Fleet Maintenance Management: CUT THE HIGH COST OF REPAIRS

Posted by Reza Tavassoli on 11-Sep-2018 10:50:46 AM
Reza Tavassoli

If you have had the misfortune of having to take the car to the garage due to a significant breakdown at some point, you can attest to the fact that, over the long term, repairs always cost considerably more than maintenance. F. Aboulfath’s research paper titled: “Optimal Maintenance Schedules for a Fleet of Vehicles…” published by the University of Toronto’s Department of Engineering, expands on the optimal challenges of fleet vehicle maintenance and proves the benefits of Preventive Maintenance as an essential solution to cutting costs and extending the life cycle of your fleet.

This fact is crucial for fleets of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of vehicles and pieces of equipment. Not only is equipment longevity at stake, but also company operations and productivity, the safety of employees, and public safety in some cases. In 2016, Chalmers University of Technology published a research paper by Donmez & Zenmouri, definitively illustrating the higher cost of corrective maintenance can be exponentially increased when managing fleets.  

When your company relies on the smooth, predictable, coordinated, and safe running of equipment, efficient maintenance management is more than best practice, it can mean the difference between profit and loss.


There are two types of maintenance: corrective and preventive.

Let’s start with a better understanding of the differences between corrective and preventive maintenance. Corrective Maintenance (CM) refers to repairs on faulty equipment. This usually only gets done after something is broken, and you are at the mercy of needing things done urgently: extra labor costs and rush shipping fees for needed parts are almost always part of this scenario. Preventive Maintenance (PM) is like a regularly scheduled doctor check-up. Sure, there are a few small costs for tests, but mostly lots of practical advice on staying healthy. The mechanic, like the doctor, knows through experience what time and wear does to a system, and they help extend health when you follow their advice. The industry is driven by effective maintenance. The question is, which side of the profit margin is your maintenance policy on?   

When managing a fleet, equipment failures often appear; some can quickly escalate to an urgent equipment repair situation. An excellent corrective maintenance repair will restore the equipment's original function immediately. Hence, to minimize downtime. Unfortunately, it often involves urgent repairs or part replacements. It ignores any preventive measures. This significantly impacts the operations of any business using equipment or relying on vehicles for transport. The bottom line is that service reliability, customer satisfaction, and several other elements can be adversely affected when corrective maintenance is the only method used.

A Case for Corrective Maintenance... or Is It? 

Corrective, reactive, or unscheduled maintenance deals with an issue after it has occurred. Having to replace a blown engine because you didn’t change the oil or having to do extensive bodywork after an accident from an old tire bursting is the expected CM outcome. It’s a labor-intensive post-action requiring identifying and repairing broken parts, component assemblies, or whole systems. Equipment failure is often a daily reality in fleet management, and urgent failures are quick reminders of the very high cost of repairs. CM will return the equipment to working order, but at what cost in time and money? Urgent repairs and parts replacements, when feasible, may minimize equipment downtime, and due to budget restrictions imposed by the client, usually take a surgical tactic for the repair but don’t actively seek other potential issues following the original damage.

The bottom line, performance reliability, customer satisfaction, and several other elements can be adversely affected when the only method used is corrective maintenance, which is: 

  • UnpredictableProblems dealt with as they occur leave no way to budget for potential issues effectively.
  • Sub-optimal PerformanceEquipment lifespan and performance is lessened when only specific damage is repaired as a bare minimum solution to keep the unit operational.
  • Hazardous to health and safety: CM only corrects specific damage after it’s happened and seldom anything else. Imagine a fuel tanker that gets a blowout because they don’t regularly change their tires. The collateral damage can now extend well beyond the cost of changing a tire.
  • Direct Impacts on Business: In addition to the cost of repairs, there are:
    • Lost Opportunity: unexpected downtime of equipment and manpower it takes to manage, often taken from business development or responding to opportunities.
    • Reliability and Reputation: Unplanned breakdowns lead to service breakdowns and a loss of reliability in the eye of your customers.
    • Labour Performance: Emergency repairs are usually performed in "urgent" mode. Rushing and extra stress on the workers has a tendency to raise the incidents of worksite accidents, task errors, and employee absences due to sickness. 
  • A Bandaid Solution: CM only addresses the damage that we see. It ails to prevent what might come next. There's always another way of managing maintenance; replace the bandaid with a more predictive model and embrace Preventive Maintenance.


Preventive maintenance is a set of systematic maintenance programs that aims to repair and service equipment before failures occur. They involve maintenance recalls triggered by trackable data, including odometer values, engine hours, date, consumption of one or several fluids, etc...

In many cases, the more complex the mechanical task addressed during preventive maintenance, the greater its offset cost is compared to having to effect a collateral repair post-incident. For example, systems regularly inspected for corrosion, fluid leaking, and other usage-related failures can take action before damage and accidents occur.

When considering the vast diversity of equipment and vehicles in any given fleet, the most effective way to implement proper maintenance schedules and programs is to start with the guidelines and instructions outlined in the manufacturer's owner manuals.


  •  The planned structure of PM allows the manager to better budget the action based on explicit knowledge of the work to be done.
  • Allocation of maintenance resources can be scheduled to work along with the needs of the day-to-day operational needs.
  • You can integrate your statutory maintenance (e.g. MOT PMI) and do maintenance on specific vehicle systems (e.g. spring and fall HVAC checks in northern climates, etc.) or integrate special asset requirements (e.g. Full snow blowers inspection before winter, PTOs on cement trucks, etc.).
  • A zero per cent failure/accident rate is rare due to the unpredictable variables involved with usage. However, routine checkups prevent the need for many large-scale repairs. E.g., Oil change vs Engine burn-out.
  • Scheduled labour is always less expensive than costly overtime rates. 
  • PM plans change and adapts with the age of equipment, and you can effectively plan ahead with the knowledge acquired from the manufacturer's recommendations and your own data collection. 

How To Get A Smooth Transition To Preventive Maintenance?

PM may represent a significant procedural shift in any organization. To achieve a smoother implementation and optimize the benefits, involving all personnel in the change process is imperative. A sound PM system will pay for itself over time and deliver an obvious ROI for the company faster than the continual and cumulative drain of corrective maintenance on any vehicle.

By planning, servicing, making regular checks, and replacing parts when recommended, a PM approach limits unexpected problems and reduces long-term expenses. 

 PM Strategy Vs. Corrective Maintenance

 The purpose of PM is to keep your equipment in working order for as long as possible. Well-designed inspection programs help reveal whether or not the use that is made of a unit is rougher than average. During scheduled Inspections, minor maintenance tasks can be quickly performed. E.g., changing filters and fluids. When something more serious is detected (Eg, component recalls or failures) and needs immediate action, the inspection leads to a solution that rapidly returns the equipment to operational status. Management and control needs of many organizations evolve naturally from simple corrective maintenance to a scheduled inspection / PM type of maintenance management and get profitable results.

A Case For Preventive Maintenance Systems

In our article titled "Why Do You Need A Fuel Management System?" we established the benefits of automating data collection under an integrated platform. We believe the same applies to preventive maintenance. Imagine you are still collecting engine data reported by users and drivers; there remains a greater chance of human error. With a large quantity of data on paper, putting together valuable and insightful reports for in-depth analysis is very consuming and requires specialized labour.

Simply put, to have an effective maintenance program, preventive or otherwise, in place, you require the proper tool, namely preventive maintenance software. So what does an effective PM system provide?  

  • Automatic capture of engine data to ensure error-free maintenance plan triggers and timely recalls
  • An accurate picture of the ROI for each unit
  • Tracking and analysis of vehicle-related costs
  • Easy access to vehicle-related information
  • Tracking of warranties to avoid unnecessary expenses on replacement parts
  • Standardization of company procedures and practices about maintenance
  • Accountability

 Given how essential preventive maintenance is for fleets, combined with the vast number of companies operating an equally vast array of vehicles and other types of equipment, it comes as no surprise the PM software market has many trying to fill the need. Therefore, it is essential to plan correctly by asking the right questions:

  1. What are the potential supplier’s credentials/experience?
  2. How adaptable/upgradable is the proposed system?
  3. Can the system be customized to meet specific requirements?
  4. How well is it integrated into other fleet-related systems, such as a fuel management system?
  5. Does the system allow for different user access/security levels?
  6. What are the guarantees/warranties of the product?
  7. What kind of support is provided during and after implementation?
  8. What are the costs, if any, for:
    1. Customization
    2. Installation
    3. Travel and living
    4. Training
    5. Software and database hosting
    6. License fees
    7. Tech support/service plans
    8. Hardware components

 Of course, each company has its own set of characteristics and features that makes it unique, but there are still some system benefits that are desirable regardless of organizational differences:


  1. User-friendliness
  2. Speed
  3. Comprehensive Automation
  4. Easy and quick work orders
  5. Flexible maintenance-related notifications
  6. Quick and Easy Maintenance plans set up
  7. Flexible enough to manage the maintenance of things other than vehicles, such as buildings and small equipment
  8. Graphic dashboards quickly visualizing maintenance operations
  9. Tracking of key performance indicators and stats
  10. Easily viewable and understandable maintenance history
  11. Seamless integration between modules or linkage compatibility to third-party systems. 

 Such a system may seem expensive and involve quite a bit of time and resources to put into place, but consider this: adequately implemented and executed PM leads to 15%-20% greater productivity, 25%-50% fewer unplanned breakdowns and downtimes, 20%-40% less overtime, and 10%-25% lower costs associated with parts replacement. 

Are you ready to make the switch to improve your bottom line? For more on this and other related topics, please contact us any time! We look forward to working with you on your solutions.