4 Ways to Reduce Truck Fleet Costs
As the owner or manager of a truck fleet, you know one of your biggest challenges is keeping your costs down. Operating a truck fleet is an expensive business. Costs can fluctuate widely based on economic conditions, seasonal changes, fuel prices, and occasionally, unexpected repairs.
Just the regular necessities of running a truck fleet can eat up cash. Routine maintenance, tire wear and parts replacement are expected, but wildcards like fuel prices are difficult to predict. Safety is another cost factor. One serious accident alone can set you back more than the entire price of a truck.
Preparation and prevention are key to a fleet management plan. You need to cover normal operating costs, allow some contingency for unforeseen events like fuel spikes and accidents, and economize by saving money through proactive and creative cost reductions.
Truck Fleet Cost-Reduction Methods
Finding ways to reduce truck fleet costs is part of every economical fleet management plan. Each reduction method has to be weighed with the overall value to your company. Some cost reductions may pay off in savings, and others might work against you — they can actually cost you money rather than save it.
Operating a cost-efficient and effective truck fleet requires knowledgeable expertise in calculating and predicting overall costs. Your goals and strategies are the main factors in establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) that drive decisions on your fleet organization, personnel management, vehicle assets and vendor selection. KPIs allow you to observe trends that evolve over time and adjust your strategy to help better meet your goals.
Experienced truck fleet managers realize there are many areas where costs can be reduced by taking a proactive approach rather than reactive. The largest fleet cost categories are vehicle acquisition, fuel consumption, tire replacement, fleet maintenance, personnel expenses, and insurance premiums. These costs vary depending on the season, your drivers, and a number of other factors.
Luckily, there are four key areas where you can focus on reducing costs. They are:
- Preventive maintenance
- Tire condition and performance
- Fuel consumption
- Fleet safety programs
Let’s take a detailed look at each method and find ways to reduce your truck fleet costs.
Cost-Reduction Method 1: Preventive Maintenance
Implementing the right preventive maintenance program will guarantee you get the most from your investment. Trucks are complex equipment that require periodic adjustments and proper maintenance. Major components like engines, transmissions, and axles need attention at specific intervals. Other systems such as hydraulics, brakes, electrical, cooling, fuel supply and even your lights require continual servicing to ensure they perform as designed.
Preventive maintenance is paying attention to scheduled inspections, servicing and making the necessary repairs to prevent potential issues that can create expensive problems. Preventive maintenance proactively avoids or reduces breakdowns, while reactive maintenance deals with unscheduled breakdowns. You can prevent breakdowns with proper preventive maintenance.
Unscheduled breakdown maintenance is almost always caused by a lack of prevention. Reactive maintenance is more costly. You can minimize reactive maintenance with proactive preventive maintenance. The object of preventive maintenance is doing the majority of your vehicle repairs on a schedule rather than being caught by surprise.
A proper preventive maintenance plan can maximize your fleet’s availability.
Developing an effective preventive maintenance plan takes a systematic approach. It involves scheduling regular tasks, making expected component replacements, and keeping record of completed maintenance. By taking this three-pronged approach, you will greatly reduce unexpected costs from sudden failure or systems not running at their best.
Preventive maintenance scheduling can be based on hours of use, mileage, seasonal changes or even a formula derived from total fuel consumption. Preventive maintenance actions generally include overall vehicle inspections, adjustment, cleaning, lubrication, repair or replacement of components, and final testing of systems to ensure that they are in tiptop shape.
Preventive maintenance is done before breakdowns happen. By implementing a successful preventive maintenance program, you will experience these cost-saving benefits:
- Improved equipment and system reliability
- Reduction of unexpected breakdown time
- Decrease in expensive parts replacement
- Extended truck fleet life
- Improved resale value
- Better parts inventory management
Preventive maintenance is more than regular maintenance like lubricating and changing the filters. When properly implemented, your preventive maintenance program is all-inclusive. It is your complete approach to vehicle management from when the truck is purchased until the end of its useful life.
An effective preventive maintenance program should include these three main components:
1. A Service Schedule
Regular and anticipated servicing is at the heart of every preventive maintenance program. When service tasks should be completed depends greatly on the components involved, manufacturer recommendations, product life expectancy and duration of use.
Scheduling can be done weekly, monthly, or yearly. It might revolve around the hours in use or mileage driven. Servicing for seasonal changes is critical and may be done two or four times per year. The critical thing is that you adhere to a written schedule.
2. A Checklist of Servicing Tasks
This list should include routine jobs like changing the transmission fluid, axle fluid and oil in engines. It accounts for all lubrication and filter replacements. It makes sure all cooling systems are checked, belts and hoses are adjusted or replaced, exhaust systems are inspected, and wiper, glass and body detailing is done. Suspension systems should be tested, and undercarriage and frame members viewed. Tires are pressure-checked, balanced, rotated or replaced.
Most importantly, safety issues need to be checked off. Brakes should be number one on your list as brake failure leads to more than collision repairs. It can end up in a lawsuit for negligence. Safety checks also include seatbelt performance, light, horn and signals function, and mirror adjustment.
Checklists are the simplest and best foolproof way to keep your preventive maintenance program organized. They can be drafted as simple paper documents or be done on your computer as a spreadsheet.
3. Records of Your Service History
Keeping detailed and accurate records of your truck fleet service history is vital to your overall preventive maintenance plan. Records allow a picture to develop of each truck’s performance and what issues arose. This is enormously helpful in letting you forecast and accurately predict when a problem may occur with a particular vehicle or when something might go wrong with a similar truck.
Record keeping is also important in supporting your manufacturer’s warranty conditions. All vehicle warranties stipulate what maintenance is required and at what intervals. Failing to document your regular maintenance may be a problem if a warranty claim comes up — even if the maintenance was done on time and correctly. Without proof that you adhered to the owner’s manual, you might be out the cost of the repair.
Like checklists, service records can be done on paper or on a computer. Many truck manufacturers have record books as part of their service. Generic service record forms are available online and can be downloaded.
Having an effective, predictable, and preventive maintenance program is one of the best ways to reduce truck fleet costs. Empire Truck & Trailer can help by establishing scheduled maintenance and inspection plans. We offer genuine parts and kits, flexible options and scheduling, and extensive documentation of your fleet’s service history records.
Cost-Reduction Method 2: Maximizing Your Fleet’s Tires
Tires are one of trucking’s biggest expenses. All tires have a limited life expectancy that is predictable under normal operating conditions. Tire lifetime is also highly affected by proper maintenance and conforming to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. Paying attention to your truck tires has large returns in cost savings.
Three variables chiefly affect truck tire life, and all three can lengthen or shorten how long a tire stays in service. You have control over your fleet’s tire life and costs associated with premature tire failure. Here are three tips on saving money on tires:
1. Tire Inflation
Proper tire inflation is critical to longevity, performance and safety. Underinflated tires are a drag on fuel efficiency. Overinflated tires are a safety risk due to potential blowouts and premature tread wear. Both conditions waste your money.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save up to 3.3 percent on your fuel bill alone by having your fleet’s tires constantly inflated at the correct pressure. By preventing unnecessary tread wear that under- or over-inflated tires cause, you are increasing your savings.
Finding the proper tire pressure is easy. All tires have the recommended pressure on their sidewalls. Usually, the manufacturer’s recommended tire specifications and tire pressure is displayed on the DOT decal attached to your truck; normally found on the doorframe.
2. Tire Balancing
Wobble from out-of-balance truck wheels and tires is a massive contributor to early tire failure. Proper balancing ensures tires rotate in an even way. This lets the truck tire wear evenly along the entire tread face and extends to the pressure put on the tire sidewall.
Out-of-balance tires transfer shock from eccentric motions in the form of vibration. This extends to other truck components like wheel bearings, ball joints, axle hubs and steering arms. Bad balancing creates unnecessary wear causing compounded component wear, early failure, and costly replacement.
A truck’s tires being out of balance can affect your drivers as well. When tires are severely out of balance, the vibration shock goes right through the steering system and into the hands and arms of the operator. In worst cases, vibrations can cause tendon discomfort or even damage that creates costly medical bills or paid, off-duty time.
3. Tire Alignment
Poor tire alignment is the third factor that causes tire wear, component damage and unnecessary costs. Alignment refers to how front or steering tires stress from being pointed or angled. In the automotive industry, this is expressed by the terms “toe-in,” “toe-out,” “caster,” and “camber.”
Proper tire alignment should be part of your truck fleet’s scheduled preventive maintenance program and prominent on the checklist. Like inflation and balancing, improper tire alignment results in early wear and unnecessary stress on other vehicle parts. Addressing all three tire issues can greatly reduce your truck fleet costs.
Additionally, tire health is directly related to vehicle safety — your tires are a costly liability if not maintained. The U.S. National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that tire-related issues cause one in every 11 crashes, or nine percent. This includes tread separation, blowouts, bald tires and improper inflation.
Empire Truck & Trailer is staffed by expert technicians who are thoroughly trained and experienced in all facets of truck maintenance. In addition to our preventive maintenance program, we also offer 24-hour emergency mobile service to address immediate truck repair needs at your convenience.
Cost-Reduction Method 3: Reducing Fuel Consumption
Next to the actual cost of purchasing fleet vehicles, the single largest expenditure for running a fleet is fuel. There is no way to cut out that cost entirely, but there are ways of reducing it. One way is to decrease your fleet size — but that is probably not practical, especially if you are managing a growing company.
Instead, getting more miles per gallon should be viewed as spending less dollars per mile. Fuel costs continue to rise, and there isn’t much you can do about it. However, you can do something about the cost of your fuel consumption. There are three highly effective ways to reduce your fuel costs:
1. Cutting Your Travel Mileage
Inefficiency creeps up in every business, and it is no different for the transportation industry. Efficiency experts have conducted studies on how to reduce fleet costs and they often rate excess mileage as one of the biggest offenders. Usually, it is attributed to two things:
- Poor route planning. This refers to logging unnecessary miles when a shorter or quicker path was available. GPS technology and internet route identifiers are excellent tools for planning routes and saving fuel.
- Multiple trips with light loads. This fuel-burning inefficiency occurs in many companies. Better load planning goes a long way to ensuring trucks run at a maximum load instead of operating with small loads. A fully loaded truck burns little more fuel than an empty truck once it is moving.
2. Increase Fuel Efficiency
Increasing fuel efficiency ties into a proper maintenance program. Well maintained and properly tuned engines burn fuel more efficiently than engines with plugged injectors and clogged filters. Companies that maintain their vehicles on a regular basis save a considerable amount of money on their fuel bills.
Fuel efficiency also lies in buying power so investigate your purchasing options. Perhaps you can negotiate better costs with a different supplier, and sometimes, bulk purchasing has significant savings. Creating your own fuel yard and storage tanks may be beneficial as well, but that is an expensive conversion.
Even if the savings do not seem huge, saving just a little per vehicle in your fleet will add up to big fuel cost savings over time.
3. Embrace Technology
The automotive industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Computerized fuel injection and ignition systems have been in use for a long time and have proven to reduce fuel consumption. However, what is most interesting today is the new technology that offers even more fuel savings.
Hybrid vehicles that run on a combination of electric and internal combustion engines are showing great promise for fuel economy. Compressed natural gas power is also popular for large bus and truck fleets. Implementing “alt-fuel” vehicles into your fleet to cut fuel costs is worth considering. In the meantime, diesel engines are still more fuel-efficient than gasoline.
Empire Truck & Trailer can perform full fuel system maintenance for your trucks. We change the fuel filters, conduct an extensive fuel system inspection, and look for leaks or other issues that may affect your fuel efficiency.
Cost-Reduction Method 4: Safety in Your Truck Fleet
Implementing a preventive maintenance program and maximizing your tire service both contribute to improving your fleet’s safety. Having a credible and committed safety culture in your company is the single most effective way to reduce fleet costs.
Fleet vehicle accidents can be the costliest expenditure your company could face. According to Traveler’s Insurance, the average loss related to vehicle accidents is around $70,000. This is nearly double the cost of average workplace human injuries, which they calculated to be around $36,500.
Without a formal fleet safety program, you are putting your workers at a higher risk of accident, injury or death. The U.S. Department of Labor states the leading cause of worker death in the United States is the result of motor vehicle crashes. Fleet managers like you can greatly reduce the chance of your drivers being another statistic by implementing an effective safety plan.
A workable safety plan does not have to be complicated. While a custom designed plan that is specific to your fleet is preferable, getting a start from a generic safety model is better than doing nothing. Here are the basic elements for a truck fleet safety program:
- Identify all your drivers and their skills
- Screen and select drivers carefully
- Train your drivers in safety
- Make drivers accountable for vehicle safety
- Manage your drivers on an ongoing basis
- Manage accidents when they occur
- Identify the root cause of accidents
- Take steps to ensure the cause is rectified
- Establish standard policies and procedures (SOPs)
- Formalize vehicle inspections, repairs and maintenance
- Ensure management is committed to safety
Reduce Your Fleet Costs
These four basic steps (preventive maintenance, paying attention to tires, reducing fuel consumption, and being committed to safety) are just a few of the many truck fleet cost reductions you can implement. They have proven to be effective for our clients, and they can work for you too.
Empire Truck & Trailer provides on-highway and medium intercity products for fleet owners, managers, and operators. We serve a broad array of markets throughout Arizona and Southeastern California, and offer truck repair and preventive maintenance services.
Contact us today to schedule your preventive maintenance so you can reduce your truck fleet costs.