It can be frustrating when a personal car breaks down; missing work or appointments is no small matter. If it’s a vehicle that your business depends on, though, unscheduled downtime for maintenance may not be an option. Your employees will miss important customer appointments as a result, productivity will drop, morale could suffer, and there could be too much spent on repairs and fuel. Should a vehicle become unsafe owing to inadequate maintenance, legal consequences may be a possibility, as well.
If the survival of your business depends on the health of your fleet, you want to act when you have time. While a fully equipped truck tool box in every vehicle is an important first step to take, there’s much more that needs to be done to ensure smooth, interruption-free fleet function.
Fleet management is serious business
When your business fleet is new, it can be easy to overlook maintenance. Fleets whose maintenance is no one employee’s specific responsibility, though, can begin to fail surprisingly quickly. Not only is it important for every business to place one person in clear charge of the health of the business fleet, that person will need authority and resources to take necessary action. Clear lines of authority can help quick, timely action.
To begin, consider fleet management technology
Small businesses that have a hard time keeping on top of their fleet management needs today often put their faith in technology developed specifically for the purpose. Installing Internet-connected monitoring devices in each vehicle can be an excellent move.
These devices connect to the engine management computer on each vehicle. Not only do they relay information on engine diagnostics, fuel consumption, safety and mileage back to the office, they offer real-time vehicle tracking, as well. Usually, the hardware costs only a few hundred dollars to a vehicle, and running it costs no more than a dollar a day. These tools can even keep track of scheduled maintenance intervals, and send out reminders at the appropriate times.
If you don’t have the technology, put together a plan
It can help simplify maintenance matters to use no more than one or two types of vehicle in a business fleet. Since different models of vehicle can comes with different maintenance schedule needs, mixed fleets can present challenges. With simplified vehicle mixes, it can be easy to program reminders on scheduling software.
Consider outsourcing maintenance and repair
Fleet management can be a demanding chore for businesses, and can take up resources. If such work is not in your company’s wheelhouse, it can be a good idea to consider contracting with a fleet management service to have such responsibilities taken care of.
These services are run by independent garages, dedicated fleet management companies and even vehicle manufacturers. The larger the operation that you choose, the better the level of service quality it is that you will likely receive. Manufacturer fleet management services, for instance, offer loaner vehicles, costing records, and even professional advice — all services that may be difficult to come by with smaller operations. Preventive, rather than reactive maintenance tends to be far easier with a larger operation, as well.
It’s important to know that DIY maintenance is completely doable
Small businesses with dozens of vehicles do manage to maintain them well fully in-house. Sometimes, they even manage to do it without technology to assist. It can take a full-time employee to keep track of the needs of multiple vehicles, though.
In-house management can require access to good fleet maintenance software, and considerable delegation, as well. The driver of each vehicle is usually held accountable for timely reporting. In some businesses, maintenance responsibilities are often even entirely handed to the driver of each vehicle. Such distributed maintenance can easily help cut down on the complexity of fleet maintenance work.
Maintenance through leasing
Many businesses lease their business vehicles, rather than buy outright. Leased vehicles have the advantage that they come equipped with full maintenance plans. Not only does leasing ensure that a business always has access to new, fuel-efficient vehicles, it offers financial advantages, and also freedom from maintenance responsibilities.
Businesses that depend on a reliable fleet for the conduct of their business need to work out early on how they will manage the responsibilities involved. The different options available ensure that there is always a plan that works.