Skip to content

Trucking Toolbox: Tips for Evaluating Your Maintenance Operations

January 30, 2024

In the current economic climate where trucking profitability is squeezed by lower rates, heightened competition, and rising costs of equipment, parts, and repairs, it might seem counterintuitive to invest in scrutinizing maintenance costs. However, neglecting this “deep, dark hole” of maintenance can be more costly in the long run. The question is not what it costs to investigate maintenance inefficiencies, but rather the expense of ignoring them.

Our 12 Traits series included the topic of maintenance excellence. This year, we’ve created a series of articles to further explore the reasons behind common maintenance department concerns and offer actionable steps to make meaningful improvements.

The Best Time To Start Is Now

When business picks up, it’s easy to overlook maintenance inefficiencies. Yet, if you’re already streamlining operations and freight efficiency, now is the ideal time to focus on maintenance cost management. Each dollar saved directly boosts the bottom line.

Based on our extensive trucking industry experience, we’ve found that all aspects of equipment maintenance can be a main component of lost profits in any trucking operation. Since maintenance department challenges do not develop overnight, it’s important to break the solution into manageable parts. The first step is a thorough evaluation and documentation of your maintenance department’s processes and overall operations. Consider the following best practices and specific actions as you begin this journey.

Evaluate Maintenance Value

  • Conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis of your current maintenance expenses
  • Compare your spending with industry benchmarks to identify overspending areas

Best practice: Research how much you spend at your company’s shops versus spending over the road for breakdowns.

Track and Analyze Maintenance Results

  • Implement a system to track maintenance results monthly
  • Use this data to identify trends, predict future maintenance needs, and adjust strategies accordingly

Best practice: Give key shop personnel access to regular cost and parts usage reporting to identify trends and repair opportunities.

Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Maintenance

  • Establish KPIs for critical areas like cost control, fleet availability, and maintenance turnaround time
  • Regularly review these KPIs to ensure maintenance activities align with your company’s efficiency goals

Best practice: We typically recommend that KPIs address several different areas of your operation. Are maintenance costs tracked by age of equipment and cost per mile (CPM)?

Optimize Preventive Maintenance (PM) Programs

  • Develop a PM schedule that minimizes downtime and aligns with your fleet’s operational needs
  • Incorporate predictive maintenance techniques to preemptively address potential issues

Best practice: To ensure accuracy, create specific checklists for your technicians to follow when inspecting equipment.

Maximize Uptime and Reduce Breakdowns

  • Integrate maintenance activities with fleet operations to ensure maximum uptime
  • Invest in training for maintenance staff to enhance their skills in identifying and resolving issues

Best practice: Research and document common over-the-road failures for better understanding. Create plans to reduce breakdowns.

Develop a Tire Strategy

  • Create a comprehensive tire management plan, focusing on regular inspections, optimal tire selection, and maintenance practices to extend tire life and reduce costs

Best practice: Identify and train a shop technician to manage tire replacement decisions.

Implement an Emissions Maintenance Strategy

  • Stay up to date with the latest emissions regulations and ensure your maintenance practices comply
  • Regularly check and maintain emissions control systems to avoid costly penalties and breakdowns

Best practice: Set a mileage or time-based schedule to inspect, clean, or change DPF filters.

These specific strategies and actions are what separates the best-in-class fleets from the rest. Investing in these initial improvements in your maintenance approach will quickly justify the expense of external consultation. In the coming months, we’ll explore the maintenance practices and strategies of highly profitable trucking companies and offer actionable suggestions on steps you can take now to make a difference in your cost savings.

Taking Control of Maintenance Costs: Options for Improvement

The above are only a handful of suggested strategies and tactics that can be implemented to improve operational and cost performance in your maintenance program. If you need assistance getting back on track, KSMTA offers a Quality of Maintenance (QoM) assessment. To learn more or discuss any of the ideas shared above, please contact a KSMTA advisor or complete this form.

About Bryan Burningham

Bryan recently joined KSM Transport Advisors and KSMTA Canada as a maintenance consultant, working with carriers to improve their maintenance processes using a proven, best-in-class process. Throughout his more than 30 years of leadership experience in the transportation and distribution industries, Bryan has successfully implemented maintenance software solutions at some of the country’s largest trucking and trailer rental companies and helped them realize more efficient maintenance operations. 

Bryan Burningham Maintenance Consultant, KSM Transport Advisors & KSMTA Canada

We're Looking for
Remarkable People

At KSM, you’ll be encouraged to find your purpose, exercise your creativity, and drive innovation forward.

Explore a Career Full of Possibilities