• September 23, 2022

  • Abby Nuttall

  • Articles

An important part of fleet management is making sure vehicles are fit for use and minimise the time they are off the road for. In this article we’re going to help you do just that with a few of our best practices.

Why It’s Important to Reduce Fleet Downtime

Minimising vehicle downtime is important for a number of reasons:

Having a vehicle off the road means that your drivers might end up running late or not able to do their job at all which has knock on affects for your business productivity and client relationships. If they are delivering products then this can have knock on effects for other companies and negatively impact your reputation in the sector.

If one vehicle has unexpected downtime then this may put pressure on other members of the team and their vehicles in order to complete the necessary journeys. This adds wear to the vehicles that can add up over time and can cause additional strain for drivers and fleet managers.

When vehicles breakdown or need repairs then you’re not only paying for that vehicle and the work needed for it but usually another vehicle to replace it during that time. This means you’re essentially paying for two vehicles but only able to use one.

It’s clear when you take all these implications into consideration that having a plan in place to reduce unexpected vehicle downtime and manage planned downtime to minimise it as well.

Ten Ways to Reduce Fleet Downtime

Here at Wessex Fleet we’ve been in the fleet management and maintenance industry for over 15 years and have developed a number of different strategies that we personalise to help our clients streamline their fleet downtime for minimal impact on their businesses.

If you want to learn more about how we can help you with tailored fleet maintenance then please give us a call on 01722 322 888.

To help you today we’ve got 10 of our best general practices that we recommend to reduce your fleet’s downtime.

1. Conduct Regular Fleet Inspections

We recommend regularly inspecting your fleet vehicles in order to keep track of their condition and know when maintenance work is required.

Regular inspections allow you to detect potential issues early on and take steps to avoid them from becoming larger and costlier issues.

Depending on your business needs the type of checks and who conducts them may vary but in general we advise our clients to have drivers complete a monthly vehicle inspection and corresponding online assessment. Having drivers complete checks can be beneficial as they are the ones with the car all the time and have the best knowledge of it.

However, you might want to have a more infrequent inspection completed by a member of your fleet team as a second pair of eyes may detect other issues.

2. Keep Up with Vehicle Maintenance

As well as regular inspection we also recommend regular vehicle maintenance to repair issues when they arise so they don’t become larger problems or cause further damage to the vehicle.

Most cars will have regular service intervals and MOTs (for those over three years old) that can more easily be predicted and scheduled which will help your fleet support team plan for alternative vehicles during this time. As other needed work is detected they will then need to work with the driver to arrange repairs swiftly but at a time of minimum inconvenience.

3. Make Sure You Update Your Fleet

Older vehicles generally have been used more so have more wear to them which means that they will have higher maintenance costs and need more costly repairs as they age, such as replacing a clutch.

Newer cars and vans not only have less wear to them but they also have newer technology in them, and with improvements continually being made in the industry will be improving vehicle reliability and longevity to reduce how much needs to be spent on maintenance over a vehicle’s lifetime.

Regularly updating your fleet vehicles and having a plan in place for the continued practice of this to ensure you don’t have any older and unreliable models in your fleet that have a high amount of time off road and for longer periods.

One thing to consider when planning for your fleet update strategies is the funding method you choose as options like a contract hire or contract lease will allow you to have the vehicle for a few years and then return it and arrange a new vehicle on a new contract so have an in built end date for you to update that vehicle.

4. Make Smarter Vehicle Choices

When updating your fleet you’ll want to consider what vehicles you are updating to. The frequency of vehicle downtime is lower in fleets that choose the right vehicles. Depending on the size of your business and the industry it is in this may be a case of looking at each team or individual’s needs in order to make sure that each driver’s vehicle meets their needs. This may result in you having a diverse fleet but one that works better for your business.

When looking at the factors that make a vehicle best for a role then you’ll want to consider the maintenance needs of a particular model, any known problems that it may encounter and the servicing intervals of it. This may require a bit more legwork from your fleet support team at the start of the vehicle onboarding process but should save them time and the business money over its lifetime.

Another factor to consider is that if you need a specialist vehicle or specialist equipment within the vehicle then you’ll want to consider the installation costs, maintenance needs and expected lifetime of these.

As we move towards the ban on the sale of new vehicles that produce emissions we’re seeing more of our clients shifting their fleets towards electric and hybrid models in order to acclimatise their drivers to the changes they may need to make in using them.

5. Utilise Enroute Fuel Stops

A common cause of vehicles being off-road unexpectedly is running out of fuel. One easy way to avoid this is to allow drivers to fill up on their business journeys with a company fuel card.

Fuel cards can be a great tool for you to manage and monitor vehicle fuel usage and notice any discrepancies which might indicate an issue with a particular vehicle. If you want to learn more about fuel cards then why not take a look at our driver and business guides to them, or how we can help on our dedicated fuel card management page

6. Hire Additional Vehicles at Peak Times

If your business has particular times of the year where you need more vehicles than for the rest of the years, then you should look at short term rental agreements during this time rather than running your existing fleet too thin or having an excess of vehicles for the rest of the year.

This may mean some additional outlay for the business but overall will allow you to save time and money as well as reduce the risk of additional wear and unexpected maintenance work.

7. Request Courtesy Vehicles

When your vehicles are off the road you should request courtesy vehicles in order to keep your drivers moving. This may be a service offered as part of your fleet management service, from the garage completing work or your insurance provider depending on the individual circumstances.

This may not always be an option if it’s a specialist vehicle, such as a food truck, or there is specialist equipment needed within the vehicle then you might not get a like for like product but can hopefully be supplied with a courtesy car to avoid you paying for a vehicle and not having one available to use.

While this isn’t necessarily reducing the individual vehicle’s downtime it reduces overall downtime for your fleet as there is a usable vehicle.

8. Provide Regular Driver Training

One way to help avoid unnecessary vehicle downtime that you might not expect is to provide your drivers with regular training and support.

We know that your drivers will usually have years of experience of driving on the roads but that doesn’t mean that additional training isn’t needed. Even those at the top of their field will retrain from time to time and driving is no different, particularly as technology within cars evolves.

Driver training can cover a number of different aspects from best driving practices to avoid unnecessary wear to knowing what to look for when completing their vehicle inspection checks and even how to execute a few basic maintenance tasks themselves.

Training will help your drivers with keeping the vehicles they use in the safest condition possible which helps reduce the amount of time it needs to spend off road.

9. Conduct Vehicle Downtime Analysis

Using telematics and vehicle inspection reports not only allows you to spot any problems when they first arise but you can also use this data to help you notice repeating issues and locate the cause of them. Analysing downtime data will make it easier for your fleet support team to better support your drivers and look after your vehicles to reduce the time they spend off the road.

10. Schedule Downtime

We mentioned it briefly when talking about keeping up with maintenance but you may also find it beneficial if you have pool vehicles to make sure these are used on rotation so that one particular vehicle isn’t constantly being used and needs more maintenance while one is barely used.

Another way to schedule downtime would be to make sure there is time in the vehicle’s schedule for the driver to complete vehicle checks regularly and needed maintenance work to be completed. This may be giving an hour once a week for checks or setting a particular vehicle’s maintenance day for Fridays.


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