As the manager of a fleet of HGVs, one of your main priorities is to ensure your vehicles continue to perform efficiently. Vehicle downtime can not only cause delays and therefore customer/client dissatisfaction, but it can also be detrimental to your profits and brand reputation.
Vehicle downtime can arise due to a variety of reasons, including not taking a proactive approach to maintenance, poor driving behaviours, and inefficient management practices. In order to maximise vehicle uptime, your whole team must work together.
In this article, we’ll discuss four measures you can put in place, to maximise vehicle uptime amongst your fleet, and therefore avoid the difficulties that come about as a result of vehicle downtime.
Naturally, the older a vehicle is, the more risk of downtime. Therefore, it’s essential to consider replacing ageing HGVs at a suitable time in their lifespan. When you’re ready to replace a lorry, make sure to reconsider the needs of your fleet and where they’re likely to be in the foreseeable future. For example, think about whether your fleet operations have expanded recently? Or are they likely to increase in the near future? What weight design do you require from your HGVs? Answering questions like this will help you to make a more informed decision when it comes to choosing the right vehicles.
Overloading lorries can lead to problems such as fuel inefficiencies and greater tyre wear. As well as this, it’s also an issue that can severely impact not only the safety of HGV drivers themselves but other road users too. For example, should the HGV driver need to do an emergency stop and the vehicle has been loaded beyond its weight limit, stopping distances will be severely affected. This then causes drivers to misjudge when they need to brake – which in some cases could be fatal. By choosing vehicles with the right loading capacity for your operations, you can prevent issues caused by overloading, and reduce downtime at the same time.
Embracing technology that’s specific to managing your fleet will streamline all processes, helping you to gather essential information about your fleet and store everything in one place. This could be for example, lease agreements, drivers’ licences, vehicle service history, loading capacities and maintenance records. Fleet management softwares such as Geotab can facilitate this. Often, many fleet software packages as such also incorporate fleet telematics. This allows tracking and reporting in real-time, on vehicle locations, vehicle speed, fuel usage, drivers’ hours, and driving behaviour.
By utilising technology, you’ll be able to spot problems early on before they escalate into a bigger issue. For example, you’ll be able to see which drivers are driving in an economical and safe manner, as well as which drivers are using the agreed routes (and those that aren’t). You’ll also be able to prevent breakdowns from happening as telematics data reports DTC (diagnostic trouble codes) back to your fleet management system.
All in all, embracing technology will mean you can monitor the health of your HGVs from your desk, without having to rely on HGV drivers to report fault codes. Without telematics and other technology, you run the risk of faults being overlooked or going unnoticed.
Why wait for warning lights to appear on the dashboard, when you have the option of preventing them from appearing in the first place? When vehicles break down unexpectedly, your entire operations take a hit and can pay the price. Industry estimations for fleet downtime costs can exceed £700 a day in lost productivity, and this is in addition to the actual vehicle repair costs.
In 2016, it was revealed that 20% of all HGV breakdowns are tyre related. As well as this, Bridgestone’s tyre debris study found ¾ of tyre failures could be prevented if simple measures were taken such as tyre and vehicle maintenance. Tyre failure can occur due to a number of reasons, including:
Tyre failure can not only lead to vehicle downtime, but it could also compromise road safety. For example, the wrong tyre pressure could lead to a puncture, resulting in the HGV driver losing control of the vehicle and therefore putting other road users at risk.
One of the best practices to maximise vehicle uptime is to take a proactive approach to maintenance by implementing a preventative maintenance program. The DVSA states that HGV drivers must perform daily walk-around checks as standard, to check the overall condition of their vehicle inside and out. They must also report any defects or problems immediately, and these need to be documented accordingly, as well as remedial action (if any) that has been taken. However, the DVSA also requires safety inspections to be regularly carried out for HGVs – at least every six weeks – to keep on top of maintenance and prevent bigger problems. It’s also good idea to plan additional inspections too based on the vehicle’s mileage or age.
GOV.UK can educate you further on all things related to commercial vehicle safety and maintenance.
In an ideal world, every HGV driver will use driving techniques that not only improve road safety but also improve fuel efficiency too. However, this isn’t always going to be the case. Some HGV drivers may brake too harshly, idle unnecessarily, over-rev the engine, or burn through clutches. All of these can lead to vehicle wear and tear, as well as an increased risk of road accidents. Educating and incentivising will mean you can avoid issues which arise as a result of poor driving techniques and therefore improve HGV uptime.
Reducing downtime is crucial. A vehicle that’s off the road is not doing its job, which means that essentially, it’s also losing your business money. More importantly, it also means that you can’t use the vehicle in question to serve your customers’ needs. Whilst of course any transport and logistics company will have contingencies in place to avoid any loss of service, there are still huge demands on fleets, particularly if a driver rings in sick, or at peak times such as mid-winter and summer when a lot of drivers will go on holiday. Fortunately, in these instances, our Driver Hire recruitment offices can provide temporary staff cover. Furthermore, by implementing the measures above, you can ensure vehicle uptime is maximised, and therefore disruption to operations are minimised as much as possible.
If you’d like to talk to us about driver training, call us on 0808 178 9977 or chat to one of our agents right now.