8 Ways to Reduce Fleet Downtime

Van driving on the street at a high rate of speed.

Every business owner knows that fleet downtime can be disastrous. When it comes to service-based businesses like HVAC, home cleaning, electrical, or plumbing, the job can’t be completed—or paid for—if the team can’t get to the job site. 

When it comes down to it, a business is only as reliable as its fleet. That’s why it’s so important to use tried, tested, and true fleet management tactics to reduce fleet downtime and maximize productivity to improve the bottom line

This guide will help small business owners and fleet managers identify methods to improve their maintenance programs, minimize related downtime and maximize fleet productivity.

1. Schedule Regular Vehicle Inspections

You don’t know what you don’t know—and what you don’t know can absolutely hurt your bottom line. Without regular inspections, small problems grow undetected and can become crippling issues in the future. 

How can repairs and maintenance time be minimized?

Scheduling regular inspections for fleet vehicles gives you the ability to identify issues and avoid unplanned maintenance and extra downtime costs due to unexpected breakdowns. Scheduling these inspections also means that business owners can make sure there’s coverage on the schedule and jobs still get completed.

2. Schedule Preventive Maintenance to Reduce Fleet Downtime

Preventive maintenance is about having a plan and regularly assessing the health of your vehicles. You can schedule maintenance for predetermined times based on seasonality, or according to red flags based on vehicle wear and tear. 

The goal is to make sure you’re not paying for unnecessary repairs down the road, leaving jobs incomplete, or having multiple vehicles out of service at the same time. Being on the forward foot when it comes to maintenance means being able to schedule work in advance instead of waiting for an unwelcomed surprise. 

How can fleet maintenance costs be reduced?

Preventive maintenance programs can help reduce small vehicle fleet management costs in the long run. 

For larger fleets, there may be teams dedicated to keeping things moving. With a smaller fleet, the loss of one vehicle to unscheduled downtime can be devastating.

3. Take Advantage of Scheduled and Seasonal Downtime

Downtime is inevitable. People take vacations and there are seasonal lulls that result in gaps between jobs. But when you know it’s coming, you can make it work for you. If there’s a gap coming up in the schedule, set the time slot aside for inspections and maintenance. 

By scheduling preventive maintenance and inspections, you can identify vehicle wear and tear early and order parts before things get worse. Taking this approach means avoiding additional downtime sitting idly waiting for parts when life throws a wrench in the spokes. 

Seasonal downtime could also be a good opportunity to schedule refresher courses or safety training for your drivers. Just because they’re not driving doesn’t mean they can’t be becoming better drivers, and ultimately, better drivers are better for business.

4. Invest in Driver Safety Training

Fleet driver safety training is a great method to reduce vehicle downtime. Accidents are expensive. Between the repair costs and the insurance premiums, it’s worth it to explore investing in preventative safety measures. 

5. Say Goodbye to Reactive Maintenance and Hello to Savings

Reactive maintenance, where you wait for something to be well and truly broken before you send it to the shop for repairs, is a risky and expensive vehicle maintenance program. It can lead to longer downtime while you wait for parts and lead to surprise disruptions that cause customer frustration and potentially dangerous situations for employees.

It may feel like you can’t afford to take a vehicle out of rotation and schedule jobs around maintenance, but the outcome is often an unnecessarily longer downtime, drivers in danger, and a tarnished reputation. 

6. Consider Implementing Speed Limiters

After general maintenance, two of the most common and most expensive problems fleets face today are accidents and excess fuel consumption, both of which can be somewhat mitigated by limiting the speed on your vehicles to not exceed national speed limits. 

Accidents cause significant downtime, starting with the necessary emergency maintenance and the potential scenario where a driver has become injured and needs time to recover. You may also incur insurance premium increases in the case of an accident where speed is a factor. 

While we all aim to exclusively hire drivers who are safe and trustworthy, the truth is that it’s easy for even the best drivers to slip into speeding. It might be the easiest option to simply limit the possible speed on the vehicle to mitigate the issue entirely.

7. Monitor Fleet Vehicle Health Statuses in Real Time 

When fleet managers rely on drivers to report dashboard lights and DTC (Diagnostic Trouble Codes), it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. Even the best of us forget things from time to time, and fleet vehicle health is too important to rest strictly on the memory of a driver who likely has more important concerns. 

Fleet tracking technology can help you keep an eye on the prize by alerting the business to the new issues in plain English, as they happen. 

8. Know the Score with Fleet Driving Data

Fleet data gives you insights into how safely your employees are driving. For many service providers, their drivers are primarily technicians. Just because someone is a great plumber doesn’t mean they have great driving habits. 

Before you have a constructive conversation with your drivers, make sure you have data to back up your claims. Fleet tracking technology can make it easier with visuals that summarize driver habits, including clear examples of where and when they’ve driven unsafely.

The more information you have at your disposal, the more equipped you are to solve problems before they happen. Paying attention to your fleet data and vehicle status can also help you make decisions around driving policies and scheduling maintenance that will keep your team up and running.

How to increase fleet productivity?

Failing to plan is planning to fail. By scheduling and streamlining your maintenance program and forecasting maintenance requirements, you can make sure that your fleet is never out of commission without a backup plan.

Fleet management technology can help automate efficiencies, saving valuable time spent on menial tasks. GPS tracking technology also helps with real-time dispatch, ensuring you’re sending the nearest vehicle to handle the job when urgency is paramount. 

No business owner wants to do paperwork for paperwork’s sake–that’s why fleet management technology exists. Automated alerts, real-time fleet awareness, and vehicle maintenance record management mean more time spent on revenue-generating activities instead of paper chasing. 

How can you reduce downtime and increase productivity?

Fleet downtime, while inevitable in some instances, is largely avoidable. In addition to fleet maintenance programs and smart scheduling, fleet tracking and vehicle health monitoring technology like Force Fleet Tracking helps make it manageable. There’s no intensive installation involved, so your team can spend more time doing what they do best. 

Try Force for free for 14 days and start reducing unnecessary downtime. 

Published March 1, 2022
Joni Taisey
Joni Taisey
Director of Growth Marketing
Force Fleet Tracking