Many fleet vehicles are past their “best before” date, which means fleet managers need to budget for unplanned expenses.
Budgeting for maintenance and repairs at a time when shortages, delays and supply chain issues are a daily reality can be frustrating. If you’re finding it difficult to maintain your fleet, or even find much-needed parts, you’re not alone.
“Everything has gone up in price,” says Dominic Riolo, Manager, Call Centre, Foss National Leasing. “Parts are especially expensive.” While we may often think of regular maintenance items like oil, filters and tires, Riolo says fleet managers may find themselves paying a premium for other parts, as well. In addition, they may have to wait months in order to find parts that are increasingly more scarce.
The supply chain is a serious problem. I have one client who has been waiting six months for a windshield, and another who has been waiting four or five months for a door. So right now, getting parts, can be very challenging.
– Dominic Riolo, Manager, Call Centre, Foss National Leasing
Melinda Boyd, Director of Fleet Services, Jim Pattison Lease is seeing the same windshield shortage with her clients, and strongly recommends taking proactive steps to minimize damage from stone chips, and possibly avoid the expense and headache of having to change the entire windshield.
“Make sure drivers are getting their chips filled as soon as possible,” Boyd explains. “This is especially important with newer vehicles. The glass can be delayed, and they’re also getting more expensive, with all the calibration that’s needed. So ensure that you stay on top of getting the chips filled before you need to replace the windshield.”
Matt Chapman, Product Partner Manager, Fleetio is seeing similar supply chain issues. “Lead time has certainly increased for parts orders, but the inherent scarcity has also made it difficult to stock appropriately,” he says. “The best course of action is to look at the trends in your upcoming service and historical data to determine your high-turnover and mission-critical components.”
If you have a good relationship with a local garage or dealership, they may be willing and able to stock some hard-to-find parts for your fleet, knowing that sooner or later you’ll need that part, and they can count on your business.
“They know which fleet vehicles come in, and they know which parts they need to keep in stock,” adds Dominic Riolo from Foss National Leasing.
Predicting future costs
Predicting which parts might fail in the future, and how much it will cost to keep older vehicles on the road is not a precise science. However, if you partner with a fleet management company that has historical data that they can apply to your fleet and circumstances, you might be able to reduce the number of surprises ahead.
“We have data from vehicles in the fleet, and we can use that data to make a number of predictive estimates as to what the incremental costs and maintenance expenses are going to be,” explains Geoff Seely, VP and General Manager, Holman – Canada. “So we’re able to give our clients guidance in terms of what the potential impact can be. We’re not going to be 100% accurate, but we can give them trends and explain the expected increases in expenses, if they keep a vehicle an extra year or two.”
If you’re not working with a fleet management company, you’ll at least want to track expenses and manage maintenance costs with software that can help you keep track of all your vehicles, explains Matt Chapman from Fleetio.
“Fleet management software is a great way to track and manage your fleet’s maintenance including inspections, reminders and reporting, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks,” Chapman adds. “Through software, fleets can streamline maintenance management as well as integrate all fleet data into one central location, making it easier to track and manage costs.”
While it’s easy to get caught up in predicting costs and preventing breakdowns, fleet managers need to remember that the buck stops with the driver. In other words, money can be saved, and the need for maintenance and repairs can be reduced when drivers are careful behind the wheel.
Industry experts recommend monitoring driver behaviour in order to reduce or eliminate bad habits, including aggressive driving, hard braking and harsh acceleration. Doing so can also help prevent accidents, which many keep your fleet vehicles out of commission longer than usual since the collision repair industry is experiencing shortages of their own.
Melinda Boyd, from Jim Pattison Lease recommends making it easy for your drivers to purchase fuel without having to drive out of their way to find the gas station they’re allowed to purchase from. “Drivers should be able to purchase fuel from multiple, different vendors so they don’t have to drive around looking for a particular gas station,” she explains, adding that monitoring purchases will assure that they’re not buying a higher-grade fuel when ‘regular’ will do.
“You’ll save a little bit,” she adds, “especially if that driver is always putting in a higher-grade fuel, thinking that it’s better for the vehicle. But the little bits certainly do add up.”
A pinch of prevention
With costs rising, and parts hard to get, fleet managers might be tempted to skimp here and there in order to satisfy budgets. Sasha Arasteh, E-Mobility and Services Manager, Shell Americas warns against doing so, and reminds fleet professionals that the time and money they invest in maintenance and repairs now will reduce the need for bigger repair costs in the future.
“A well-maintained vehicle is going to end up costing you less overall, not only to maintain, but from a fuel-savings perspective, and a downtime perspective,” Arasteh concludes. “So the more we can encourage fleets to be proactive about maintenance, versus just reactive, I think they’ll see overall cost and time efficiency savings.”