With a new tax year rapidly approaching, it makes sense to prepare your fleet for the year ahead. Setting up periodical maintenance throughout the year might be an expense you’d rather do without, but unfortunately, it’s a reality of owning a fleet. Naturally, vehicles have a limited life span and extended periods of time on the road lead to wear and tear, but with regular maintenance, your fleet will remain in greater working condition for longer.
Taking care of your vehicles is integral to managing a functional business, as this is one of your fleet’s top investments. If you don’t take a hands-on approach, you can find yourself with a costly emergency bill, putting your employees at risk and raising the chances of unplanned downtime.
What is fleet maintenance?
Fleet maintenance involves proactively and reactively finding solutions to the problems your fleet might encounter to ensure that your vehicles remain on the road. This is essential for most fleet owners, but more so for those with small fleets. For these fleets, having enough working vehicles can make the difference between taking a contract on and letting one go. The safety of your drivers also increases tenfold when you maintain a proactive approach to your vehicles as any complications can be identified early on. Similarly, regular maintenance means that any faults can be found and fixed before they develop into problems that require an emergency repair.
The person in charge of fleet maintenance can vary depending on the business, something that is usually dictated by the size of the fleet. In large companies with a considerable fleet of vehicles, a senior role dedicated to overseeing the fleet is typical. Most companies will either outsource services, such as MOT checks and general maintenance or build teams that can handle everyday aspects of keeping the fleet running smoothly.
Over the last couple of decades, software and technology have begun to play a more prominent role in the process of maintaining fleets. Whether it’s flagging the need for service plans after specific milestones, or alerting drivers to low tyre pressure, industry approaches to fleet maintenance are constantly shifting.
It’s also worth noting that the type of fleet you have will affect the complications your vehicles encounter, therefore changing how you approach maintenance.
What are the different types of fleets, and what are their maintenance requirements?
Arguably the iconic depiction of a fleet, heavy goods vehicles are easily recognisable and understandably hard to miss. When maintaining your fleet of heavy goods vehicles, it’s wise to keep an eye on the age of your vehicles. With regular advancements in technology and the changing nature of businesses, you may find that some of your older vehicles are no longer suitable for what you need.
As vehicle overloading is one of the biggest causes of unscheduled maintenance for HGVs, it’s imperative that lorries aren’t loaded beyond their set weight. Doing so can reduce fuel efficiency and increase tyre wear. Carrying out thorough tyre checks is also essential with 90% of HGV motorway breakdowns occurring due to improper tyre maintenance. Not only does tyre failure mean the lorry is immobilised but it also puts drivers in danger.
Delivery, taxi, and grey fleets
Delivery fleet vehicles can vary wildly in composition, from HGVs, used to carry goods to and from depots, to the vans and cars used to deliver parcels in the final mile.
Taxi fleets face similar challenges to last-mile delivery fleets but due to the nature of their roles, carrying passengers as opposed to goods, their maintenance must be adjusted to reflect this. Whether cleaning the interior or ensuring in-car cameras work for safety reasons, each fleet has to be assessed on its individual needs.
Grey fleets, on the other hand, are a bit of an outlier. If a company uses a grey fleet, its employees use their own or hired vehicles for business travel. This means the business doesn’t directly own the fleet, so maintenance falls under the responsibility of individual drivers. If your company utilises grey fleets, it’s still smart to inform drivers of best practices for fleet maintenance. By having drivers who know how to look after their vehicles and understand the problems to watch out for, your business can function more reliably.
While having professionals look over your fleet periodically is essential to ensure your vehicles will continue to perform, everyday checks can be done by drivers before they set off on journeys. Automotive experts in the AA recommend the acronym FLOWER as a handy way of remembering what to check.
Fuel: While this may seem obvious, it’s good to check whether the vehicle has enough fuel for your upcoming journey. If not, is there a petrol station nearby that will accept your fuel card? Refuelling can quickly become a serious concern if your journey takes you away from suitable forecourts.
Lights: It should go without saying that a vehicle’s lights are essential, regardless of whether it’s light or dark. If you’re going on a long journey, be sure to have someone walk around the car as you test your lights to ensure that they are all working.
Oil: Another common issue in fleets is a lack of oil in the engine, risking severe damage to the internal components of your vehicle. With 1 in 3 cars suffering from low oil, it’s prudent to check your dipstick regularly.
Water: Ensuring your screenwash is sufficiently topped up can make a massive difference to your visibility conditions when driving in winter, especially with all the dirt and grit on the roads. Even in summer, insects and pollen can reduce your view, so don’t let your vehicle run dry.
Electrics: Besides your lights, it’s essential to check other electrical components in the car, especially the battery. Your battery’s connections should be clean and tight; keeping a pair of jump leads in the vehicle can also come in handy should the worst happen.
Rubber: A twofold check that involves checking the condition of your wheels and your windshield wipers. Tyres should match the pressure as shown in the vehicle’s handbook, and the tread depth should be at least 1.6mm. While the legal limit of tyre treads in the UK and Europe is 1.6, experts recommend at least 3mm, any lower than that and a vehicle’s stopping power is drastically reduced. Less crucial, but still important, the rubber on your windshield wipers shouldn’t be too worn or cracked and should be efficient at keeping your screen clear of water.
Saving you money
Keeping on top of your maintenance and remaining proactive can help you spot complications down the road and save you from expensive mechanic call-outs or rescues. You can also claim VAT back on your initial outgoings. As we’ve seen, business owners can reclaim VAT on business-related running and maintenance costs of their fleets, plus any accessories that may be fitted for business use.
Another fantastic way to save money for your fleet is to find a fuel card that benefits your business. With our range of options, you can choose a solution that saves you money and time. Please speak to a team member to find out how our fuel cards can benefit your fleet.
Karl GurneyKarl has over 14 years of experience in the fuel card industry and has a wealth of knowledge around the servicing and maintenance of fleet vehicles. Outside of work, Karl coaches a junior football team and enjoys spending time with his 2 sons and wife.