Data helps keep repair costs down

By Joseph Evangelist

Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange

The cost of vehicle/fleet maintenance and repairs is increasing. The Technology & Maintenance Council’s (TMC) latest benchmarking report found that the average cost of mechanical repairs increased for the second straight quarter.

The good news in the survey was that one fleet set a new standard for miles between unscheduled maintenance. That is encouraging news and speaks to the value of all the data that is so readily available to us today. While I don’t know for sure I suspect it also means the fleet ensured its drivers completed their pre- and post-trip inspections religiously.

Data helps us move from reactive maintenance — or what I call breakdown maintenance — through preventive maintenance, and toward predictive maintenance.

We constantly get notifications from the trucks about things going on in the truck from a performance point-of-view. It can give us a heads up as to what needs to happen soon advising us to bring the truck in immediately or — going to the extreme — advising us to shut the truck down immediately.

The answers are in the data and if you are not looking at what the data is telling you about the health of the truck, you are missing out on a great opportunity. How big is that opportunity? Consider what the Truckload Vertical Benchmark Study found. For one of the periods that was studied, the average truckload carrier that participated in the study operated 10,663 miles between breakdowns. However, the top performing fleet in the study had only one breakdown every 75,528 miles. Read those numbers again. That is a huge difference, and careful analysis of available data probably allowed the top-performing fleet to set optimal maintenance intervals so their trucks operated for longer periods of time without an on-road breakdown. Again, I am guessing they also were strict on pre- and post-trip inspection compliance.

Vehicle maintenance and repair are a significant part of a fleet’s operating budget but the cost of roadside repairs is much higher than that of scheduled maintenance or planned repairs. The TMC study found that the average cost of an on-road breakdown was $334; this was up from $317 in the previous survey and from $299 in the survey prior to that.

While the increase in the cost of roadside repairs may not seem significant, the cost of the repair is only part of the story. Missed delivery windows, inconvenienced drivers, spoiled loads and irate customers — the hidden costs — tell the whole story.

While it is probably impossible to avoid all roadside breakdowns, spending time and deploying the proper resources to analyze the data coming off your truck and from service events will get you closer to that 75,528 miles between breakdowns.

Coupling this with a vigilance adherence to DOT mandated pre- and post-trip inspections will further reduce the possibility of a roadside breakdown.

In particular, the post-trip inspection allows the unit to be repaired before the truck goes out the net day, while the pre-trip is one of the last checks that ensure the unit is leaving the yard in the best possible shape.

Listening to the data is smart. Supplementing the data with proper inspections is genius and will likely mean fewer and fewer roadside breakdowns.


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