The industry rule of thumb has been to replace fleet vehicles before the trend line for operating costs exceeds those of fixed costs. But what happens when you can’t source replacement vehicles as we’ve experienced for the past several years due to supply chain constraints?
Today, combined retail and fleet demand continues to exceed production capacity for many high-demand models resulting in early order cut-offs. This has reduced inventory on dealer lots that limits out-of-stock purchasing options.
All these factors have forced many fleets to extend vehicle service lives beyond the time a vehicle normally would be scheduled to be replaced. With the typical fleet vehicle averaging 20,000-24,000 miles per year, a missed replacement cycle means that a vehicle that normally would have been replaced at 70,000 miles now might not be replaced until it reaches 90,000 or more miles.
As we know from numerous operating cost studies, higher-mileage vehicles tend to have a greater frequency of unscheduled maintenance incidents that typically involve longer downtime due to more extensive repairs. Plus, a longer service life adds to the total lifecycle cost of a vehicle because its extended odometer mileage invariably puts it in a position where it has to replace key wear items, such as tires and brakes.
This dilemma has forced many fleets to adopt a “fleet preservation” strategy designed to mitigate the negative impact of operating higher-mileage vehicles that remain in service beyond their normal replacement period and focus on:
- Strict PM compliance.
- Route optimization to avoid unnecessary miles.
- Idling restrictions to minimize engine hours and wear and tear.
- Increased focus on driver behavior to minimize vehicle misuse to reduce a vehicle’s wear-and-tear.
A Four-Part Strategy
Driver PM Compliance: The foundation of a fleet preservation strategy is enforcing driver compliance to preventive maintenance schedules to extend vehicle longevity and to decrease unscheduled repairs by identifying problems early before major issues occur.
Minimize Misuse of Vehicles: The second focus of a fleet preservation strategy is to ensure a driver does not operate a vehicle outside its normal driving parameters. The best way to do this is to keep a laser focus on monitoring driver behavior. Ask yourself why one driver can make a set of tires last 50,000 miles while another driver replaces tires every 20,000-30,000 miles on the same make and model of vehicle? The same is true with other wear items such as brakes. When this occurs, it is typically the result of aggressive driving behavior, which you need to monitor and modify.
Reduce Engine Hours: The third component of a fleet preservation strategy is to reduce odometer miles and engine hours. Another fleet preservation strategy is to reduce unnecessary idling to minimize engine hours, which helps to avoid needless engine wear-and-tear. If drivers follow a set route during the workday, then you should focus on route optimization to minimize unnecessary mileage.
Simplify Vehicle Specs: The most important component of a fleet preservation strategy, however, is to develop a new-vehicle acquisition plan designed to simplify vehicle specifications and increase the likelihood of successfully sourcing replacement units by expanding sourcing options. When you simplify your vehicle specifications in terms of vehicle color, options, or trim levels, it will increase the number of available models from which to consider for your selector, across a wider range of OEMs. When vehicle specs are streamlined, it helps expedite the upfit process and reduce order-to-delivery times.
In the final analysis, the principles of a fleet preservation strategy are simply practicing good fleet management skills.