Repair Orders Can Make a Difference

There is an old saying, "it all starts on the shop floor," and when it comes to vehicle repair orders these words ring true. The flow of information starts with the technician; he or she is the first step in collecting valid data. In order for a fleet to operate smoothly, maintenance data must be precise and repair orders complete.

If the wrong information is collected on the repair order, the wrong information will end up as being factual. Fleets cannot maintain their vehicles with anecdotal information when facts are needed to ensure proper business decisions are made. There are several ways to guarantee that the information gathered is indeed correct.


The design of the repair order is very important. It must be user- friendly to ensure that the technician feels comfortable when filling out the form. Whether it's a hand- written or computer-generated repair order the technician must be able to navigate the various information fields with little or no difficulty.

Repair orders should contain pertinent fields to document parts and labor functions. Recording too much information can be counter-productive. Fleet managers need the right data in order to make educated decisions; the repair order is the first step in this process.

Using the ATA/TMC Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards (VMRS) will improve any repair order process. By using VMRS a fleet can collect the same precise data throughout their organization. VMRS is the universal language for equipment repairs and has been the standard for over 30 years. Using VMRS takes the guesswork out of collecting maintenance repair data.


Doug Andrew, Fleet/VMRS consultant with Cetaris Software, states using VMRS on a repair order improves the maintenance process. These improvements reduce unscheduled repairs, roadside breakdowns and identify exceptional costs. It is the best tool available to support the recovery of warranty dollars. Doug should know since he has been involved with VMRS from its inception and continues to be a vocal supporter and contributor to VMRS.

Maintenance software firms such as Arsenault Associates and Cetaris offer a standardized repair order module that includes VMRS. The inclusion of VMRS codes on a repair order helps a fleet manger "mine the data" that is needed to make educated maintenance decisions. Many software firms can tailor the repair order to reflect a fleet's information gathering needs. Fleets have varied maintenance needs so it's a good idea to discuss the repair order module prior to installation. Make sure the shop manager and a technician or two are included in the discussions; after all, they are the ones that input the data.


Fleets will benefit by placing importance on correctly completing their repair orders. Technicians should be trained from day one on what a fleet expects on repair orders. Many times a fleet will gloss over the repair order process and assume that the information gathered is correct. Periodic repair order audits will insure that the correct information is collected and will keep employees aware that the fleet is concerned about their maintenance data. Remember it's not what you expect but what you inspect that is important.

In today's economy businesses are striving to save as much money as possible. Maintenance costs have been rising and a fleet manager needs to look for ways to save money without jeopardizing vehicle safety. Having the correct maintenance data is a major factor in making any maintenance decision. Questions like how many brake jobs were performed, is the engine using too much oil, are there numerous electrical problems, are determining factors on equipment repair or replacement strategies.

According to Kirk Altrichter, VP of Maintenance at Gordon Trucking in Pacific, Washington, maintenance data is only as good as what is entered by the technician. Gordon Trucking utilizes data mining software to audit repair orders on a regular basis looking for part failure data to help determine trends. They rely on VMRS codes to help in this process and train their technicians on the use of VMRS codes and also the proper way to fill out a repair order.


The repair order is also the first step in documenting warranty information. It is important to document the correct maintenance information on a repair order to insure the warranty procedure is completed properly. Warranty dollars are too important to lose due to an improperly filled-out repair order.

Insurance claims are another reason to be concerned about properly filling out repair orders. A repair order is an historic document on any piece of equipment, and it must be complete. There are times that a fleet must produce repair orders for legal and insurance claims. It is always a best practice to produce a concise repair document in any legal claim; it can make the difference between winning and losing a case.

So it all starts on the "shop floor"--the initial data entry, the initial diagnosis, the initial customer or driver greeting--it's the beginning of the very important process of collecting information. Fleets must be aware of the way employees are involved in the repair order process or the information collected will be questionable.

With the cost of a new piece of equipment it is vitally important to keep good repair records. Like a person's medical records, a fleet must document the correct data to keep the equipment healthy. Good repair orders can make a difference in the health of any fleet. So don't overlook the importance of a good repair order. It can keep the "iron doctor" away!