Fleet Maintenance: In-house vs. Outsourcing. Which makes sense for your fleet?

There are several key factors that need to be considered when evaluating maintenance options and providers.  Generally the first step commercial fleets take is to determine whether maintenance should be performed in-house or outsourced.  Fleets often assume in-house maintenance staff can handle routine maintenance operations, and in many instances, they can.  

However, most of the energy is focused on taking care of the traditional “mission critical” items such as tires, brakes, engines, etc.  While it’s inarguable that these are critical, another emerging area where fleets should focus their efforts is in the support of a variety of on-board technology systems present today.  This is important not only because of the inherent value of these systems in terms of cost savings, safety impact, and efficiency, but also because many of these connected systems are those which give remote and even predictive visibility to the performance of those critical tires, brakes, and engines.  Therefore, ensuring performance and functionality of on-board technology becomes one of the key factors in determining the overall outsourced maintenance plan.

Another factor is the location of repair facilities or trained technicians. In-house technicians may have the technical expertise to handle routine maintenance and repair issues that arise, however, they are generally located at a central facility that is nowhere near the vehicle, or they may not have the inventory on-hand to make needed repairs.  The time vehicles spend traveling to repair centers or waiting on parts can have a significant financial impact from lost revenue and/or added fines for non-compliance.

It’s for these reasons that Velociti established its VelociCare support program, which was built on five core requirements and we recommend any fleet include in its analysis of the viability of an outsourced maintenance plan, as follows:

  • Fortunately, many of the on-board technology systems which must be supported are within the broad “telematics” category. This means their performance can be monitored remotely, and proactively.  System health monitoring allows early warning signs to be detected, logged and acted upon (if necessary) to avoid a larger failure. This is inherently important, but industry mandates like the ELD mandate’s “8-Day Rule” make this a must.
  • On-board technology systems, while important, most of the time will not rise to the level of stopping a truck and missing a delivery.  Therefore the ability to repair these systems at a time and place that is convenient to the driver is key.  A mobile service with a technician equipped with replacement parts coming to the driver while re-fueling, delivering a load, or on an HOS break, eliminates out-of-route miles and cost.
  • Service providers should be able to integrate with a fleet’s maintenance system for automated work order processing and should implement APIs providing constant visibility to assets, locations, and dispatch data.
  •  Technicians must be trained and certified to not only swap parts, but to perform deep troubleshooting, ensuring that the problem is resolved the first time.
  • Completion timeframes must be defined by a service-level-agreement (SLA) and measured.  Time is money for fleets.

On-board technology is great, when it works.  Outsourcing the maintenance of such systems with a comprehensive plan can help many fleets make sure that it does, in fact, work.  And as a bonus, effective outsourced maintenance for on-board technology helps ensure the success of outsourced maintenance for the trucks, trailers, and reefers themselves.

Written By: Deryk Powell, President