The Ultimate Truck Preventive Maintenance Schedule

Unexpected vehicle issues are a fleet manager’s worst nightmare, especially when multiple assets go down at the same time. Fortunately, you can prevent unplanned vehicle downtime from becoming a recurring bad dream by creating a truck preventive maintenance schedule.

And we’re talking about much more than just changing the engine oil at recommended intervals. Not sure where to begin? This ultimate preventative maintenance checklist will help you detect and fix vehicle issues before they take your truck drivers off the road. 

Force Fleet Tracking’s product manager Ryan Hill shares his insights below to help you build an effective preventive maintenance schedule. We’ll also cover a few other essential preventive fleet maintenance topics, including:

What is a preventive maintenance schedule?

Preventive maintenance, or “PM,” involves proactively inspecting your fleet vehicles to reduce the risk of breakdowns and keep the wheels turning.

A PM schedule is a fleet management tool that outlines what regular inspections and maintenance tasks you’ll perform on an asset. It also defines how often you’ll perform them.

Most preventive maintenance schedules use mileage and engine hours to determine when a vehicle is due for PM. Tracking both is important because commercial vehicles can rack up a ton of idle hours.

What maintenance needs to be done on a truck?

Commercial trucks require a wide array of regular maintenance tasks, including:

  • Fluid changes
  • Brake inspections and replacement
  • Engine and cabin air filter changes
  • Inspection of all safety equipment
  • Verification of adequate tire pressure

These are just a few examples. For a complete list of necessary maintenance, consult the manufacturer’s manuals for each of your vehicles. Also, don’t forget to top off or replace fluids and filters at recommended intervals.

Preventative maintenance vs. reactive maintenance

Reactive maintenance involves fixing vehicles as they break—for instance, waiting until a tire goes flat to replace it. Another example involves waiting until a battery dies to buy a new one. Both are major no-nos in the commercial transport industry.

By contrast, preventive maintenance relies on periodic inspections to find and resolve issues earlier. For instance, if your team performs battery load testing during each oil change, you can determine when your battery is approaching the end of its service life and avoid a costly breakdown.

Vehicle maintenance software like Force Fleet Tracking makes being proactive even easier. 

Force Fleet Tracking’s product manager Ryan Hill states that the platform “provides clients with the visibility they need to stay on top of maintenance.” For instance, Force has a predictive alert system that notifies you when your battery and air filters only have a few weeks of useful life left so you can replace them in a timely fashion.

Enhance your preventive maintenance strategy with the right tools. Discover how Force Fleet Tracking’s preventive maintenance software can amplify your maintenance routine.

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Benefits of preventive maintenance on trucks

Investing in preventive maintenance promises to provide many benefits, including the following:

Increased asset lifespan

Taking a proactive approach to oil changes and other routine maintenance tasks will keep your equipment in better condition and help you squeeze every last mile out of your trucks. PM is the key to maximizing your return on investment and supporting the long-term growth of your business. 

Reduced risk of breakdowns

Waiting until a part fails will leave your drivers stranded on the side of the road. At this point, you won’t just be faced with repair costs, you’ll also incur productivity-related losses. If you don’t have your own mobile technicians, you’ll have to call a commercial wrecker, which will pile on even more expenses.

Luckily, PM significantly reduces the risk of breakdowns, saving you thousands in hidden costs and keeping your drivers on the road.

Improved efficiency

Keeping your vehicles in tip-top shape can improve their performance and fuel efficiency. Increasing each vehicle’s fuel efficiency by even a couple of MPGs can translate to thousands in savings across your entire fleet. 

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Enhanced asset utilization

When your trucks are stuck in the shop, they can’t be dispatched to serve your customers. And if you experience a wave of unexpected breakdowns, it’ll crater your asset utilization rate and hurt your bottom line. PM allows you to spread out downtime and maintain a high utilization rate year-round.

Better driver morale

No one likes being stranded on the side of the road, especially not when they’re on a timetable. Even if you compensate drivers at their normal rate during downtime, they’d much rather be out there excelling at their job. With that in mind, providing your drivers with safe, reliable, well-maintained vehicles can be a huge morale booster.

When to conduct truck preventive maintenance

Oil changes are required more frequently than any other type of recurring maintenance, making them the ideal opportunity to run through your PM checklist.

Consumer-grade vehicles typically require an oil change every 3,000–5,000 miles. However, it’s always a good idea to consult the owner’s manual to verify your vehicles’ recommended oil change intervals.

Semi trucks, for example, can go much longer without an oil change. Most semis will only need an oil change every 10,000–25,000 miles.

When planning your oil change and PM, consider both the vehicle’s mileage and engine hours. If a vehicle is under the mileage threshold but has accumulated many engine hours, you may want to do PM a little early.

How often is a PM required on a truck?

PM is typically required during each oil change. However, not every preventive maintenance task will need to be performed at every appointment. 

For instance, your maintenance personnel should inspect a vehicle’s air filters and brakes at each PM session. However, the filter should only need to be replaced every 15,000–30,000 miles.

How often should you do a PM on a semi truck?

Like PM for consumer vehicles, semi truck PM schedules should align with the manufacturer-recommended oil change interval.

If your manufacturer recommends changing the oil in your semi trucks every 15,000 miles, you should perform all other preventive maintenance at the same time. This approach makes it easy to keep up with all PM tasks.

That said, a lot can happen between PM sessions, especially if your manufacturer recommends preventive maintenance every 25,000 miles. As such, your drivers must do their part to keep fleet managers in the loop about the state of the fleet.

Specifically, your drivers need to run through a pre-trip checklist before every shift. Some common checklist tasks include:

  • Inspecting the tires
  • Inspecting the lights
  • Verifying that all safety equipment functions properly
  • Checking the status of all gauges

If drivers detect any abnormalities, they must report them immediately. Safety issues are of particular concern—if a vehicle is deemed unsafe to drive due to issues like bald tires or malfunctioning safety equipment, it needs to be serviced right away.

Is routine maintenance expensive?

Routine maintenance is very affordable, especially when you consider the costs of a breakdown. For semi trucks, PM sessions are classified as either “dry” or “wet.”

Dry PM includes:

  • Inspection of major components
  • Greasing and lubrication
  • Tire pressure check
  • Fluid refill (windshield fluid, coolant, brake fluid, etc.)

Wet PM includes all of the above, plus an oil and filter change. Dry PM typically costs around $100 per session, while wet PM costs between $300 and $450. 

Comparatively, tow truck companies typically charge between $250 and $500 just to hook up a semi truck to their rig. They then charge a variable mileage rate that ranges from $20 to $50 per mile driven.

Let’s say you skip a PM session and it leads to one of your trucks breaking down.

You call a commercial wrecker that charges $400 to hook up and $40 per mile. They transport your truck 30 miles to the nearest service station for a total cost of $1,600 ($400 hookup fee + $1,200 in mileage fees). And that doesn’t include the outstanding repairs and PM services you skipped! 

The bottom line is PM is quite cheap when you consider all of the costs associated with a truck breakdown.

How to create a truck preventive maintenance schedule

First, you must determine what metrics to track and how to monitor them.

We recommend tracking vehicle mileage and engine hours. While you can do this manually, it’s typically a tedious, error-prone process. Instead, implement fleet maintenance software. Hill calls fleet maintenance software a “true game-changer” for fleet managers, as it “takes the hassle out of tracking vehicle health and performance while helping to extend the service life of assets.” 

Fleet maintenance software like Force tracks all manner of valuable data about vehicle performance, including fuel efficiency, idle hours, vehicle location, mileage, and more. Once your software is up and running, you’ll have no problem tracking your chosen vehicle maintenance metrics.

After deciding what to monitor and how to track it, your next step is to create a checklist for your maintenance technicians.

This checklist should feature standard practices for every PM session, including inspection guidelines and maintenance tips. At a minimum, your checklist should include the following tasks:

  • uncheckedCheck all fluid levels
  • uncheckedChange fluids in accordance with manufacturer guidelines
  • uncheckedVerify tire pressure
  • uncheckedInspect the condition and remaining life of the tires
  • uncheckedInspect the brakes
  • uncheckedCheck the air filters
  • uncheckedInspect the gearbox and clutch
  • uncheckedPerform a battery load test
  • uncheckedInspect the electrical system
  • uncheckedInspect the cooling system
  • uncheckedCheck all hoses for leaks or damaged connections
  • uncheckedInspect all exterior lighting
  • uncheckedService the fifth-wheel platform
  • uncheckedInspect the trailer

It’s also wise to coach your maintenance technicians to be proactive. Under the traditional reactive maintenance model, technicians are encouraged to hold off on repairs until absolutely necessary. The preventive approach focuses on avoiding more costly issues by addressing maintenance needs up front.

For instance, imagine that the tires on one of your trucks have reached the end of their useful lifespan. While they have a few thousand miles left in them, there’s a chance they might not make it to the next PM. 

Under the PM model, you should replace them now to reduce the risk of a roadside service call later. While you might spend a little more on the front end, you can save thousands by avoiding a breakdown.

Preventive maintenance with Force Fleet Tracking

Creating a truck preventive maintenance schedule is a huge step in the right direction. However, to maximize the benefits of your PM strategy, you need a maintenance tracking solution like Force Fleet Tracking.

Force’s mission is to simplify vehicle maintenance by maximizing fleet visibility. Force features a true plug-and-play device that you can connect in seconds. Once you plug Force into your vehicle’s OBD-II port, you’ll start receiving real-time vehicle performance and location data. 

Force also offers predictive maintenance alerts that notify you when one of your vehicles is due for PM, along with monitoring air filter status, vehicle fuel efficiency, and battery status. When your battery is expected to die within one to two weeks, Force will alert you so you can prevent a breakdown.

Start reaping the benefits of preventive maintenance for your trucks with a free, 14-day trial of Force Fleet Tracking. We’ll even ship the hardware to you for free within 2 days.


Published November 21, 2023