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There are two ways for fleet managers to approach vehicle downtime.

Traditionally, they had to guess how long repairs were going to take based on arbitrary milestones, such as when a vehicle entered the shop, when the repair was finished and when it was returned to the driver—if they could even determine when these things happened. This long-accepted standard practice is less than ideal. What this guesstimate doesn’t do is account for the amount of time a vehicle may sit on the lot waiting to be serviced or waiting for pickup after the repair was completed. 

Today, GPS technology has created a better and more cost- effective way to manage downtime. New solutions can serve as a fleet manager’s eyes and ears no matter where the jobsite is in order to eliminate unaccounted time in downtime projections.

GPS technology has revolutionized downtime tracking, giving companies more information and greater visibility into where their vehicles are, which in turn gives them the capability to move vehicles from the shop back into service quickly. A fleet manager can be notified the instant a vehicle enters a repair shop with geofencing technology; in other words, a virtual boundary triggers a notification when the vehicle crosses it. 

This real-time notification that a vehicle is not on the road allows a fleet manager to pick up the phone and get the repairs going as soon as possible, instead of waiting for the repair shop to call. 

Geofencing also can be helpful in ensuring a vehicle is back on the road as soon as possible. A fleet manager can be alerted after a certain period of time has elapsed. In some instances, drivers may be lax in returning a newer model rental vehicle and let their everyday vehicle sit in the shop for an extra day or two. That only means that rental costs are higher than they should be. 

With geofencing, a fleet manager can know if a repair has been completed, but the vehicle has not been picked up, and take action to get that vehicle back on the road. 

In addition to the expenses of using rentals, towing vehicles to the shop and the actual repairs, it’s important to consider the cost of employees being on the sidelines and not performing their job duties.

As an example, consider an employee with an annual salary of $50,000 (plus $15,000 in benefits), who is responsible for $100,000 in profits each year. 
Assuming this person works 260 days per year and eight hours a day, it is costing the company $79.32 (in hard and soft costs) for every hour this employee sits idle without access to a vehicle. Additional downtime costs could pile on top of this if the employee is generating revenue for the company by performing a service or making a delivery.

Preventative Maintenance: The Easiest Way to Start Reducing the Costs Associated With Downtime

Often, in an effort to reduce costs, fleet managers extend the intervals between simple, but important, preventive measures such as oil changes and tire rotations—sometimes well beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations. While that may save a marginal amount of money in the short term, it can have a drastic effect on the company’s budget in the long term. 

It’s important to be mindful of the manufacturer’s maintenance schedules. A company should never take a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead of assigning an oil change interval across the entire fleet, group vehicles by segment or class, specific job function and operating conditions. 

Try to schedule preventative maintenance during off-hours or when the driver won’t be on the road, perhaps during a vacation.  

Finally, knowing when a vehicle has served the company long enough is important to reducing a fleet’s downtime. Big data and statistical analysis can pinpoint small issues that, over time, could develop into larger problems and extended downtime. Using that insight to develop a solid replacement cycle that supports the functional needs of a fleet will lead to vehicles remaining in good working order to better support the business and its customers.

In short, downtime probably can’t be completely avoided, but it can be effectively managed. Through a combination of new technology and old-fashioned common sense, the number of hours a vehicle sits at the repair shop can be minimized—reducing costs and allowing the driver to continue earning revenue. 


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