Whether you have 1 truck or 1,000, it is critical to properly maintain your fleet. Waste-handling companies can reduce costs when their fleet is up and running under an effective PMI program.

By Kristen Chapman

One of the most complicated and costly endeavors for a waste company is fleet management. You have probably had to invest more money into a vehicle than you have wanted to in the past. When your fleet is out of service, repairs can be pricey and you can miss out on revenue. Fleet owners and managers want to maximize the life of their assets and lower operation costs. A strong PMI (preventative maintenance inspection) program is the key to keeping your fleet on the road and reducing budget impact.

When handled efficiently, refuse fleet maintenance can cut costs, improve productivity and save time. The more downtime you can avoid, the better. As experts in the maintenance industry, we would like to share some insight into fleet maintenance so you can improve your PMI program and profits.

#1: Early Diagnosis

Having a plan in place to catch problems early is important. The longer a problem lingers, the more expensive it will be to rectify. Worse yet, a roadside out of service situation can develop. Find a PMI program that works for you and stick to it. Make sure your service team understands the program and has time to inspect each vehicle regularly. Early problems also tend to be more inexpensive than issues that have developed over time.

#2: Automation

The ultimate key to decreasing downtime is automation. Why waste your service technicians’ time when you can automate fleet inspections? There are various tools on the market to automate tasks, such as brake diagnoses, steering and suspension issues, etc. You will save time and money while getting the most accurate results possible.1

Service technicians can catch issues but inspections should be as uniform as possible. A successful maintenance program eliminates the risk of human error during inspections and has service technicians focus on solving problems instead of spending time diagnosing them. Investing in equipment to prevent accidents and maintain a clean, safe fleet will also decrease turnover.

An effective maintenance tool can diagnose brakes, steering and suspension of trucks to DOT and CVSA specifications. Many local and state governments already use maintenance tools to inspect vehicles roadside and when necessary, issue out-of-service citations. Look for maintenance tools that produce “Safety and Efficiency” reports to guide and assist the service technicians as they perform maintenance. Your technicians will no longer have to invest so much time diagnosing problems. Instead, the service team can focus on their main priority, getting trucks back on the road and bringing in revenue.

#3: From Top to Bottom

Does your inspection checklist cover every part of the truck from the arm lifting garbage to the wheels? If not, it is time to revaluate. You can check out the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations’ guidelines for minimal inspection requirements.

Your trucks are making frequent stops. Are the lug nuts staying on? You will not have to consistently check lug nuts with a wheel safety device. The fitted pieces goes around the lug nuts to keep them in place. You do not want to risk a wheel-off situation that could be extremely dangerous.

Safety concerns will always be your top priority. However, aesthetics is becoming more important in the waste industry. Does your fleet need a new coat of paint? Could your vehicles’ rims use some sanding and polishing? How do you know the aluminum wheels on your trucks are safe if you cannot see the overall wheel?  How can you see cracks between the bolt-holes if the wheels are caked with dirt and debris?

#4: Pre-Trip Inspections

The men and women behind the wheel are your first point of contact to issues. Your drivers need a clear line of communication to let the service team know when there are problems. Drivers should have basic knowledge to successfully perform pre-trip inspections and alert the service team to issues. Communicating expectations and a pre-trip checklist may prevent vehicle downtime down the line. A pre-trip checklist for drivers should include:

  • Warning lights are functional
  • Oil, coolant, air filter, power steering
  • Front and rear suspension
  • Brakes
  • Wipers, horn, heater/defroster
  • Wheels-rims, tire wear, lug nuts
  • Lights/reflectors
  • Garbage arms

#5: Managing Parts Inventory

With a waste management fleet, one of the biggest pain points can be the arm lifting garbage bins. Your fleet’s service team may be replacing pins regularly. Evaluate your storage capacity and see what you can keep at your facility on hand at any given time. If you do not have the right tools to fix the garbage arm or another part of your vehicle, you can be out of service and out of luck for an unnecessary amount of time. You can minimize downtime by having the right parts on hand. What do you currently have in stock?

Planning in advance is critical to get your vehicles back on the road quickly. Have a system to manage parts inventory and re-order before items get too low. When you do order parts, certain items can sit on the shelf for a while. Make sure parts are stored in a safe way that will not reduce their effectiveness when they are needed.

Implementing a Successful Maintenance Program

Whether you have 1 truck or 1,000, it is critical to properly maintain your fleet. Waste handling companies can reduce costs when their fleet is up and running under an effective PMI program. It takes all hands on deck to implement a solid program, but when best practices are followed, savings will follow suit.

Kristen Chapman is the Marketing Manager for Vehicle Inspection Systems (VIS) in Orlando, FL. She has been working in the transportation industry for almost three years. VIS has been providing wheel-end and fleet maintenance products for more than 20 years. Kristen can be reached at kchapman@vischeck.net.

VIS has worked to improve maintenance programs for waste companies across North America. Through various wheel-end and inspection automation tools, VIS has slashed fleet downtime and increased profits. Through investing in VIS equipment, many customers have netted a healthy return on investment. VIS will offer Waste Advantage Magazine readers a free fleet assessment to see if their equipment would be a good fit for your trucks.

For more information, call (866) 847-8721, e-mail info@vischeck.net or visit www.vischeck.net/vis-check or www.vischeck.net/the-squirrel.