Vehicle Maintenance Best Practices to Survive Shortages – Maintenance

Vehicle Maintenance Best Practices to Survive Shortages - Maintenance

Images Courtesy of JJ Keller & Associates, Inc.

When it comes to vehicle maintenance, are you in the midst of the perfect storm of problems plaguing the truck and bus industry today? Are you being asked to “do more with what you have?” It may sound like good economic advice, but there are crucial trade-offs. Extending the life cycle of existing equipment translates into more maintenance, more breakdowns, higher costs and less job satisfaction for drivers.

This perfect storm won’t disappear anytime soon. That’s why maintaining your fleet in stormy seas requires the right tools and preparation.

Unfortunately, the “hold on as long as possible” mentality has led many carriers to postpone necessary maintenance, keep their existing assets on the road longer and postpone investments in new equipment. Challenges can be downright fierce:

  • Sky-high costs for equipment, labor and fuel;
  • A tight supply of both new and used equipment and parts;
  • Long service delays combined with the loss of qualified technicians; and
  • General economic uncertainty.

The vehicles, parts and personnel that many fleets require are simply not available. However, if you focus on drivers, maintenance and management, you can weather the storm.

It starts with your drivers

Inspections before and after the trip are always important, but they become vital as equipment ages. These daily inspections must be thorough, documented and performed.

The top three vehicle violations that led to the most out-of-service orders in the past year and should have been caught by the driver are:

  1. Bad tires (flat/puncture/worn)
  2. Non-working/defective brakes
  3. broken lights

Here are some best practices you can use to survive the storm:

  • Train drivers on how to perform a proper inspection. Drivers are your eyes and ears on the road. Make sure they know what to look for, especially with older equipment.


  • Give drivers time to do a thorough inspection. Remind them of the potential consequences of overlooking a defect: breakdown along the way, an order that is no longer in service, citations and fines, costly delays, lost customers or even an accident and lawsuits.
  • Run Random Observations of Driver Inspections to make sure they don’t “pencil” their inspection reports.
  • Leave drivers a inspection report after trip (DVIR) every day, whether there are defects to report or not.
  • Expand your DVIR items to cover more than the 11 items required by DOT regulation. The rules focus on safety is critical, but you need to focus on keeping all vital components runs smoothly.
  • Compare your drivers’ reports to what your technicians and road stewards discover. If a technician or inspector finds a defect that the driver should have reported, you should advise the driver accordingly. Don’t forget to reward drivers for violation-free roadside checks.
  • Make sure mechanics and technicians address any issues drivers describe on their DVIRs. Job satisfaction can drop if drivers think their concerns are not taken seriously.

Consider eDVIRS

You need the right tools to make your daily inspection process run smoothly and efficiently, resulting in safe vehicles on the road. Electronic DVIRs (eDVIRs) support all these goals. An effective eDVIR system can:

  • Ensure ongoing DOT compliance;
  • Help out Organize, Analyze and Track amounts of inspection data (without paper);
  • Direct the right information to the right people at the right time so that defects are repaired and vehicles remain in good condition; and
  • Help you spot trends and prioritize maintenance as your fleet ages.

Repair versus maintenance

As you think about what you need to maintain your outdated fleet, consider the difference between repairing your vehicles and maintaining them.

What is the difference? Maintenance is a planned activity based on the preventive maintenance (PM) program of your fleet. Repairs are what to do if a vehicle has not been properly maintained. One is proactive, the other reactive.

Repairs, which are often unexpectedly required along the way, will affect your bottom line and cost several times more than normal maintenance would otherwise have.

Older units are more prone to: to break down and repair, so careful inspections and preventive maintenance are essential to keep them on the road.

Consider taking these actions as you strive to maintain your fleet in today’s market:

  • Evaluate PM schedules and adjust as needed if your mix of equipment changes.
  • Tailor PM schedules based on asset usage, with an emphasis on failure prevention. Excessive use of a vehicle leads to increased wear and tear. View your data to see which vehicles are used the most and to equalize the use of the fleet. Certain units may require more maintenance than others.


  • Prioritize repairs, where safety comes first, reliability second and convenience third. This may mean giving priority to replacing a balding tire over a routine oil change or repairing an air conditioner, depending on parts availability.
  • Evaluate your routes to keep outdated equipment closer to home, where maintenance and repairs are easier to manage.
  • Technicians should be proactive rather than reactive. Make sure your team finds and fixes small or evolving problems before they grow into big ones (proactive) instead of focusing on fixing what’s broken (reactive).
  • Consider the relationship between maintenance and fuel consumption. Better maintenance generally means better fuel economy, an important advantage when fuel costs are so high.
  • Invest in staff. Keep your drivers and technicians happy and on the job. Companies with the best maintenance program and operational vehicles will win.

Choose the right system

A fleet maintenance program is only as good as the system used to manage it. As with DVIRs, an electronic system can increase your chances of success. An effective fleet management system, such as the JJ Keller® Encompass® Fleet Management Systemcan help you stay on top of preventive maintenance, eDVIRs, compliance, and more.

Superior fleet management systems ease the complexity of managing paperwork and timelines, alert you to compliance and operational risks, and provide fleet insights based on your vehicle’s data. They help you keep track of maintenance events, schedules and costs to keep your fleet running compliant and smooth.

Times are tough, but a comprehensive and organized inspection and maintenance program will get you out of the storm ahead — with a fleet of reliable and profitable vehicles.

While an effective (and proactive) inspection and maintenance program won’t solve the supply chain crisis or lower fuel prices, it can help you lower operating costs, keep your freight moving, and manage a tough economy a little easier. to make.

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