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Are You Spending Enough on Maintenance?

June 5, 2015
The average fleet is spending 14.8 cents per mile, but how do you evaluate the cost -- and value -- of your own maintenance program?

The average fleet is spending 14.8 cents per mile for maintenance and repair on a heavy-duty truck, according to the latest report from the American Transportation Research Institute. In its An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking: 2014 Update, ATRI surveyed fleets that operate 30,038 trucks, which traveled an estimated 3.5 billion miles in 2013, the latest period for which data is available. The group was comprised of a combination of truckload, less-than-truckload and specialized carriers.

The study found that the cost of maintenance and repair was up slightly in 2013 from the 13.8 cents per mile reported a year earlier. ATRI attributes this increase to the increased age of trucks operated by survey respondents.

But how does a fleet know if it is spending enough on maintenance? One way is to look at the number of breakdowns that occur between PM services. Trucks that are not maintained on a regular basis are more likely to break down.

Mike Delaney, president and CEO of WheelTime, says that 70% of trucks that come into WheelTime locations need work other than that which they came into the shop for. According to Greg Reinmuth, senior VP of sales and marketing for Noregon, 57% of trucks leaving service shops have problems that have not been addressed. Some of those unaddressed problems will result in on-the-road breakdowns.

Industry estimates put the cost of downtime at between $500 and $800 a day, but could go much higher if there are stiff penalties for late deliveries.  Byron Lay, maintenance director of AmeriQuest Road Rescue, pegs the average cost of a breakdown at $400, but that number too could go higher if the breakdown is catastrophic.

These numbers only tells part of the story. How do you measure and account for the driver and his dissatisfaction when the truck he’s driving breaks down? Given the driver shortage, keeping drivers happy has taken on even greater importance. It may be hard to put a price on that but $5,000 seems to be number often associated with hiring a new driver.

There is also the issue of customer satisfaction. What does it cost you if you fail to deliver a load on time? It’s important to remember that trucking is a very competitive environment and all it may take is one missed load for a shipper to look elsewhere.

In its Secrets of Better Fuel Economy report Cummins sites a number of ways that maintenance — or lack of maintenance — impacts fuel economy. Improper tire inflation, restricted air intake, poor oil condition, improper alignment are just a few of the areas that have a negative effect on fuel economy.  Fewer miles per gallon, even at today’s lower fuel prices, increases your cost of operation.

If you are not doing so already, now might be a good time to separate the maintenance costs from the repair costs and look closely at your maintenance practices to determine if you need to spend a little more on maintenance to avoid spending a lot more — when you factor in the true cost of a breakdown — when you trucks end up on the side of the road.

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