventive maintenance schedule that suits your needs

Now that you know which vehicles and equipment need maintenance and how you should maintain them, it’s time to launch your program. You don’t need to send everything to the shop at once—start with one asset and keep going. Consider starting with high cost or critical equipment to ensure the program is working the way it should. If you’re using preventive maintenance software, you can set up maintenance task reminders and notifications based on time or usage and automatically generate servicing work orders.

4. Measure results and adjust your schedule as needed 

Once your maintenance program is up and running, you need to figure out if it’s working. Tracking fleet availability shows you how downtime is impacting operations. To calculate your fleet availability, use the following formula:

Fleet availability = 100% - (Overall downtime / Overall potential hours)

This number should be close to 100%. As you make adjustments to the program, you should see the fleet availability percentage climb.

You’ll also see the number of unplanned repairs decrease. To ensure the ratio of planned to unplanned vehicle maintenance is moving in the right direction, find your preventive maintenance (PM) ratio. A good benchmark to aim for is 70% preventive tasks and 30% non-preventive tasks.

PM ratio = PM tasks / non-PM tasks

You can also check if your maintenance activities are working by tracking the mean time between failures (MTBF). This is the average number of hours or days between non-scheduled repairs. Again, with a preventive maintenance strategy, this metric should increase.

Learn more about Samsara’s preventive maintenance features 

Samsara’s preventive maintenance software is an end-to-end solution for creating a robust maintenance program. Our user-friendly platform makes it easy for fleet managers to:

  • Manage maintenance workflows for all equipment and vehicles. 

  • Monitor real-time engine logs, diagnostic data, and fault codes.

  • Schedule and assign preventive maintenance tasks with alerts. 

Besides managing your maintenance schedules and data, our integrated platform allows you to instantly locate equipment and vehicles, find and dispatch the nearest maintenance technicians, and ensure they arrive safely, all in one tool. And because our platform is built on a cloud-based platform, you can access information from anywhere, 24/7. From GPS tracking, dash cams, asset management, a mobile app, compliance, and more, Samsara’s Connection Operation platform helps you maximize uptime and extend the health of your fleet.

Curious about setting up a preventive maintenance program through Samsara’s connected operations platform? Sign up for a free trial.

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