By Joseph Evangelist
Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange
Unscheduled repair costs were up in 2019 compared to 2018 across all sectors of the trucking industry, according to data from the Technology & Maintenance Council/FleetNet Vertical Benchmarking Program.
The average cost of a mechanical repair was $407, which was 24% higher than for the same period last year.
The good news is that the miles between breakdowns increased — 20% for truckload carriers and 15% for LTL carriers.
The primary drivers of the cost increase were an increase in the cost of labor as well as an increase in the length of time to make the repair.
If you add to this the fact that the used truck market remains in the doldrums — many carriers are going to hold onto their equipment longer than they initially intended — it is very likely the problem will be exacerbated.
However, there are steps fleets can take to lessen the instances of unplanned breakdowns and contain the cost of those breakdowns.
It starts with performing a health check on your equipment. Conduct a thorough inspection of each truck in your fleet so you have a baseline of its condition and to spot any developing problems. This will allow you to either fix them immediately or get repairs scheduled at your convenience, depending on the severity.
The quality and consistency of your pre- and post-trip inspections becomes even more important when running older equipment and when trying to control roadside breakdowns. This might be a good time to have a little refresher course for your drivers about the elements of a thorough pre- and post-trip inspection program especially since this is a DOT requirement and not a suggestion.
The next step is strict adherence to a PM program. Make sure PMs are scheduled and trucks are brought into the shop both for all scheduled PMs and any and all running repairs noted during the PM.
Despite your best efforts, there are likely going to be some breakdowns on the road. This is where it is beneficial to have a relationship with a good road service network. Having a network throughout the areas in which you operate means you won’t have to settle for whoever has bay space available. Often signing on with a network gets you consistent pricing across the network as well as giving you confidence about the quality of service work.
While it is not possible to eliminate all unscheduled maintenance and repair, fleets can follow a few simple steps to try to decrease their frequency.