The thing about maintenance and repair is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to doing it all in-house, sending all of it to an outside service provider, or fashioning some combination of the two.
Fleets have different philosophies on the subject:
- Some do all their own work in-house
- Some outsource the maintenance piece, but handle repair work themselves
- Some outsource the repairs, but do the maintenance in-house
- Some outsource the entire maintenance and repair operation
So how do you determine which option is right for you? Here are several factors you need to evaluate before making that critical decision for your operation:
Bay Space: Do you have enough physical capacity in your shop(s) to handle the work that needs to be done? If your trucks are going to be sitting around waiting until you have an open bay, perhaps you should consider outsourcing at least some of the work so you can maximize vehicle uptime.
Technicians: While the driver shortage seems to get most of the press when it comes to workforce shortages in the trucking industry, the shortage of qualified technicians is not too far behind. If you don’t have enough techs, trucks will have to wait to be serviced, again, negatively affecting uptime.
Even if you have enough technicians on staff, do they have the skill sets you require? If you are running older vehicles that need lots of engine work but your technician corps is not skilled in that area, maybe you need to find a service provider whose techs work magic with engines.
Conversely, if you have highly experienced techs but only basic maintenance work that needs their attention, you run the risk of losing techs who are unchallenged and bored.
Retaining quality technicians also requires investment. Providing training, as well as the latest tools and diagnostic technology can be costly. It may be more cost-effective to let a professional maintenance provider make these investments, while you reap the benefits.
Tools and equipment: In order to work on today’s technology-heavy trucks, you need a wide variety of diagnostic and scan tools. If your fleet is comprised of multiple brands, the problem is only worse. Are you prepared to continue to make the investment in the tools and equipment you’ll need in order to keep your trucks up and running? If not, outsourcing may be the answer.
Expertise: Do you have someone in-house with expertise to manage the maintenance and repair function? This question is especially important to private fleets as trucking is not the company’s core competency. If you want to focus on your business — be that furniture manufacturing or food and beverage service — then turning the maintenance and repair operation to an outside service provider makes better sense.
Maintenance and repair does not have to be an either/or proposition.
You can be quite successful doing some of your own maintenance and repair in-house, and sending only certain aspects of it outside.
You can take ownership of all of it, or you can turn the whole matter over to a qualified outside service provider. Choosing that option doesn’t mean you lose control over the process.
The key thing to remember is that the right service provider will be able to perform maintenance and repair to your quality standards and be able to give you transparency in the process, as if the entire function were happening in your own shop.
Cost comparisons between in-house and outsourced maintenance entail more than simply a tally of vehicle repair costs on both sides of the ledger. Indirect and overhead costs of operating a maintenance facility include parts, fluids and tire inventories, unapplied labor costs, and often overlooked, required investments related to environmental sustainability.
After you evaluate your own maintenance and repair operation, ultimately the decision that will make the most sense for you is the one that will keep your trucks on the road, not in the shop.