Maintaining technologies is just as important to a fleet’s bottom line as scheduled preventive maintenance is for trucks as a whole. While fleets routinely implement preventive maintenance programs for systems and components they do not generally give enough consideration to developing a similarly detailed plan for how their technologies will be maintained. And that’s unfortunate considering most of today’s fleets are equipped with operational, safety and asset management technologies that product failure is just as detrimental to the operation as an engine failure.
The proactive and predictive nature of preventive maintenance is highly valuable. Every maintenance department wants to prevent the problem instead of reacting to one. However, when it comes to the many advanced technologies found on vehicles today, the approach we see most often is reactive, and that can be costly as well as time consuming.
When a piece of technology is offline there is also a negative impact on your return on investment. The inability to use the technology means it can’t provide the benefits for which it was purchased in the first place. Realizing an ROI on those investments means focusing not on just deployment and implementation, but also on maintenance and support needs.
And don’t forget about staffing. In today’s current employment situation, it’s hard enough to find a technician to work on a truck, it’s even more rare to have the resources necessary to work on these highly specialized systems. Odds are good that if a camera or a tracking device, a tire pressure or lane departure system is added to the core vehicle maintenance needs something is going to fall through the cracks. Odds are even better that “something” is going to be one of these highly specialized pieces of technology.
The current uncertainty with the supply chain for parts, especially electronic items that rely on chips to function, is going to make preventative maintenance even more important. Just “buying another one” isn’t going to be as easy at it used to.
So how do you handle all these technology maintenance needs? You either need a well designed and managed technology inhouse maintenance program or you bring on a third party to handle it for you. Preferably a third party that also offers technology health monitoring, field repair services, a tech support call center, and inventory management services. Readily available parts, expertise, speed of service and proactive monitoring are all key factors in reducing your ROI and keeping your systems running like they need to. To give perspective on what to expect with technology maintenance needs, last year nearly 20% of the more than 700,000 technology products we monitor through our technology health monitoring and repair service required some sort of support. Of those 140,000 systems requiring support, accidental damage and tampering accounted for one quarter or roughly 35,000 of those service needs. Accidental damage/tampering is often overlooked by maintenance programs based on assumed or predicted service failures yet the reality is about 25% of the time this is the cause. The adoption of driver apps and devices has doubled since 2020 which has created a growing area of support which really wasn’t an issue a few years ago.
Today, every trucking company is also a technology company. Without these technology systems and solutions it is not possible to operate efficiently, safely and productively, or stay connected to drivers, customers and other supply chain stakeholders, let alone stay compliant with regulations as well.
Technology providers have already brought a range of valuable solutions to the trucking industry and that roadmap is continually evolving. In the not-too-distant future, it will take an even bigger leap into the world of autonomous trucks that are driven by a host of advanced technologies and interconnected solutions.
Without an effective approach to addressing their maintenance, repair and support needs, it is not possible to use today’s systems and solutions, and those to come, to be competitive or to realize their full value. Oh, and one more thing to think about, maintenance facilities, distribution centers, yards and loading docks are also becoming increasingly technology-centric and will need the same amount of maintenance and attention as the technology on the vehicles.
Originally appeared in Fleet Equipment Mag. Written by Deryk Powell, Velociti President & COO, September 2, 2022.