Blueprint to effective body maintenance

How to keep vehicles lasting longer and looking good


When done properly, body maintenance not only protects and maintains a vehicle’s appearance, it helps extend the productive life of the vehicle and maintain a higher trade-in or resale value. Regular body maintenance also helps keep vehicles on the road by reducing costly body repairs and electrical work.

“It just makes good sense to keep equipment looking fresh,” says James D Syler, fleet maintenance manager for the City of Little Rock, AK’s Fleet Services Department. “Good body maintenance helps keep vehicles out of the shop, maintains vehicle appearance and extends useful life expectancy.

“With most fleets looking at ways of maximizing their investments, good maintenance all around is important. If a unit is well maintained, you can bet it will sell quicker.”

The City of Little Rock Fleet Services Department maintains more than 1,200 pieces of equipment and vehicles. It operates a central maintenance facility that includes a light duty truck/sedan shop, heavy duty truck shop, tire shop, welding/machine shop, fire apparatus shop and body shop, along with a heavy duty truck and heavy equipment shop located at the city’s landfill.

“Body maintenance is so important because in business, just as in anything in life, image is everything,” says Vahid Farahani, director of operations for American Bus Repair. “Proper body maintenance maintains a positive image for a fleet and that can be a competitive advantage over the competition.”

Based in Alameda, CA, American Bus Repair does complete truck and bus body repair - from vehicle painting to major component retrofits and everything in between.

“Customers, no matter who they are, care about how a vehicle is portrayed,” Farahani says. “Making a positive first impression is key in generating a long-term relationship with customers. A nice clean vehicle is the best advertising tool for a company and will help maintain customer loyalty.”

He agrees with City of Little Rock Fleet Services’ Syler that effective body maintenance increases the life cycle of vehicles and brings higher returns when it comes time to sell or trade in equipment.

SET POLICIES

A key to an effective body maintenance program is regular inspection of vehicles with inspections specific to each type of equipment, says Syler. “We have a regular PM program that allows us to get a good look at all of our units. We also have an established incident and accident reporting policy in place. This helps us make sure that we repair the units as soon as we are notified that something has happened.”

American Bus Repair’s Farahani advises integrating the right people with the right know-how into the vehicle body inspection process and implementing regular routine precautionary measures to catch any issues as early as possible so they don’t grow into more costly and time-consuming future repairs. These include such things as daily driver inspections and regular vehicle washing.

Identifying and attacking body maintenance from an early stage minimizes the possibility of sinking larger amounts of money into the fleet at a later point, he says. By way of example, finding and repairing a small rust spot will decrease the need to make more costly panel corrosion repairs and/or replacements later on.

Further, Farahani recommends incorporating technology to help monitor body maintenance programs, investing in the proper tools to minimize waste and to create quality work and having designated bays.

Star Leasing Company has built a job description program for its body maintenance and repair operations for consistent, uniform and safe work, says Michael A. Viles, director of maintenance at the company’s Zionsville, IN, facility. The company is an employee owned, multi-location semi-trailer leasing, rental and maintenance business.

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