How to Track, Measure, and Reduce Fleet Downtime

Fleets can use digital solutions to create custom preventive maintenance schedules for specific assets or asset groups which will automatically alert drivers and technicians to upcoming PM. This...

Fleets can use digital solutions to create custom preventive maintenance schedules for specific assets or asset groups which will automatically alert drivers and technicians to upcoming PM. This greatly improves PM adherence, ensuring that maintenance tasks are completed on time.

Any business running a fleet knows that downtime can be a significant challenge, leading to decreased productivity, increased costs, and even customer dissatisfaction, but measuring and benchmarking downtime can be a complex and time-consuming project.

Not only do service histories need to be accounted for, but also delays in getting an asset to the shop, delays in asset retrieval, delays in the shop, failed inspection items, preventive maintenance (PM) schedules and compliance rates, and fault alerts.

Fleets can manually collect and sort through this data or use fleet solutions like fleet management software (FMS) and telematics to automate the collection, consolidation, and aggregation of this data for at-a-glance availability of key downtime metrics.

Regardless of which you choose, when done right, benchmarking downtime can lead to some pretty substantial improvements. For Kade Haney, fleet manager at Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii, using automated fleet solutions to benchmark downtime resulted in a downtime reduction rate of 5% for utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) with a 30% lifecycle increase.

Identify the Issues

PM practices are often the largest contributor to downtime. Not adhering to PM schedules or properly filling out daily vehicle inspections can lead to unexpected breakdowns and unnecessary downtime.

For Kualoa Ranch, inspections play a critical role in keeping fleet assets safe and operational for various tours spanning the 4,000-acre property. Haney customizes inspections to suit the unique needs of each vehicle segment in his fleet — from heavy equipment to e-bikes — ensuring inspections are thorough and relevant and address the particular challenges and high-fail components associated with each vehicle type.

When it comes to adhering to PM schedules, Haney had to contend with something many fleet managers have experienced: the inability to track what was due, when, and what services were performed.

“Prior to [our fleet solution] there was no real way to track an oil change. They would write with a sharpie on the machine’s valve cover and say [change oil] at this time, but if that machine went for 10,000 hours and never broke down for anything, they would never change the oil, because we’d never see the machine again,” Haney explains.

“Now, [the software] alerts, so when my tour guides go in the morning and do their inspections, it’ll show them the alert for that PM that’s due. So then they’ll come and drop that machine [at the shop].”

Shop-related downtime is an often-overlooked metric that offers a wealth of data, and fleets can use work orders to surface and attribute this data.

For instance, if a vehicle is in the shop for four days waiting on a part, then categorizing this downtime as such enables you to track it. From there you can adjust parts sourcing to hasten procurement or increase in-house inventories to match demand, thus reducing downtime in the shop.

Additional data points to track that play into the greater downtime metric, include:

  • Estimated service task duration versus actual time spent on the task (including reason for delays)
  • Downtime caused by work orders waiting on a mechanic/technician assignment
  • Downtime related to towing an asset (hey, breakdowns happen)
  • Extended downtime due to catching an issue extraneous to the work order or service task

Fleets can use digital solutions to automatically collect traditional work order line-item details, as well as estimated versus actual clocked time per task, reasons for delay, prioritization category, and unscheduled services, providing rich service histories and detailed downtime data.

Downtime Planning and Analysis

Downtime planning and analysis are key factors in mitigating operational disruptions. Using data to benchmark downtime doesn’t just allow you to reduce it, it helps you be better prepared in the event a vehicle goes down. “We run a small percentage of backup assets, two for the jungles and two for our buses — the e-bikes and the UTVs a little bit more,” Haney explains.

“I try to run about 25% down at any given time with my e-bikes just because they’re a little more intense. But with the UTVs, I try to run about 15% that can be down at any given time. We go over that, we go into overtime.”

Monitoring downtime metrics, like vehicle status, repair times, and unscheduled service, enabled Haney to identify trends and areas for improvement. “[The downed percentages are] numbers I created because of [fleet software], because I can see what’s up, what’s active, what’s down, what’s outsourced, [and those percentages] are purely unscheduled downtime. It took a few months for me to see where we fall out averagely,” he says.

“Two of the biggest wrench-throwers are obviously UTVs and e-bikes, just because of the quantity that I have, so being able to see that [data] at a click makes it really easy to come up with that number […] I’ve tailored that [downtime percentage] back. It was 20. [Fleet software has] helped us organize our maintenance practices, so now I’ve been able to tailor it back to 15.”

Downtime planning, analysis, and benchmarking are all variable based on what’s going right (or wrong) in the fleet’s maintenance process. Strong PM practices should reduce the fleet’s average downtime, which should, in turn, reduce the need for backup measures and vice versa. While it takes a good deal of data to surface the fleet’s average downtime, having that benchmark provides a starting point from which fleets can source the causes of downtime, and where and how they can be mitigated.

Extend Asset Lifecycles

Extending an asset’s useful life can be considered a form of downtime planning, and it ultimately improves the asset’s return on investment (ROI) while demonstrating the value of proper maintenance. All the data related to downtime can also be used to improve PM schedules, the primary ones being service histories, failed inspection items, and fault alerts. Fleets can use this data to spot trends in high-fail components and adjust an asset’s PM tasks and schedule to proactively address these issues.

Fleets can use digital solutions to create custom PM schedules for specific assets or asset groups which will automatically alert drivers and technicians to upcoming PM. This greatly improves PM adherence, ensuring that maintenance tasks are completed on time.

“Just implementing my PM schedule [has] cut us down at least 20% to 30% of downed vehicles. And that goes for all my vehicles; that goes for the buses, the mountain trucks and specifically the UTVs,” Haney says.

“We were blowing motors in UTVs probably once every two to three months. Now I haven’t lost a UTV [specifically for a blown motor] at least in the last nine months. And that was just implementing that PM oil change cycle. Prior to me getting here, most of them were probably getting about half of their service life and we’ve since been able to increase the service life by 30%. So now, I’m looking at a completely different fleet replacement cycle, because I’m getting so many extra miles out of these UTVs. That’s, you know, that’s awesome.”

Effective downtime tracking, benchmarking, and reduction are essential for optimizing fleet operations. By identifying common inefficiencies, utilizing data for benchmarking and improvement, and extending asset lifecycles, fleets can minimize disruptions and maximize productivity.

This article was authored and edited according to Automotive Fleet’s editorial standards and style. Opinions expressed may not reflect that of Automotive Fleet.

Rachael Plant is a senior content marketing specialist for Fleetio, a fleet management software company that helps organizations track, analyze, and improve their fleet operations.

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