Good vehicle maintenance
practices are essential. Regularly scheduled preventive maintenance helps
eliminate avoidable problems that adversely impact your vehicles’
reliability and uptime. What’s more, making a repair during this time
is considerably less time consuming, aggravating and costly than having an
on-the-road breakdown and service.
Besides the costs and downtime, breakdowns and
unscheduled downtime make for unhappy drivers. And delayed deliveries cause
problems for customers, which breeds discontent.
A key to heading off potential vehicle difficulties
before they disrupt your operation is to create a preventive maintenance
(PM) program with a systematic schedule of detailed inspections and
maintenance intervals. Such a program needs to be designed to catch the
little things that bring vehicles into the shop, and to get maximum
reliability and uptime.
To accomplish this, you must first know what is
causing your fleet’s on-the-road breakdowns and unscheduled downtime.
If you don’t already do so, track these problems.
Next, create a comprehensive inspection
checklist/report. This, say truck maintenance experts, is the foundation to
an effective PM program. They recommend this checklist/report be in-depth,
covering everything from bumper to bumper. The object here is to uncover
and correct even small problems before they reach the point of failure.
The most successful PM
programs include not only such preventive actions, but predictive measures
as well. Predictive measures involve making repairs at some predetermined
time and mileage interval to ensure that failures do not happen. Be
advised, these intervals must be continually adjusted according to changes
in your equipment and operation.
Two other very important elements of effective
maintenance programs are drivers and service technicians. Drivers who are
well-trained and very familiar with the equipment they operate can find
problems with their trucks and report them to the maintenance department. Likewise, service technicians need to be
skilled, properly trained and kept up-to-date on the equipment they will be
working on. Make sure they receive any and
all service and information bulletins from the truck, equipment and
There also needs to be a detailed driver’s
vehicle inspection report for daily truck pre-trip inspections, along with
a system in place to respond to any defects, problems or deficiencies
likely to affect the safe operation of a vehicle or which might result in
its mechanical breakdown.
As an aside, well-documented preventive maintenance
and repair can add to the price of a truck when it comes time to sell or
As was noted in last month’s column, preventive
maintenance actually begins when you spec out new equipment. Greater
durability and reliability can be had with longer-life components and
components that require low or no maintenance. Investigate whether
synthetic lubricants — which can extend servicing intervals —
would work in your operation. Additional benefits of such components are
reduced life-cycle costs and increased vehicle uptime.
Consider using on-board electronics and diagnostics to
help you develop better PM practices. Computers on engines and other truck
components can provide valuable operational information. Dash displays that
give fault-code messages can also help by alerting drivers to a developing
When it comes time to acquire new equipment, always
check with vehicle and component manufacturers to learn about the latest
advances and new products. Vehicle technology and electronics are
The overall goal of a preventive maintenance program,
truck maintenance experts advise, is to have a vehicle go from one PM service to the next without a breakdown or a
driver write-up that brings it into the shop.
Once a solid PM program is established and in place,
do not become complacent. Maintenance practices and products are constantly
changing. Consequently, your program needs to be reviewed periodically to
see if improvements can be made, as well as to ensure that current
procedures are being followed. BI
The No. 1 cause of road
service and unscheduled downtime for most fleets is tire-related problems,
say truck maintenance experts. These include flat tires from objects in the
road and tire sidewall, wheel and value-stem damage from drivers hitting
and scrubbing curbs, barriers and so forth.
Most often, though, tire failures occur because of
improper inflation. An under-inflated tire has the same effect as
overloading a tire. Heat builds up in the tire’s casing, which leads
to increased sidewall flexing, weakening it, and ultimately leading to a
Proper inflation pressure is difficult to maintain
because tires naturally lose air, according to the Tire Retread Information
Bureau (TRIB). It recommends that truck tire air pressure be checked on a
regular basis, preferably once a week, using a quality calibrated air gauge
and while the tires are cold.
“A hammer or ‘tire billy’ is not an
accurate measure of pressure,” TRIB points out. “Trying to
determine if your tires need air by thumping them is the same as trying to
determine if your engine needs oil by thumping the hood of your
Proper tire maintenance is essential to maximizing the
miles out of tires and the number of retreads on each casing, and to
reducing road calls and downtime due to tire-related problems.
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