Tips for a new maintenance manager just starting out.

March 17, 2010

Q: I am newly managing and maintaining a fleet of approximately 50 vehicles. Cars, small buses, light/medium duty trucks and passenger vans. Outsourcing all maintenance and repairs. I have no shop and no mechanics. I could use some good advice to control out of control costs. Non profit organization with a limited budget. Help!

A: Here are a few pointers to help get some control back:

  • Construct yourself full-service forms and mid service forms. Depending on the mileage the vehicles run you may need to see the vehicle between full service (oil change) intervals.
  • This also ensures your vehicle is being serviced to your standards both controlling your expenses and the safe working order of your vehicle.
  • Maintenance intervals may need to be tracked by time rather than mileage as each vehicle may be running different mileages. (time is much easier to track as well)
  • Have these service forms estimated by several maintenance shops in your area. Some OEM shops are actually happy to be included in these estimates and are easier to deal with when it comes to haggling over warranty issues regarding their work. Sit with the service manager ONLY to negotiate your program and also to ensure they clearly understand your requirements and expectations. Most will actually pick-up and drop off vehicles. All work is also computer tracked so no thumbing through old paper work to see if the job performed is still under warranty. Your time is worth money and you don't want to pay twice.
  • Ensure you receive "fleet" labor rates and part pricing.
  • Inquire with the OEM facilities for any possible warranty when repairs are required. Also enquire on any hidden or regular recalls. It's always beneficial when no charge repairs are performed.
  • When serious power train or electrical repairs are required I recommend going straight to the OEM dealer. Most tasks are flat rated and they have the proper diagnostic equipment to do the job properly and quickly. Odds are they have probably come across the same problem more than once which means a quick repair. Get estimates on any required repairs.   
  • Tires are expensive, ensure abnormal wear is inspected on each service to catch much needed alignments.
  • I would also recommend having the operators perform pre-trip inspections and have a small and quick form filled. This ensures the vehicle leaves your facility in safe order as the operator may notice leaks or low tires. Having the repair performed in it's early stages is much less expensive than leaving the yard and failing out on the roadways. Saves a great deal of tow bills as well. Damage is a very big expense and can only be caught on these pre-trips.
  • If you have the option, dedicate vehicles to the operators. Removes a great deal of headaches and it is much easier to control abuse and damage.

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