4 ways to reduce vehicle downtime

Written By: Pete Wallen, Director of Operations, on Feb 28, 2018

1. Optimize Scheduling, PMs, and Reporting Using Fleet Management Software

Trucking companies want assets with the fewest amount of planned or preventive downtime requirements. Years ago, it was common for oil changes to take place at 20,000 miles (now at 50 and 60). The Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) with the extended intervals surged on the market because fleets wanted their trucks on the road for as long as possible, since longer mileage meant more money and reduced operating costs.

When an asset creeps up in age or mileage, the maintenance department knows to lead with caution because there are wear items that require periodic inspections. If you miss a predictive failure, you must ask: do your technicians know the run cycle of the components? With the extended intervals, if you aren’t doing informed and experienced inspections, you are accepting the risk of an unplanned event. Your technicians should forecast if wear items are serviceable at least until the next Preventive Maintenance (PM) event is due.

Secondly, when it comes to preventing chronic failure, it is vital to use fleet management software that reports on part failure rates. When a part has failed many times and you don’t have the reporting insight to say how many miles/days the assets have run, you cannot understand the average age of replacement. This means you cannot predictably prevent other failures, leaving room for chronic failures to occur across the fleet.

Optimally, your fleet management software will alert the technician when a part is past its failure. You should be able to report on your average failure based on Y/M/M and plot campaigns based on projections from historical failures.

The correct balance of predictive and preventive maintenance scheduling involves the fusion of necessary scheduled maintenance combined with flexible repair schedules based on educated predictions of the equipment’s future state.

2. Combine Scheduled and Predictive Maintenance

The OEMs may have recommended a PM cycle for a DPF filter to be 150,000. If just by coincidence the filter fell outside the warranty based on the PM cycle for that asset, a fleet can still protect itself from premature failure by combining OEM scheduled maintenance with a predictive regimen. For example, by scheduling cleanings prior to recommended cycle they may start to notice that filter was prone to a premature failure while if they had started inspecting at 150,000, they would have lost their recoverables.

If you follow the required PM schedule established by the OEM and measure the failures between PM events, you can usually place those failures into 2 categories: predictive and non-predictive. Predictive inspections can be added to OE PM Inspections to complement the OEM’s requirements. Once this is process is implemented, you can start catching preventable breakdowns with inspection routines whether it’s in a PM inspection event or an event you’ve created on your own outside of the OEM.

3. Take Advantage of Planned Downtime

A close inspection will help to make a determination regarding whether it is worthwhile to plan downtime to avoid a roadside breakdown scenario.

The best time to complete an inspection is when the truck is not occupied or delivering freight or when the driver is “down”, i.e. restarting their logbook or taking a day off. Although it is not always practical always try to plan your PMaction when the driver is offline wherever possible. It is always better to avoid the loss of income involved when you take the truck off the road while it’s available to deliver freight.

When planning downtime to complete inspections, it is vital that you maintain a good record in order to forecast repairs. Forecasting future repairs allows you to take advantage of planned downtime events to avoid future breakdowns. As we know, breakdowns greatly increase the cost of repair when you add towing fees and the high cost of labor at the side of the road (about 3:1). Therefore, it’s always worth it to play it safe and ensure you complete inspections during planned downtime.

4. Turn Unplanned Downtime into an Opportunity

When the asset has a failure outside of the scheduled inspection the best approach is to maximize what is done within that downtime. Of course, this can be dependent on the severity of the breakdown, but if you have a coolant leak on an asset caused by an EGR component, you can determine that that failure requires more than a couple of hours of downtime.

Therefore, you can take advantage of this unplanned downtime that you could not predict and supplement the timeframe that the asset is available with the preventive maintenance schedules where you can complete visual inspections and check tolerances especially if you have a component that is near to breaching the failure point.

When unplanned downtime occurs, your best bet is to seize the opportunity in order to extend uptime in the future.