Every day, thousands of cars, vans, trucks, and other vehicles traverse the roads, delivering goods and products to their destinations. Each of these vehicles is part of a fleet — a business’ collection of vehicles necessary for its operation.
Hauling cargo across hundreds or even thousands of miles is a daunting task for the drivers. But it can be even more challenging for the person or team responsible for managing the fleet. How do they keep all those trucks moving?
In this article, we’ll explain what fleet services are. We also explore the differences between fleet management and maintenance services and give tips on how to best keep your vehicle fleet on the roads.
What Are Fleet Management Services?
Fleet management covers all the things that are required to keep a vehicle fleet operational. Both commercial fleets, like those belonging to a business, and non-commercial fleets, such as a public fire department’s fleet of fire trucks, require fleet management.
Fleet management services, then, are outsourced commercial services that take care of an organization’s or business’ fleet management for them. Some companies prefer to hold the reins of their fleets, but sometimes it’s a better idea to outsource fleet management.
For example, when setting up a new fleet, an outside fleet management services provider might have more experience in the smooth management of a vehicle fleet. Your business could hire them in the beginning, and then switch to internal management once you’ve built up a reliable team.
It may also simply be cheaper to hire outside services for fleet management. To keep even a few trucks functional requires a lot of money and expertise, from fleet managers to knowledgeable automotive technicians. Whether it’s less costly to hire someone else than keep these experts on your payroll depends entirely on your circumstances.
What Do Fleet Managers Do?
On the surface, a fleet manager’s job might seem easy. All you have to do is make sure the vehicles are on the roads and reach their destinations… Right?
If we grossly oversimplify the role, yes. But a fleet manager’s work day is far from simple. Just some of a fleet manager’s most important tasks include:
- Fleet Tracking: The fleet manager must keep tabs on the location, condition, and status of every single vehicle in the fleet to ensure their cargoes arrive safely and on time. They often use extensive GPS tracking systems to monitor vehicles.
- Driver Safety: It’s on the fleet manager to ensure that every driver knows how to safely operate the vehicle and doesn’t endanger themselves or others. Safety monitoring equipment, like dash cams and vehicle trackers, helps the fleet manager keep the drivers safe.
- Driver Retention: It’s not enough for fleet managers to keep the drivers safe — they need to keep them happy. The transportation industry struggles constantly with driver shortages, so fleet managers must design and implement good working conditions and incentive programs to keep drivers behind the wheel.
- Regulatory Compliance: Transportation services and vehicle fleets are strictly regulated. A fleet manager’s duties include ensuring the fleet follows all relevant laws, from drivers taking breaks, to trucks remaining in appropriate condition.
- Vehicle Maintenance: Last, but absolutely not least, a fleet manager is responsible for keeping the fleet vehicles in top-notch condition at all times. Of course, the fleet manager can’t inspect and repair every vehicle themselves — that’s why they need fleet maintenance services.
What Is Vehicle Fleet Maintenance?
Simply put, vehicle fleet maintenance is everything you need to keep your business’ or organization’s vehicle fleet in working order. But it’s much more than simply getting a technician to fix a broken truck.
In fact, vehicle fleet maintenance begins before anything has even gone wrong. Managers responsible for maintaining a fleet’s vehicles must determine the optimal driving conditions for each vehicle based on legal requirements, vehicle manufacturer recommendations, and financial realities.
They also have to consider when and where to get their fleet’s vehicles inspected, who should inspect them, and who should carry out any necessary repairs. As with fleet management, many businesses prefer to hire outside companies offering vehicle fleet maintenance services to keep their trucks functional.
Why Are Fleet Maintenance Services Important?
But the ultimate goal of fleet maintenance services is not to fix broken vans or trucks. In fact, it’s almost the opposite — a good fleet maintenance services strategy should prevent vehicles from breaking down in the first place.
It’s not difficult to see why fleet managers would want to avoid repairs at all costs. Fixing severely damaged car parts can be expensive, but that’s only the beginning of it.
A broken-down van or truck can’t be out there on the road transporting cargo. Consequently, a broken vehicle can lead to delivery delays or even missed shipments.
If your customers can’t get the goods they need, their operations could grind to a halt as well. Not only will they — and you — lose money from halted operations, but in the worst-case scenario, you could even risk a lawsuit over a delivery contract breach.
That doesn’t sound pleasant, and that’s exactly the reason why fleet maintenance services are important. Every good fleet maintenance strategy should include regular inspections to spot any issues before they spiral out of control.
How Often Should You Get Fleet Vehicles Maintained?
You no doubt understand now how crucial it is to keep your vehicle fleet in optimal working condition. But you might be asking how often you should bring your vehicles in for service. Vans and trucks have slightly different maintenance schedules, so your best bet is to consult the owner’s manual or ask the manufacturer.
That said, you should get an inspection and a tune-up for every commercial vehicle once a month or every 5,000 miles. This may sound excessive, but regular and frequent check-ups can save you a lot of money in emergency repairs and keep your vehicles running for thousands of miles longer.
In addition to inspections, commercial vehicles need comprehensive maintenance every 10,000-20,000 miles or at least once a year. During this maintenance, you make sure the fleet services provider changes all oils and fluids, inspects the engine, tests and repairs the brakes, performs wheel alignment, and ensures all safety equipment functions correctly.
How Can You Develop an Effective Fleet Maintenance Program?
Your business or organization needs a detailed plan to properly maintain your fleet and keep every vehicle in ideal condition. The exact details of how you should draft your strategy depend on the kinds of fleet management software you use, the vehicles you employ, and the daily distances they drive.
Here are four handy tips that can help you in creating a fleet maintenance plan that ensures your vehicles get to where they need to go on time.
1) Maintain Detailed Vehicle Records
Before you take any other steps, you need to know precisely what vehicles you have in your fleet. You should also map each vehicle’s general health and condition so you can identify potential upcoming issues.
Make sure you know the full ownership and transaction history of each vehicle, including all previous owners and dealers. In addition, you need to know their maintenance records. You should have on hand at least the following details for every vehicle:
- Accident history
- Current odometer reading
- Condition of critical systems, such as brakes, engine, suspension, transmission, etc.
- Condition of small components, like seatbelts, windshield wipers, etc.
- History of all fluid changes, including engine oil, transmission and brake fluids, etc.
2) Involve Drivers in Fleet Maintenance
Your drivers will often know best what issues each vehicle is facing — after all, they spend long hours behind the wheel. It’s a good idea to create a driver-vehicle inspection report (DVIR) template that your drivers can fill out after each journey.
Include space on the template for drivers to list any issues they faced with every component, including the engine, brakes, transmission, wheels and tires, windows and mirrors, and the vehicle exterior. This way you’ll stay on top of any looming problems while also offering your drivers a supportive work environment where they can make their concerns heard.
3) Determine a Smooth Maintenance Schedule
You can now determine when each vehicle should come off the road and get an inspection from a professional technician. Consider each van’s or truck’s age, frequency of use, accumulated mileage, known issues, and service history when making the determinations. Some vehicles might need a check more often than others.
It’s also a smart idea to stagger the maintenance schedule to ensure you always have enough vehicles to run your operations. Bring your vehicles in for service one or two at a time and you’ll keep your business running smoothly.
4) Find a Reliable Fleet Service Provider
Finally, you need to choose who will maintain your vehicles. Decide if you want to have an in-house team of technicians or whether you’d rather outsource your fleet services.
Whichever option you go for, you need to be sure you can rely on your chosen technicians to keep your fleet in optimal condition. If you choose to outsource, it’s best to find a fleet service shop that can maintain and repair any kind of vehicle and offers a reliable warranty.
Where to Get Fleet Services in Northern Virginia?
Advanced Automotive has been serving private and commercial vehicles in northern Virginia for more than 35 years. At our shops in Chantilly, VA, and Warrenton, VA, we offer comprehensive fleet services for businesses of all kinds.
Our ASE-certified technicians keep your entire fleet running at peak performance. We perform all necessary tasks, from regular check-ups and oil changes to specialized transmission and engine repairs. Thanks to our deep expertise and our A+ rated customer service, we’ll give you the peace of mind to concentrate on running your business knowing your vehicles are in the best possible condition.
We also do more than repair vehicles. Our full range of fleet services includes inspection and shipping services. We also offer consultation appointments to help you create a fleet service plan that works for you.
Call us today at (703) 952-3221 and ask more about our comprehensive corporate fleet services.