When to consider outsourcing maintenance and repair

By Joseph Evangelist

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

Fleet managers are under increased pressure to keep trucks delivering goods on time and in good condition. At the same time, today’s trucks have become increasingly complex requiring both mechanical and electronic skills to maintain and repair. Because of these two trends, now may be a good time for fleets to consider outsourcing some or all their maintenance and repair. Consider the following factors:

We are constantly bombarded with news of the driver shortage. But there is also a shortage of qualified truck technicians with the requisite skills needed to not only work on today’s sophisticated trucks but who will also be able to transition into working on the trucks of the future. Keeping the skill levels of existing technicians honed will require a significant investment in training and education. And that does not consider the investment needed to recruit, train and retain new technicians.

However, having properly trained technicians with the right skill sets is not enough. You also need to make sure they have the proper tools and equipment to do their jobs. Your techs need a wide variety of diagnostic and scan tools to determine what is wrong with a vehicle before they can begin fixing the problem. If you have more than one make of trucks, the price tag for the various tools can get pretty steep.

Another thing to consider is all the data that are generated with each maintenance and repair event. The data, when properly analyzed, provides great insight into the health of the fleet in general as well as into each individual asset. Do you have the staff in-house that can analyze that data to help you spot wear and failure trends? A focused outside service provider will help you manage your data so that you can make better spec’ing and asset replacement decisions.

Some fleet managers are concerned about giving up control if they decide to outsource service, but the reality is a good service provider should be able to tailor their services to meet the needs of each individual fleet. The service agreement between the fleet and the service provider can spell out things like preventative maintenance schedules, types of parts that will be used in the repair process, even where the work will be performed.

Today, there are service providers who can move onsite and take over the fleet’s existing/owned shops and personnel. Others offer mobile maintenance and repair which may suffice, to a limited extent for things like tire changes, oil and filter changes and simple repairs like that, where the weather could accommodate such a process. But with more in-depth repairs like brake jobs, clutch repair, rear-end work, etc., a mobile maintenance solution will not be sufficient. It is important to talk with a potential service provider in detail about your needs and expectations to determine which service outsourcing option is best for you.

Given all the pressures on fleet managers, today now may be a good time to think about outsourcing maintenance and repair to an organization that specializes in it.  It is an option that will allow fleet managers to concentrate on meeting their customers’ needs for on-time delivery.

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