3 signs that your vehicle needs a sick day

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As the fleet manager of a high-functioning field service team, it’s important to understand how the care and upkeep of your vehicles impacts your overall bottom line. And while we all know that vehicle maintenance is important, it’s easy to let some critical needs slip through the cracks. After all, we’re all human, and it’s even a challenge to keep up with regularly scheduled oil changes for personal vehicles.

The "how" and "why" behind regular vehicle maintenance

The average cost of a loss related to fleet vehicle accidents is $70,000, making it one of the most expensive injury claims for businesses, almost twice the cost of the average workplace injury. These staggering costs, along with the costs of vehicle breakdowns and missed appointments, are enough to convince any dedicated fleet owner of the value of making proactive vehicle maintenance a priority. Staying on top of vehicle care can be hard, however, if you don’t know how to recognize the signs of a problem. And, if your vehicles are in need of a “sick day,” it means that it might be time to look into more preventative maintenance measures and take additional proactive steps to stay on top of vehicle health.

Here are 3 ways to tell if a vehicle needs a sick day:

  1. The dash is lit up like New York City. If your vehicle is constantly flashing any dashboard warning lights, it’s time to get it checked out. It’s one thing to have one warning light come on that you quickly address, but if your vehicles continuously have one or more warning lights on, that calls for a sick day (or two) off the roads. Taking the time to fix all issues as they happen can prevent repeat problems down the line.
  2. Your team keeps missing appointments. This can be a major issue for many field service teams. The fastest way to lose customers is by being late or to missing appointments altogether, and unforeseen vehicle issues such as flat tires, oil leaks, or broken mirrors could be at fault. Thankfully, this issue is preventable by keeping ahead of maintenance needs.
  3. Your vehicles aren’t moving as fast as they used to. The older vehicles get, the more likely they are to move a little slower. Daily driving takes a toll on your fleet, and you need to treat your vehicles a little nicer as they age. Take them in for regular check-ups, make sure you make the right preventative care appointments on time and don’t run them too hard.

Why regular fleet maintenance is so important

It’s easy to discuss fleet maintenance from a 10,000-foot view, but understanding why it’s so critical is another thing entirely. Maintaining healthy vehicles is critical to running a productive, cost-efficient business and delivering better customer experiences. Regular fleet maintenance also impacts:

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  • Lost productivity: If your vehicles are spending more time in the garage than on the road, your team won’t be able to make as many stops, which means your company profits can start trending downward. And even if your team is out on the road in unhealthy vehicles, stalls, accidents and other issues can cause unexpected stops in service, which can impact your customer satisfaction if drivers are missing appointments or running late.
  • Safety risks: The last thing you want to do is put your drivers, customers or anyone else at risk, and letting maintenance needs lag too long can have devastating consequences. Keeping tabs on the aforementioned risk indicators and staying proactive when it comes to vehicle maintenance can help keep your fleet safe and mitigate any harm.
  • Unnecessary costs: For a high-functioning team with multiple vehicles in a fleet, high mileage can result in serious costs down the road. It’s not only maintenance costs you have to worry about, either. If you allow poor vehicle health go too long without being addressed, you could be stuck buying new trucks at a faster pace.

The right preventative maintenance can save your organization a great deal of time and money. For example, if a vehicle is being driven around 10,000 miles a year, it only costs approximately $120 a year for oil changes (every 3,000 miles and newer vehicles can go even longer than that). Compare that with replacing an engine that seized because it ran out of oil, $5,000. Or consider tire rotation and air pressure checks, which are small but critical pieces of maintenance. Plan for $50 for a tire rotation every 7,500 miles and absolutely no cost for air pressure checks versus $400 to $1,000 to replace worn tires entirely. 

At the end of the day, regular maintenance of your vehicles is incredibly important because it helps reduce the risk of breakdowns, keeps your team from losing time on the road and helps mitigate any safety risks or added costs.

Bonus! 5 tips to keep your vehicles in tip-top shape

Ready to develop a proactive fleet maintenance strategy but don’t know where to start? Here are some best practices to get you started:

  1. Build a comprehensive vehicle health checklist and review these factors on a monthly basis.
  2. Make vehicle maintenance a top priority of your entire team, including both drivers and technicians.
  3. Leverage both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance data to build a custom maintenance schedule.
  4. Track and simplify data gathering with technology that compiles automatic reports and helps with better decision making.
  5. Follow thought leaders for new ideas and strategies on preventative maintenance and how to keep moving forward.

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