Preventative Maintenance (PM) is key simply because it is far less costly than repairing something broken, major related repairs are often avoided, it is a planned expense, less disruptive to operations, and has a positive customer service impact.
Create a Preventative Maintenance (PM) Plan as soon as possible.
Although the Department of Transportation requires a Preventative Maintenance Inspection (PMI) once a year, as a carrier, you should decide on what’s best for your fleet. Frequency is a major focal point. Maintenance may need to be completed once a month based on the load being transported or quarterly if the trailer isn’t traveling far distances. Be sure there a systematic approach. There is no one size fits all formula for maintenance. Develop your checklist based on your specific fleet operation and vehicle use. Perform pre, enroute, and post trip inspections. Be thorough; have the trailer maintenance performed by a qualified and reputable shop. These shops have access to the appropriate equipment and personnel; they can review any repairs that may require re-work. Discuss your preventative maintenance plan with your trailer manufacturer. Their experts will be able to steer you in the right direction if you have any questions or concerns.
Get Everyone Involved – Drivers, Operations, Staff, and Managers.
Drivers are often the ignored resource but are the key to success within a fleet operation. Since drivers are on the road with the vehicle every day, they are in the best positon to see changes in equipment that require repairs. Each company must inform drivers of the necessary inspections required which typically involve a regimen of a complete pre-trip inspection at the beginning of the day, walk-around inspection each time the vehicle is parked, and a post-trip inspection at the end of the day. Drivers should be informed of the check points on the vehicle and how to spot defects, whom to call when there is a problem, and how and when to submit documentation such as standard checklists and procedures. This means driver training should take place initially and be ongoing. Next, drivers must be doing the required inspections (this is where comparing what maintenance is finding to what the driver is reporting can be helpful). Finally, the drivers must be communicating problems to the maintenance department whether by phone (if on the road) or on paper at the end of the day.
Training the entire team on inspection procedures and what to look for will assist in the long run. Begin a solid Preventive Maintenance Program (PMP) now that involves everyone from Drivers to Operations Managers to Senior Management. If you are not trained or educated on a specific subject or feature, how do you know what to do when something goes wrong or if you are asked a specific question?
Set Goals: Improve Efficiency; Reduce Downtime, Lower Overall Cost.
Fleet owners and operators should be aware of the cost associated with not performing maintenance including the cost of delays, higher than normal expense for repair service on the road, cost of disruption in operations, and customer service impact. The temptation is to wait until something is broken and has to be fixed, which is far more costly than taking preventative measures in a regular and systematic manner.
Select Reliable Service Providers.
There are thousands of trailer service providers within the United States and Canada. However, each service center may not know how to repair your unit. Speak with your trailer manufacturer as they may have their own service centers. They may also have additional service centers throughout the nation that are familiar with the moving and storage industry and the options ordered on your equipment.
Stick To Plan – Don’t Postpone or Procrastinate – Preventative Maintenance Saves In The Long Run. Procrastination is frowned upon in many cases. Procrastinating on your trailer’s preventative maintenance plan will be one of them. The downside to postponing or procrastinating is the expense. When something goes wrong it could have normally been corrected or prevented if seen sooner. Create a system that fits your program. Review your breakdown record to create this plan. You may be surprised by what you see.
Evaluate Work Being Done For Quality & Effectiveness.
When you have something corrected or replaced on the trailer you are pulling, always be sure to review what work has been completed prior to leaving the service center. If you leave and call back sometime after, how does that service center know the issue was on their watch? Consider having your local service provider review repairs made on the road.
Assess Progress Periodically – Better Equipment Utilization? Improved CSA Score?
Review the results once your PM program has been in place for a while. Continue to review on a regular basis. Have you reduced downtime? What has been the impact on overall vehicle operating costs? What is the CSA Vehicle Maintenance score impact? Make corrections as needed.
Owners and operators of trailer equipment need to be aware of the impact their CSA scores have in the event they are found to have maintenance violations during a roadside inspection or traffic stop. If the carrier has a vehicle that has been placed out of service, has lights and/or reflectors that are not working or are obscured, has brake violations (condition, adjustment, etc.), steering or suspension defects, tire, wheel, or rim defects, and use a vehicle that has not been periodically (annually) inspected – These will all adversely impact that CSA scoring. Keep in mind that CSA score affects many things including insurance premiums, customer opinion of the carrier and the likelihood of a carrier being selected for an audit or inspection. Proper vehicle maintenance will go a long way to prevent violations that impact the CSA score from happening in the first place.
Maintenance Resources and Records.
Owners and operators want to make sure the vehicle has been well maintained by a competent maintenance service provider. Each driver needs to perform a vehicle inspection to identify the problems found. All inspections, maintenance work, and repairs should be documented to track problems that are regularly developing with the equipment. This will allow for adjustments in the maintenance schedule and maintenance checklist items. Finally, the maintenance department should review and track every roadside violation and repair request. Watching these two data sets can indicate a problem with the maintenance program or a problem with specific equipment.
Adjust Plan As Needed To Get Where You Want To Be.
Only the driver is in the best position to identify maintenance needs, and request the resources to fix them before they escalate into something much bigger. If you feel your preventative maintenance needs to be performed more often, adjust the plan. If you feel you can travel farther and not stop to look over your trailer, then continue to your destination. However, keep in mind that driver participation in vehicle maintenance is the most important and should not be overlooked or taken lightly. Review the PMP and results periodically for progress. Initiate corrective action when necessary to improve the areas in need.
Although these may vary by operation, brakes, lights, and tires account for 50%-75% of all highway breakdowns and are the most frequent maintenance deficiencies found within roadside inspections. These are also considered to be the most frequent violations but are very observable by the driver.
Remember that Preventative Maintenance doesn’t cost, it pays. Performing this on a regular basis is ideal and will save your company and you time, money, and improve customer satisfaction in the long run.