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How Telematics Helps Extend the Life of Your Fleet Vehicles

April 07, 2021

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Preventative vehicle maintenance is a key part of successful fleet management. Knowing exactly what maintenance to cover and when to cover it allows businesses to save money, without needless repairs down the road. Telematics helps driver safety professionals extend the lives of their fleet vehicles with maintenance reminders and reporting.  

What Is Fleet Lifecycle Management?

Fleet lifecycle management is essentially about calculating a company vehicle’s total operating costs, which constitute more than the initial cost of purchasing the vehicle. 

Lifecycle management costs include: 

  • Fuel
  • Insurance
  • Licensing
  • Regular maintenance
  • Parts replacement 

There may also be additional costs related to unforeseeable downtime during lengthy repairs.

Not all fleets have the same priorities when it comes to managing operating costs. For example, one company may take it upon themselves to absorb the cost of downtime, while other companies count it as a loss of revenue. 

Managing the lifecycle of your fleet gives you a more accurate idea of the time to repair or replace parts of the fleet. As a driver safety professional, this means that you save more money in the long term. But to do that, you must have a preventive maintenance plan in place.

Preventive Maintenance for Fleet Safety 

As time passes, vehicle technology will continue to become more advanced. Continuing to solely follow traditional maintenance schedules can be a waste of time and resources. 

As technology advances, more companies are using telematics to determine their exact fleet maintenance needs. Driver safety professionals can program customized alerts for different vehicle groups which require maintenance based on engine hours, distance traveled, or even pre-set calendar dates. 

Telematics can also determine if the vehicle has sustained engine wear through long idle times or harsh acceleration from the driver. Proactive maintenance saves the vehicle’s wear and tear in the long run. 

Therefore, advanced engine diagnostics and the trends of enhanced data through telematics for preventative maintenance recommendations will extend the life of assets, improve fleet safety, and minimize vehicle or driver downtime. 

Using a professional telematics system allows businesses to identify vehicle problems as they arise. Telematics also allows the driver safety professional to schedule preventive maintenance more effectively. This process can greatly improve the communication process for both the fleet manager and their transportation team.

When telematics is used in conjunction with a fleet management software tool, it provides important data regarding vehicle overall health, engine performance, and the cost of ownership of the vehicle. 

All of this enhances the lifecycle of the vehicle. Not only does the fleet management software help save money with regularly scheduled vehicle maintenance and repair costs; the telematics software also assists with more efficient route planning for the driver as well, which improves fuel consumption. At some point, the vehicle will need to be replaced, but when?

When to Replace the Vehicle?

Telematics allows the lifecycle management team to manage the cost variables differently. However, there are three strategies that can help fleet managers determine if it’s time for vehicle replacement.

Strategy 1: Reduce downtime and maintenance and maximize residual value.

This strategy is best if your main concerns are: 

  • Enhancing productivity with related costs
  • Maintaining an updated, professional image
  • Retaining employees

For many of these businesses, lost time is translated into lost money. Downtime means the potential for lost business development, lost clients, and frustrated employees. 

With a high cost of downtime, it’s typically beneficial for these businesses to specify vehicles that meet their current needs while determining what might be valuable for the future owner. 

Strategy 2: Maximizing the rate of return for each expense.

This strategy is best if your main concerns are: 

  • Enhancing each variable cost
  • Keeping a professional image (but not necessarily having new vehicles)
  • Maintaining a flexible schedule 

Businesses that follow this strategy are often looking for a balance. They want a full-service value but don’t want to spend a significant amount of downtime when future problems happen. 

Any businesses that are open to considering the value of all costs can often afford to replace their fleet vehicles every 4 to 8 years, or between 60,000 and 100,000 miles, whichever occurs first. 

Strategy 3: Maintain minimal capital costs.

This strategy is best if your main concerns are: 

  • Optimizing one specific cost
  • Avoiding major disbursements since downtime is tolerable
  • Performance (image is not specifically important)

Vehicles in fleets like these are often driven until they can no longer properly be used for company purposes. For these businesses, repairs are often regarded as a more economical solution than replacing the vehicle. 

This strategy is often the most expensive over the vehicle’s lifecycle because it often downplays many other important costs. Businesses who choose this option will see vehicle replacement after roughly 8 years or well over 100,000 miles.

Which Strategy is Best for You?

Each business fleet will have an optimal lifecycle strategy, but the best strategy for your fleet depends on your business’s unique situation. Taking the time to figure out each cost associated with a fleet vehicle, as well as your organizational priorities, will help you determine the best path forward. The aid of telematics is a huge asset when making these decisions. 

Before making the decision, here are some other factors to consider:

  • If your company has a strong focus on safety, strategies 1 and 2 are ideal since replacing equipment is safer than repairing it.
  • Strategy 3 may leave the fleet more vulnerable to sudden failures, which may result in crashes or even a lawsuit.
  • For small businesses without the ability to make large volume purchases for new equipment, strategy 3 may be more appealing.
  • For businesses that wish to employ strategy 2, energy and attention will need to be used to ensure each variable cost is optimized. If this can be done, there will be lower organizational costs. 

Choosing the best lifecycle approach takes time — and the aid of telematics. But there may be a few grey areas to recognize. If your business leases its fleet vehicles, for example, leverage the relationship with your fleet leasing partner. The leasing partner will often be able to determine which strategy is best for your company and provide a solution specifically to meet the needs of your fleet. 

Using Telematics to Extend Vehicle Lifecycle 

Since telematics provides access to up-to-date driver activity, driver safety professionals are now able to proactively optimize their fleet vehicle logistics. Also, driver safety professionals are now able to retrieve insights on fuel usage from each vehicle so they can ensure fuel costs are in line with the current mileage and can reduce future costs by justifying any unfavorable trends throughout the fleet. 

There are three main areas fleet managers should focus on with the aid of telematics:

  • Fleet Safety: Telematics help minimize unsafe driving practices, including harsh acceleration, harsh or late braking, rough cornering, speeding, distracted driving and improper route planning.
  • Fleet Operations: Telematics can help reduce miles traveled, increase mileage, reduce the time for mileage reporting, and receive early maintenance warnings related to possible recalls.
  • Fleet Sustainability: Telematics helps extend the life of each vehicle through preventative maintenance schedules, as well as by reducing and monitoring the vehicle’s emissions.

Fleet management through telematics enables businesses to reduce costs, improve driver safety, and ensure there are compliances across the entire fleet operation. If you’re looking to extend the lifecycle of your fleet, improve driver safety, and reduce costs, telematics might be the right solution for you.

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