A recent report suggested that while fleet maintenance costs remained relatively flat throughout 2010, the percentage of spend on preventative maintenance had increased significantly. Why are PM (Preventative Maintenance) costs increasing, how could this affect you, and what can you do to minimize the impact on your fleet’s bottom line?

Why are PM (Preventative Maintenance) costs increasing?

The report showed that the average cost of an individual PM incident has increased by around 9% since 2008. The reason for the increase was said to be higher oil change prices and the shift to the more costly (around an extra $3 per quart) synthetic oil recommended for some models.

Manufacturers such as GM and Ford are suggesting that fleet owners adopt an oil life monitoring system, rather than the traditional oil change intervals, as a way of offsetting the higher costs.

How does this affect you and your fleet?

Higher costs always present a challenge to fleet owners, particularly in a tight economy and even tighter budgets. Added to this is the difficultly of scheduling maintenance, since many fleets have ‘rightsized’ after the financial downturn, leaving a shortage of spare vehicles that can ‘fill in’ while vehicles are at the workshop.

In order to combat the growing complexity of scheduling PM and complying with manufacturers required servicing, some fleet owners are taking shortcuts. Unfortunately all this does is put the problem off, rather than resolve it.

It also puts the safety of drivers at risk and increases the chance of voiding a vehicle’s warranty or running into severe mechanical problems in the future.

So what’s the solution to rising PM costs?

Smart telematics helping fleets cut PM costs

PM costs are not something you want to eliminate entirely for obvious reasons. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so spending money on PM can save major costs and downtime later. But you can get smarter about your PM spend, trimming the fat to make sure you’re not wasting expenditure on unnecessary preventative maintenance.

That’s where smart diagnostics come in handy. Telematics can be the key to unlocking the valuable data from every fleet in your vehicle.

Real-time feedback is helping fleet maintenance managers make smarter decisions on which vehicles to service and when, as well as helping drivers operate their vehicles more efficiently, which results in less wear and tear and increases the interval between maintenance stops.

Systems like the built-in Ford Telematics powered by Telogis offer fleet managers a range of DTC information and alerts on mechanical issues including water contamination in the diesel and oil life % remaining. Information like that can help fleet maintenance managers make the paradigm shift from the old days of arbitrary scheduling based on monthly intervals to smart scheduling based on the actual real-time status and condition of the vehicle.

It sounds simple but making the change can meet with resistance. Years of tradition do not go away easily but the smart fleet owners are realizing they need to move with the times or risk losing to the competition.

The good news is that it’s getting easier to make the change. The process of adding telematics to your fleet is becoming simpler (with manufacturers like Ford installing the hardware at the factory) and the user interfaces for fleet management software being easier to use and accessible from everywhere with an internet connection.

It’s time to make the switch to smart preventative maintenance scheduling and make sure you’re not spending a dime more than you have to on fleet PM!