What is fleet maintenance?
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What is fleet maintenance?

Fleet maintenance is how fleet operators and other organizations ensure the vehicles they depend on to deliver products and services are available and operational. Good fleet maintenance often requires a comprehensive fleet maintenance management process to maximize operations.

Fleet maintenance vs. fleet maintenance management

Fleet maintenance is the overall description of how organizations approach vehicle uptime, whereas fleet maintenance management is the process by which fleet managers ensure the availability of their fleets to complete tasks, such as transporting equipment, raw materials, finished products, or people.

Organizations that depend on a fleet need both a macro and micro view of the status of each vehicle, so they can accurately plan their services based on which vehicles are operational, which will require immediate repairs, and which ones need replacing.

Increasingly, companies are choosing to run their fleets on real-time fleet maintenance software, such as a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), that can automate a 10,000-foot and extremely granular view of the availability of their fleet at any time, keeping a clear focus on maintenance services and operational costs.

A comprehensive fleet maintenance management program equips organizations with tools to address regulatory requirements, extend automotive vehicle asset life through preventive maintenance, monitor equipment status, and extend parts and inventory management.

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Which vehicles benefit from fleet maintenance management?

Commercial vehicles from cars to boats require regular maintenance, of which organizations must keep track. While vehicle maintenance may vary depending on the type of vehicle, all of the below benefit from participation in a fleet maintenance management program.

  • Aircraft: Knowing how aircraft will perform is critical in an industry where something going wrong has disastrous consequences. The aircraft industry pioneered many advancements in asset maintenance management, and it remains critical today to use these processes to keep aircraft safe and ready to use. 
  • Boats and ships: The global supply chain depends on the reliability and uptime of these important engines of commerce. In recent years, we've seen how the lack of availability of shipping vehicles can have a disastrous effect on the overall global economy.
  • Trucks: Both short-haul and long-haul trucks experience depreciation and other wear and tear that fleet operators must monitor.
  • Public transportation vehicles: Citizens judge their elected officials on how reliable their public transportation is, so governments must have a holistic view of the condition and availability of their buses, trains, and other transportation vehicles.
  • Motorcycles and e-Bikes: The rise of real-time grocery and product delivery services and the increase in delivery from the pandemic have increased the company's dependency on motorcycles and e-Bikes.
  • Cars: These are valuable delivery vehicles for many types of companies, that can run without issues for many years if maintenance is handled correctly.
Key components of fleet maintenance management

Today, fleet maintenance management is much easier thanks to advanced fleet management software and metrics. The right software streamlines workflows, using artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies to assess the state of any fleet vehicle better and ensure the most uptime for any particular vehicle.

  • Cycle counting: A method of inventory management that divides up the number of items or assets counted daily so all items can be counted by an identified deadline (i.e., ten items a day from a list of 500 over 50 days). This enables organizations to maintain a comprehensive view of all the components instrumental to any specific vehicle without undertaking a costly weekly inspection of every specific asset.
  • Fuel tank management notifications: The right fleet management software automates fleet vehicle consumption of fuel while assessing the existing storage of fuel limiting unnecessary re-fueling and avoiding the likelihood of vehicles running out of fuel.
  • Life-cycle costing: A financial tool that helps companies understand the bottom line cost of an item, from initial purchase to maintenance to retirement.
  • Motor pool management: A 360-view of your entire fleet to understand vehicles on hand, their current status, and which ones are out for either delivery or service so that you can make the right approvals.
  • Work orders: Organizations need to have a complete vantage of preventative maintenance schedules, which includes requested maintenance tasks, by whom, and when, so they can better assess how many vehicles will be operational and how long it will take for the ones in service to get fixed. It also creates a better opportunity to manage the human capital responsible for fixing the fleet. It also can track minor, but important things like oil changes and small corrective fixes to keep the fleet vehicle running smoothly.
  • Fleet tracking: Fleet providers must have real-time information on where their vehicles are on the road. Fleet tracking uses telematics to enable fleet operators to track the location, status, and activity of a fleet of vehicles, often through GPS tracking devices installed in each vehicle that transmit data to centralized software.
  • Software updates: The rise of electronic vehicles means fleet operators will need to have a comprehensive plan to manage updates to vehicle operating systems, including when they should update their software, how they should roll it out (all at once or beta test with a few vehicles to avoid a bug-related shutdown).
Benefits of fleet maintenance management

Fleet managers and operators need a cost-effective, holistic view of the availability of their fleets to complete tasks. In today's global supply chain, fleet managers require absolute precision in knowing how many trucks and vehicles are available. A solid fleet maintenance program ensures the availability of all types of vehicles.

Having a handle on fleets will become even more important as more companies move to electronic vehicles and require more specific real-time analytics about the performance of their vehicles and what updates they need to perform as expected.

Advanced fleet maintenance management provides several key benefits for fleet operators and organizations that can provide a competitive advantage over those using more rudimentary or manual processes.

  • Positive vehicle inspection outcomes: A poor vehicle inspection can ground vehicles, even if they "work" fine. No business benefits from removing fleet vehicles from circulation because they failed inspections. Excellent fleet management provides either predictive or preventative maintenance.
  • Achieve ESG goals: By tracking fuel consumption and other diagnostic data, fleet providers can make changes to minimize their economic footprint and prevent fleet assets from breaking down, eliminating the need to purchase new fleet equipment or brand-new vehicles earlier than necessary.
  • Customer satisfaction: Knowing which vehicles in a fleet need routine maintenance and when lets companies manage the entire operations, from estimated delivery times to expected supplies on hand, and enables government agencies to better inform their citizens about the availability of services. By implementing fleet maintenance management solutions, companies improve upkeep, which helps to avoid costly cancellations and increases the number of people they can serve, ultimately creating a larger group of satisfied customers.
  • Better inventory management: Organizations with large fleet sizes and companies that supply fleet vehicles likely need to have a full inventory of replacement parts, so they can quickly address any issue with a specific vehicle.
  • Reduced costs: Optimally running fleet services with more vehicles in service and fewer breakdowns or downtime means more on-time deliveries and services provided, leading to higher revenues and lower costs. Well-oiled fleet operations increase vehicle uptime, extending asset life. By reducing maintenance needs before becoming absolutely necessary, the company decreases overall repair costs and drives down the costs of maintaining an entire fleet.


Challenges of fleet maintenance management

While the positives of a fleet maintenance management system significantly outweigh the negatives, there are some issues any organization should consider if it wants to adopt it.

  • Upfront pricing: Establishing a modern fleet maintenance management process will require some high upfront costs, including adding telematics to vehicles, purchasing or licensing software, and either reskilling the workforce or needing to hire new talent. As with other advanced software-driven maintenance processes, organizations can expect to make up their upfront costs quickly based on requiring less unnecessary maintenance, higher uptime, and other benefits of having a comprehensive view of their fleets.
  • Fleet complexity: This is dependent on how diverse an organization's fleet is. For large fleets with a wide variety of vehicles, there will need to be different approaches to each type of vehicle. But it also remains true that the organizations with the most diverse fleet of vehicles stand to benefit the most from fleet maintenance management.
  • Changing organizational culture: Fleet workers, especially those who have maintained a specific system for years or decades, may be reluctant to learn a new approach. It's incumbent upon the executives to invest in upskilling training and painstakingly explain the new system's benefits to win over converts.
  • Keeping up to date: Once an organization begins transforming towards a more advanced and software-guided fleet maintenance management approach, it will likely need to keep up-to-date on new technologies, update and replace hardware, and otherwise manage its tech stack. But every new update will only make the entire process run more effectively, leading to even more cost savings and, ultimately, profitability.
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