25 May 2021
Fleets can struggle to understand the costs of downtime, or why it is happening. We look at some approaches for cutting down the amount of time vehicles are off-road.
Vehicle downtime is a problem many fleets face, and the cost of it to a business can be very hard to determine. Not only is there the material cost of maintenance and repair to the vehicle, but there are other financial factors to consider too, such as replacement vehicles while it is off-road, productivity losses if work is postponed or cancelled and the cost of paying employees who cannot do their job.
It is important to minimise downtime, and there are a number of strategies a fleet can apply.
Here are some key approaches:
Make sure parts are in stock
If you have to undertake any servicing, maintenance or repair, one of the issues that can slow getting a vehicle back on the road is not having the right parts in stock. This can be for many reasons: because there is a lack of supply from the manufacturer, or the part you need must be ordered, and can take time to be delivered, for example.
It is crucial to understand the status of part supply. If it is a genuinely unavoidable delay, then you need to have contingencies in place. It is worth asking firstly: does that work have to be undertaken at that point, or can it wait? Of course, for safety and compliance reasons, it may be unavoidable, but if you know there is a delay on parts before it enters the workshop you can plan around it – either rescheduling or reallocating work, by finding another vehicle from the fleet or by renting.
So it pays to work with a provider who can give you real time updates on parts availability, so as soon as there is an issue, you can act.
Know when there are problems
Many of the issues with excessive downtime come from a lack of communication. If a fleet is spread far and wide, then sometimes it can take a while for drivers to report to fleet managers that they have a problem, and that the vehicle is off-road.
Even a day lost while this information is received and acted upon can be expensive, so ensure you have processes in place that allow employees to report ‘vehicle off-road’ and the nature of the issue straight away.
Ensure work is scheduled effectively
Having to find space at the last minute to get work done can mean you join the back of the queue, and that means more downtime. So scheduling work wherever possible can save off-road wastage in terms of money and time.
As an example, if you analyse your fleet data and find that tyres almost always need replacing at a certain mileage, keep a close eye (or ensure drivers are doing walkround inspections and reporting back) as vehicles approach that point. Then you can schedule them into a workshop and have replacements ordered.
Sometimes, when damage or breakage occurs, it is not possible, and it is just a case of getting that vehicle in as soon as possible. At this point, you need options. If you have a limited number of service, maintenance and repair providers, you may not be able to schedule work for some time. But working with a wider network you have more chance of finding a slot – but at the same time you need to be confident that this workshop still adheres to your pricing, standards and reporting.
Have your compliance processes in place
Compliance is an extremely important issue, and not having the correct paperwork can slow up getting vehicles on the road. Many SMR providers will be able to supply all the necessary records in digitised form, and hold them securely for you.
This means that after work has been completed, you can see a complete log of all actions and sign-offs, and can confidently put that vehicle back into operation, rather than chasing around trying to collate disparate paper records to ensure all work has been completed to the necessary standards.
Know where your vehicles are
For some fleets, the issue of downtime can be exacerbated because they quite simply don’t know where vehicles are. If there has been an issue, a driver might have swapped into another vehicle and parked the other one up. It can then take time to locate the stricken vehicle, collect it and get it to a repairer.
If you have a keen grasp of where all your assets are at all times, you can move vehicles around to where they are needed most, filling holes in operational capacity to limit the impact of downtime and getting those that are off-road into repair as quickly as possible.
Pay promptly and understand costs
As with many things in life, if you agree costs and pay promptly for work, it is likely to get completed quicker. But that doesn’t mean throwing money at a problem, because costs can rise very quickly for maintenance and repairs jobs: different makes of parts can vary enormously in price, and the hours a job takes can escalate if not managed.
To control these issues, have a strict set of agreed rules, conditions and costs in place at the outset. For parts, menu pricing will allow you to ensure that you only pay what you expect, while hours for particular jobs can be pre-agreed too. Having these parameters in place will speed up work, because many jobs can be signed off digitally and instantly without having to wait for authorisations, or be delayed by negotiations over the cost.
Digital invoicing is part of this process too: if all parties involved know payment terms and can pay quickly, then this will help move jobs through the system. Waiting for paper invoices, or chasing up quotes and outstanding approvals increases administration and gets in the way of putting a vehicle back into operation.
A streamlined, digital payment structure such as this will free up more time to work on the repairs that are more complex and specific.
Allstar ServicePoint is a leading solution for those seeking improved efficiency in their fleet maintenance management. Using one online portal, you can book, approve and settle all vehicle maintenance requests for privately-maintained company vehicles. Find out more here.