Companies with large vehicle fleets typically employ an individual or even a department to manage their vehicles. Functions of fleet managers can include a range of functions, including financing, maintenance, telemetrics, driver management, speed management, fuel management and health and safety management. Fleet Management allows companies to minimize the risks associated with vehicle investment and to reduce their overall operating costs. Smaller companies and individuals usually rely on one or two people to manage their fleet. A typical fleet management system for a small fleet usually entails one or more people keeping track of oil changes and one or more people bitching about how much it costs to maintain a fleet. Often these smaller systems include a guy who “knows about cars.” This person usually possesses a vast range of general knowledge and sometimes has some specific expertise in vehicle maintenance. This “expertise” is often derived through association with someone who has actually worked in the automotive field, perhaps a friend or neighbor.
A problem with this sort of arrangement is that it typically relies on the vehicle operator to report when the vehicle that he or she happens to be driving has reached a particular mileage. If the sticker on the windshield becomes detached or unreadable, or if the driver fails to report that a milestone has been achieved, the system breaks down. Similarly, if the management expert decides that too much money has been spent on maintenance, he or she may elect to defer maintenance or repair. As smaller organizations or families attempt to track maintenance needs beyond simple oil changes, the task becomes increasingly complex.
When “The Oil Change is Due” method of fleet maintenance is employed, the fleet owner typically must rely on the maintenance service provider to inform the vehicle owner of other maintenance needs. This works well in some instances and poorly in others. Many shops rely on a physical inspection to determine recommended maintenance. Physical inspections should be and often are supplemented by a cursory review of maintenance records, but the thoroughness and accuracy of such reviews are typically dependent upon the amount of time that a service writer has available. Another shortcoming of this approach is that shops typically do not invest in expensive equipment that can determine exactly when a particular fluid has reached the end of its useful life, so they must rely solely upon visual inspection. The visual difference between a lubricant that is due to be changed and one that has several thousand miles of serviceable life remaining can be negligible, and it is the financial interest of the shop to err on the side of additional maintenance. Inaccuracy inherent in this method results in additional needless costs for the fleet operator.
In addition to increased cost, the method described above also leads to unpredictability with regards to timing and amount of maintenance cost. It is difficult enough to accurately predict the maintenance and repair needs of a particular vehicle without the added fluctuation and expense associated with inaccurate maintenance practices.
A better way to predict and control maintenance and repair costs is to determine optimal service intervals for particular services, estimate the cost and timing of each service, and then add additional cushion for repair of “wear items” such as brakes and clutches. A good place to start in determining the optimal service intervals for various services is the owner’s manual. A draw back to this is that recommendations found in owner’s manuals often seem to be driven by manufacturer’s marketing departments as well as by their engineering departments. This explains why identical systems in different vehicles sometimes have different recommendations regarding required service. The issue of normal versus severe service is also important when determining optimal intervals. Most vehicle owners consider their vehicle use to be normal service; however, a quick read of the description of normal and severe serve often calls this determination into doubt. Another problem with owner’s manuals is that they usually do not cover all recommended service. The most prevalent example of this is brake fluid service. Brake fluid is hygroscopic: it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. Once moisture is absorbed, the boiling point of brake fluid drops, and the intense heat associated with braking can cause brake fluid to boil. Because gasses can be compressed but liquids can not, this is bad. For this and other reasons, nearly every vehicle manufacturer recommends that brake fluid be changed every two years regardless of mileage, yet this recommendation rarely appears in a manufacturer’s required maintenance chart.
So what’s the solution? Well, thanks for asking. Sant Automotive has developed a proprietary vehicle maintenance chart that tracks both mileage and time based recommendations based on individual driving habits. We calculate the average number of miles that a particular vehicle is driven and predict when each of 12 services will be due. What’s more, we can customize these charts for vehicle owners’ individual preferences. If you want to change your transmission fluid every 100,000 miles, no problem. The best part of our fleet management service is that it is free.
If your fleet consists of one vehicle, several family vehicles, or an entire fleet. We can create a service that meets your needs, and we can do it for free. We do this for our customers every day. If you would like more information, call me, Dick Sant, at 314-849-2900, or email me at [email protected] Thanks.