The suppression of vehicle demand with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 and the subsequent supply constraints of 2021 have created a double whammy for the fleet industry. These supply chain constraints, in particular the ongoing microchip shortages, continue to slow new-vehicle production while there continues to be strong end-user demand that exceeds supply. This has limited the availability of replacement units for many fleets, forcing vehicle service lives to be extended. These higher-mileage vehicles tend to have a greater frequency of maintenance issues typically involving longer downtime due to more extensive repairs.
These concerns have increased the importance of maintaining a laser focus on preventive maintenance compliance, the avoidance of unnecessary miles and engine hours, and ensuring that non-standard operating parameters do not accelerate vehicle wear-and-tear. As a result, fleets are implementing “fleet preservation” strategies to mitigate the negative impact of operating higher-mileage vehicles beyond their normal lifecycles.
Operating Units Outside Normal Parameters
Monitor Driver Behavior: When one driver can make a set of tires last for 50K miles versus a driver who replaces tires every 20K-30K miles on the same make and model of vehicle, it is typically a sign of aggressive driving. The same is true with other wear items, such as brakes. Faster than normal brake wear is usually indicative of vehicle abuse and/or aggressive driving.
Enforce Preventive Maintenance Schedules: Maintain driver adherence to a PM schedule to ensure vehicles are in peak operating condition from a maintenance, fluids, and filter perspective. Diligent PM increases a vehicle’s fuel economy, decreases incidents of unscheduled repair, and extends vehicle longevity.
Minimize Truck Overloading: Overloading consume additional fuel, poses a safety risk, and causes unnecessary wear and tear on the chassis and tires. Surveys consistently show that overloading is the No. 1 cause of unscheduled maintenance for trucks.
Strategies to Protect Your Corporate Image
The condition of a vehicle is often the first impression a customer may get of your company, which will be negatively influenced if the vehicle has body damage, rust, or peeling decals. If a company markets itself as a high-quality repair business and a service van shows up with body damage and rust, the customer may equate vehicle image to an implied lower quality of repair.
Increase frequency of washing and cleaning: Regularly washing a fleet vehicle does more than make it look nice, it also bolsters corporate image. Drivers take better care of well-maintained vehicles. A poorly maintained vehicle has the potential to create an attitude by drivers of “if they don’t care, why should I.” If employees aren’t feeling good about the equipment they’re using, or if the vehicle is unreliable, that is going to start to have a negative effect on productivity and morale, which causes drivers to let their guard down in caring for their vehicles. This, in turn, creates a snowball effect, which can drive up repair costs. As the frequency of repairs increases, many employees perceive the vehicle as a nuisance and do not take pride in the vehicle’s internal and external condition the same as they would a newer model. The result is a degraded corporate image and a diminished resale value.
Park to Avoid Damage: When operating a vehicle beyond its normal service live, it is important to minimizes the scratches and dents that invariably happen over time. Parking lots are notorious for producing bumper scratches and door dings. Employees should be sensitive as to where the park their vehicles to avoid unnecessary damage. A fleet vehicle with minimal blemishes will present a more positive corporate image and a higher resale value.
Investigate Pre-Owned Units: If total miles driven could become too excessive with another year of service, investigate the purchase of pre-owned commercial vehicle with fewer miles.
Reduce Odometer Miles and Engine Hours
Route Optimization: Require strict adherence to routing plans and route optimization to minimize unnecessary mileage.
Optimize Utilization to Smooth Out Mileage Variations: Managers should closely monitor vehicle mileage records and swap out high-mileage units with lower-mileage units.
Idle Reduction: Besides wasting fuel, excess idling also causes unnecessary emissions, noise pollution, and needless engine wear-and-tear. However, only utilize an anti-idling strategy in situations where there is no possibility of collision since turning off the engine may disable safety features such as airbags.
Acquisition Strategies for MY-2023
Simplify Specs: This will increase the number of available models across a wider range of OEMs. Be more flexible with orders in the next order cycle. Requiring a specific color, option, or trim may cause delays or add time to the order-to-delivery process. Also, streamlining specifications (where appropriate) will also help to move vehicles through upfit and delivery quicker.
Remain Agile: Be prepared to make quick acquisition decisions when buying a vehicle out of dealer stock. The market will most likely have limited inventory so when a vehicle is located, approvals should be pre‐approved to make immediate decisions.
Start Planning Now: The short ordering window for 2022 models has created additional pent-up demand that will make MY-2023 just as challenging as 2022. Plan to order early.
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