Limiting downtime is an integral part of lowering day-to-day operating costs, improving a vehicle’s total cost of ownership and easing the impact on the company’s overall bottom line.
By Tony Candeloro
Trying to limit vehicle downtime in a fleet has long been a white whale for many companies because there has never been a way to know precisely when a unit has arrived at a shop or when it is ready to be picked up.
Those responsible for managing fleets—and the costs associated with them—have instead become comfortable with guessing as best as they can. They start the clock as soon as they receive a call from the shop and stop it when the vehicle is returned to the driver. Some fleet managers estimate how many hours a vehicle will be down based on the cost estimate—in other words, (X) number of dollars equals one hour of downtime—to help them decide whether they need to keep that driver off of the road or rent a replacement vehicle to keep him productive.
While this method has become standard practice among company fleets, it does not account for the amount of time a vehicle is sitting at the shop before and after the repair work is actually being performed, which can be significant if a shop gets busy and does not get a chance to notify the fleet manager or driver that a vehicle is ready to go.
Limiting downtime is an integral part of lowering day-to-day operating costs, improving a vehicle’s total cost of ownership (TCO) and easing the impact on the company’s overall bottom line.
Limiting Repair Costs
A vehicle under repair hits the budget in a few different ways:
- The cost of the repair itself.
- The cost of a rental. If the repair is significant enough that it will keep the driver away from his or her task too long, a replacement vehicle is needed and that comes with a price.
- The revenue lost as a result of the employee not being able to perform his or her job. It is not just the vehicle that is down; it is the employee, too. This metric impacts the bottom line differently depending on the driver’s task. But if the person is a sales representative or a technician unable to be on the road drumming up new customers or performing your company’s service, this means that the flow of income has been paused.
Limiting repair costs may be entirely out of your hands, only being kept in check by building a good business relationship with a mechanic. However, if you ensure that the repair work begins as soon as possible after its arrival at the shop and is back on the road as soon as it has been repaired, then your rental costs drop.
If only fleet managers had the ability to have eyes on each one of their vehicles at all times. Options are starting to emerge that offer the next best thing. Through geo-fencing technology, a fleet manager can be immediately notified when a vehicle enters a repair shop’s property. So instead of having to wait to be notified by a mechanic or a driver that the vehicle is out of service, he can pick up the phone immediately in an effort to get the repair work started right away. The quicker the work is started, the quicker it is completed. That means the company is paying less for a rental and that the employee is back on the road to continue actively generating revenue.
Geo-fencing technology helps out on the tail end of a repair, too. It will notify a fleet manager when the vehicle has left the shop—and it can help identify if a vehicle is still at the shop when it should be back on the road. It’s understandable if a driver delays picking up his vehicle for a few days. He is driving around in a brand new rental that might have a few more bells and whistles than his regular ride. It may not even cross his mind that the company is losing money on unnecessary rental expenses. But if a fleet manager knows the primary vehicle is ready to be back on the road, he can step in and make sure the rental is returned right away.
The availability of real-time data has given fleet managers better information and direct access to their vehicles, allowing them to quickly spot exceptions and collaborate better with their drivers to ensure TCO throughout the fleet is kept to a minimum.
Tony Candeloro is ARI’s (Mount Laurel, NJ) Vice President of Product Development and Client Information Systems. In this role, he is responsible for ARI’s product development and customer-facing technologies, including its ARIinsights® dashboard and ARI VehicleDowntimeView®. For more information, visit www.arifleet.com.