Contract Maintenance Options

With the growing demands and resource limitations on vehicle and equipment maintenance, some shops are considering contracting, or outsourcing, maintenance and repair services. The decision to do so depends on a wide variety of factors, including fleet...

Because every location is unique, it is wise to start the process by having a fleet and business analysis conducted by a professional fleet management company, says Thomas. “This will allow for the design of a comprehensive proposal that will help an operational reach its fleet goals.”



Once a maintenance provider has been selected, it is then necessary to develop a comprehensible and detailed contract arrangement that defines, at the very least, the expected minimum operational parameters.

Thomas advises carefully reviewing the contract with the maintenance provider for hidden costs and charges, and making certain that the contract includes all required, and any desired, elements. 

“It is important to have a clear understanding of services included or not included under the agreement,” says Hunter. “This prevents misunderstanding from occurring when a customer expects an event to be covered when it is not.”

“Cost control is perhaps the most important reason to be in possession of a clearly defined contract with a contract maintenance provider,” O’Leary adds. He notes that Penske operates an online fleet management tool that allows customers to view all repair, maintenance and emergency services work being done on their vehicles, and review the accompanying itemized costs, in an effort to avoid confusion as to what services are performed.

O’Leary recommends measuring the results of maintenance processes using such metrics as PM currency, PM quality, CPM and downtime in order to make any adjustments for continual improvement.

Not to be overlooked is the essential need to have an established mechanism for communications and a conduit for the flow of information between the company and the contract maintenance provider. Successful maintenance outsourcing requires a collaborative relationship.

The communication process starts at the driver-technician level, with drivers completing Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports and then giving them to the maintenance provider for follow up and repair, says Hunter.

“There are electronic DVIR programs that allow drivers to communicate with the fleet manager and the maintenance manager simultaneously, which can improve speed of repair on critical issues,” he points out.

Consistent communication between the fleet and the maintenance provider regarding equipment maintenance scheduling, repeat repair items, trends and equipment status is a must, continues Hunter. Typically, this is handled via e-mail notification or on the telephone between the two parties. If the maintenance provider is on-site (they have taken over a customers shop) then often the maintenance manager will communicate with the fleet’s operations department in-person.

 “Regardless of the frequency and methods of communication,” he says, “a thorough fleet cost review should be conducted quarterly and annually to determine units that are exceeding maintenance budget and which ones are not. Troubled units should be investigated, and determine if the unit is a candidate for replacement.”

The crucial thing to keep in mind when contracting maintenance and repair services is that just because these tasks are outsourced, the company still has overall management and oversight responsibility. Failure to keep tabs on things is a main cause of a failed outsourcing initiative.


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