Driving demands for telematics

The ideal fleet management solution is not just about tracking use but also, more importantly, about preventive maintenance, says David Nicholls, VP of Situational Awareness and Telematics at Restrata

If you manage a fleet – be it trucks or machinery – the technology you use every day, such as GPS fleet tracking, supports safety and efficiency. But could the same technology help manage a schedule of preventive maintenance that not only keeps everything going but also helps minimise costs?

It’s easy to see why maintenance is so important. One major technical failure in a commercial vehicle, for instance, has a ripple effect that erodes more than your repair budget. Costs can include the potential expense of a tow to bring disabled equipment to the garage, or the amount of time the vehicle may be sitting idle at the site of the breakdown, or in the days afterwards while it’s being repaired.

There are overhead costs, including a vehicle lease or payment that does not pause just because the loader or truck is not moving, and a driver cooling his heels for a while. Add to this the loss associated with a delivery postponed or a deadline missed, and the expense of doubling up – having to send another vehicle to do the job. And we haven’t even discussed the cost of the repair itself.

In contrast, there are benefits gained when vehicles are tended to regularly, and it’s possible to use the same In-vehicle monitoring system (IVMS) system you implemented for safety and efficiency to help in this.

A schedule of regular maintenance is a necessary expense that can preclude a much larger one. Nevertheless, many operators opt to pinch pennies on this budget item, only to rue the decision later. This is especially true in smaller fleets; where money may be tight, but it is arguably more important for these smaller operators to accept the expenditure.

A study published in September last year by a prominent global heavy vehicles publication revealed that small fleet operations tend to retain their vehicles for nearly twice as long as larger outfits (five years, compared to 2.7).

Considering that the likelihood of mechanical failure escalates as equipment ages, maintenance is money well spent.
A well-maintained machine repays the operator a portion of that maintenance expense by racking up smaller fuel bills. Even a small return can be worthwhile, as petroleum consumption is so large a drain on the balance sheet; even in the GCC, where fuel has historically been cheaper than in other regions, it now appears to be increasing in cost.

Trucking Efficiency, an interest group composed of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency and the Carbon War Room, conducted a survey of commercial vehicle carriers that included a question on regular maintenance and fuel economy. The survey shows that 75% of operators believe there is “a strong or very strong link between the two”.

Maintenance that is preventive instead of reparative is almost always less expensive. Repairs are inevitable – but without regular care, they are going to be more frequent. Few professionals would argue this point.

A driver’s or operator’s pre-job inspection is good at spotting visible problems, but servicing the equipment at regular intervals is better at detecting what might emerge – and what might be ruled dangerous negligence in a post-accident investigation.

If there is agreement that a programme of preventive maintenance can forestall problems and maybe even pay for itself, the question is: what’s the best means of implementing such a programme? The answer is technology. For fleets, preventive maintenance is one of the business functions that telematics can simplify.

GPS fleet tracking is not limited to supporting more efficient routing, recording hours of service for driver logs, and reducing fuel expenses. A complete telematics solution includes engine analytics that can send you alerts of pending maintenance. Diagnostics provide fault codes directly from the equipment to the office, so that identifying the work to be done is a streamlined process.

The ideal fleet management solution can be customised to your application, covering your maintenance needs as well as your operational profile. There are solutions available that even keep track of work orders, maintenance history and parts inventory, with any necessary records.

Be sure to shop around and determine which product is the best fit for you. When you do, you will find that preventive maintenance can transform from an expensive, time-consuming task to something very close to a no-brainer.

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