How to Keep your Trucks in Top Operating Condition
When it comes to keeping your trucks in top shape — reducing maintenance-related downtime – one word can mean all the difference: proactive. As in, be proactive in your maintenance program, following all recommended service intervals, and replacing parts before they fail.
Those that do repairs on a reactive basis – when something goes wrong — are the ones who see their costs go skyward.
Here are some things to consider that can help keep your trucks running at peak performance.
Stay on top of preventative maintenance schedules
Staying on top of oil changes is the most important thing you can do to keep your truck’s engine running well. That will help you avoid a premature re-build. But what else should you be doing? Keep tabs on the mileage or service hours of all the other major components and follow the OEMs scheduled maintenance schedule. If the driver’s manual containing service interval information for the truck is lost, visit the OEM’s powertrain section on their website or check with your local dealer.
If you outsource truck maintenance to a service department, like one from the dealership you purchased your trucks from, they’ll be keeping records of the services/inspections they perform. Depending on fleet size, some may consider it a hassle to send trucks in for routine maintenance, but with electronics in trucks becoming more complex, it might be an easier solution. Luckily, the technology and tools service technicians are using to schedule, service, and process truck information is becoming more efficient. Predictive maintenance models are expediting the servicing process thanks to artificial intelligence, advanced diagnostic tools, and more.
On the flip side, if you do service work in-house, it’s just as important to keep organized records of the dates, services, and inspections you perform. It’s relatively easy to follow the maintenance schedule of powertrain-related items to ensure they’re in optimal condition, although there are several items – like tires, truck and trailer lights that should be inspected or serviced every time the truck is brought in for maintenance. To stay organized and know what components/systems to cover during servicing, we recommend following a comprehensive checklist. Here’s a good example of what items should be inspected or serviced.
A component that is often talked about, but is often overlooked, are brakes. Even if you project that the brakes on a truck are thousands of miles away from needing to be replaced, it doesn’t mean an inspection should be skipped. A driver’s driving habits directly impact how quickly brakes wear. Generally, more experienced drivers are able to extend the life of their brakes because they have better ‘feel’ on how to slow their rigs without riding their brakes compared to those who are new to the profession. Brakes are always at the top of the list for most cited out-of-service components by inspectors. In fact, brake-related violations accounted for eight out of the top 20 vehicle violations in 2020, according to the FMCSA, so it’s important to keep tabs on their condition.
…brake-related violations accounted for eight out of the top 20 vehicle violations in 2020, according to the FMCSA.
To learn more about what you can do to keep brakes in good shape, check out our blog on maintaining brakes.
Pre-trip inspections and preventative maintenance go hand-in-hand. Drivers should be performing their pre-trips every day, and if they are, they should be able to identify components that could be flagged next time they’re in the shop. This is all part of being proactive in maintenance. At the end of the day, their actions and inactions can greatly impact the condition of the vehicle and safety on the road.
During pre-trip inspections, concentrate on:
- Tires – tire inflation / tread depth/ irregular wear
- Fluid levels – Coolant, antifreeze, oil
- Truck and trailer lights, signals, flashers
- Electrical system – battery corrosion
These are just a few items that should be checked on a regular basis. For a comprehensive list of things drivers should be inspecting, check out Schneider’s Ultimate Guide to a CDL Pre-Trip Inspection.
By staying ahead of maintenance intervals and working with drivers to identify potential issues with their trucks, it’s easier to keep trucks on the road and out of the shop.