Everyone should have a preventive maintenance (PM) plan in place, even if you own a single truck.
"Every vocational fleet (even one vehicle) should be covered by a scheduled PM program," Johnson asserts. "In fact, vehicle availability is more critical in smaller fleets. If your only truck is broken down, you are out of business. Small fleets may not have or need an extensive maintenance data system, but they can easily set up an effective PM and demand repair database using a homemade spreadsheet program."
When setting up the PM program, use manufacturer recommendations as a guideline. "The customer does need to tailor the maintenance practices to the requirements from the OEM," says Ginter. "We require Mack products to be serviced and periodically inspected exactly how they are described in our Maintenance and Lubrication Manual... You need to visibly inspect the chassis as is called out in the daily checklist to prevent unplanned downtime due to a failure of a component."
It's important to get driver participation, as well. "Beyond the normal maintenance items specified by the manufacturer, a daily or weekly visual inspection of fluid levels, belts, lines, hoses, tire air pressure and base functional items would be recommended," says Michon. "However, the extent and scope is dependent upon the vocation and vehicle usage."
Tracking historical data can also provide useful insight. "Keep following the Maintenance and Lubrication manual as the truck ages," says Ginter. "Add notes on any discovered idiosyncrasies presented by the application and the body chassis interface learned in practice as the truck ages. Certainly, using multiple identical chassis and sharing the fault information is a given to head off problems."
A key part of a PM program involves maintaining detailed records of all work performed on a vehicle. "Records should include service intervals; type of work done; defects identified and repaired; parts used (including manufacturer and part number); vehicle mileage; and potential future problems," notes Johnson. The manufacturer of repaired parts should be tracked, since the mean time before failure (MTBF) of an otherwise identical part can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
"Detailed records of in-service failures/demand repairs, vehicle mileage, engine hours and idling/PTO time should also be maintained," Johnson continues. "This information can then be used to establish a predictive maintenance program."
This really takes PM to a higher level, as it offers a great opportunity to reduce your overall operating costs. "The timely replacement of a component before it fails will save expenses related to vehicle downtime, as well as potential wrecker or emergency on-road repair costs," says Johnson. "By using detailed maintenance records, you can predict MTBF for maintenance items such as tires, suspension and steering components, starters, water pumps, alternators, batteries and more. You can then schedule these items for replacement during the PM, which occurs just before the MTBF point. In most cases, it's not cost effective to try to eliminate 100% of failures."
Oil analysis adds another dimension to the program. "An oil analysis and filter inspection program will also help in scheduling major component (engine, transmission, differential, etc.) rebuilds or replacements as part of your predictive maintenance program," Johnson points out.
Stick with your PM program as your fleet ages. "Avoid the tendency to skimp on maintenance as the vehicle ages, since this normally results in demand failures that are frequently expensive to repair," Johnson advises.
Vehicles age in two ways: usage (miles/engine hours) and physical years. Some types of failures are associated more with one than the other. "When dealing with low-mileage trucks, remember that many components will suffer more from corrosion and oxidation than actual use," Johnson explains. "This means parts such as rubber suspension bushings, exhaust systems and steering components may wear out earlier than if based on usage alone. This is why it's important to separate low- and high-usage vehicles when setting up a PM program."