Be realistic about the expectations placed on older equipment. "Whenever possible, assign older vehicles to less demanding tasks," says Johnson. "If you don't load a truck as heavily or run it for as many extended periods at highway speeds, it will be less likely to break down."
The driver's role
A key component of any vocational truck is the person behind the wheel. "You cannot underestimate the value and significance of the driver," says Ginter. "The driver is a key decision maker that determines hauling loads and speed over the terrain."
The driver plays a strong role in vehicle life expectancy, agrees Michon. "This is both in how they use the truck and how rigorous they are in following the daily or weekly preventive maintenance items," he states.
Driver experience is another factor, as is overall satisfaction with the vehicle. "I have seen the highest cost vehicles in a fleet become the lowest cost simply because they were assigned to new drivers," says Johnson. "If a driver abuses a vehicle - such as overloading or failing to perform daily inspections and fluid checks - it will become a high-cost unit.
"If a driver does not like a vehicle," he continues, "chances of abuse increase. Therefore, consider adding driver comfort and convenience items when spec'ing a truck and the equipment mounted on it."
The useful life of a truck is hard to define; there are numerous variables - many of which are under your control. Establishing a good PM program, and working with your drivers, can go a long way toward extending the service life of all the vehicles in your fleet.