When you get sick, your symptoms tell you something is wrong — headache, nausea, weakness or trouble concentrating. Like a truck or bus driver seeing a dash-light, that’s when you become consciously aware of a problem. When the illness gets really bad, you’re out of commission.
Imagine how great it would be to be under a doctor’s real-time supervision all along — the doctor could see early indications of the problem, track them, understand if they are important or not, and take prescriptive action early, helping you avoid down-time.
How incredibly helpful would that be?
In the industry, this practice is called predictive maintenance (PdM) — maintenance performed when indications suggest timely intervention will avoid breakdowns and expensive repairs.
Predictive maintenance is an often misunderstood term. It’s much more than using past work order history to make assumptions about the future. If it were that easy, then a doctor would prescribe a treatment for an infection in November this year, just because you had one in November of last year. We wouldn’t call that medicine, nor should we call that true predictive maintenance.
Saving Maintenance Dollars
A safe vehicle is a well-maintained vehicle, and a well-maintained vehicle is a reliable one. Both of these truths not only save money for the carrier, but they also provide the right environment for driver retention.
No driver likes breakdowns — the time, the hassle and the loss of income if they’re paid per mile. Generally, driver pay is the second highest cost in transportation fleets, followed by maintenance. A poorly maintained fleet will be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to retaining drivers and acquiring new ones.
On average, maintenance costs have increased over 50 percent in the past ten years, standing at 16.6 cents per mile in 2016. For less than truckload shipping (LTL) alone, maintenance costs 23 cents per mile which is a 35 percent increase from 2015. This will likely continue its steep rise as the economy strengthens, the demand for trucking reaches stellar heights and labor costs escalate in a tightening market.
Controlling these costs is paramount in every segment of the transportation industry.
Analyze the Current Condition of the Vehicle
Predictive maintenance uses the operating condition of a vehicle in order to predict emerging problems.
This operating condition can be seen in the diagnostic trouble codes that are transmitted along a vehicle’s common area network or “CAN lines.” Think of this data on the CAN Lines as your vehicle’s health information system. It tells the computer in your vehicle (the electronic control unit or ECU) something is not operating quite right. The ECU then attempts to compensate by making adjustments to certain operating aspects, such as reducing power output. However, this doesn’t solve the original problem, it just keeps the vehicle operating.
Over time, problems tend to get worse and start to affect other systems, making diagnosis more complex, time-consuming and error-prone. If the diagnosis is incorrect, then then wrong repair could be made. Once the vehicle is put back on the road, the problem persists and may cause serious damage to the vehicle.
In a few days or weeks (if you get lucky), you see the vehicle back in the shop for the same problem if not something worse. This equates to a waste of parts, waste of time and a waste of money.
How predictive maintenance works. Image Source: Optimum Fleet Health.
Dashboard Lights: It’s Too Late, the Damage Is Done
Unfixed problems can worsen and potentially affect other systems, causing even more damage and increasing the cost of repair. The more complex and interrelated a problem becomes, the more time-consuming it is to diagnose.
It is important to get to the root of that problem, and not follow a wild goose chase of every symptom or code that pops up. Time is money, and that includes diagnosis.
Remember, by the time a driver sees a dashboard light, the damage may already be done. Dash lights are often the end result of a long path of ignored problems amassing under the hood.
If the vehicle breaks down, the financial cost goes beyond repair costs, to towing costs, dispatching a replacement vehicle, perishables, and fines. All these costs contribute to a very expensive bill. And don’t forget, it can also impact customer service and a carrier’s reputation.
Predictive Maintenance Complements Your Present Practice
Predictive maintenance is not a replacement for preventive maintenance, but a complementary approach that helps fleets avoid costs that occur between cycles. Predictive maintenance is the next step in fleet readiness afforded by big data and analytics, and can save a company 10-20 percent (or more) of its maintenance costs per year.
We can’t yet place a computerized doctor inside of us, but we can do something similar for trucks and buses through the use of a predictive maintenance service running on data pulled in through a telematics service like Geotab. That is what Optimum Fleet Health does. We analyze a fleets operating history to predict its maintenance health, and keep the service manager updated as to what needs attention now or in the near future. In other words, we call out problems weeks in advance before they cause breakdowns. That is how We Drive UptimeTM.
Catch Problems Early
The bottom-line: catching problems early before they cause a breakdown or a serious set of problems can save a fleet maintenance costs.
- Breakdowns are incredibly expensive (ask a carrier who delivers to just-in-time manufacturers).
- Labor doesn’t just include the time it takes to fix a problem, but also the time it takes to diagnose it. The more complex the problem, the more time-consuming it will be.
- Using a predictive maintenance service makes technicians more productive.
- With a PdM service, there’s no reason to deal with information overload from service alert emails.
- A PdM service informs the service manager about their fleets readiness so they are able to set the service schedule accordingly.
Choosing Predictive Maintenance for your Businesses
Fleets have started using predictive maintenance to catch problems early and save time and money.