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Care is the key to vehicle longevity

November 8, 2019
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Maximise the life of your truck and reap the economic rewards

In the tough economic environment in which today’s road transport owners operate, it has become essential to extract the full lifespan potential from a vehicle at the lowest possible maintenance cost in order to retain a healthy profit margin and remain competitive.

In order to do so, transport operators need to avoid expensive repairs to, or replacement of, major components such as engines, transmissions and drivetrains. Although it might sound like a daunting prospect, it is readily achievable, since today’s modern trucks are highly durable and capable of obtaining high, trouble-free mileage, provided that they are well maintained and correctly driven.

Engines and other major components don’t fail suddenly. There are usually tell-tale signs that warn drivers and workshop mechanics of a pending malfunction, but, due to a don’t-care attitude, or simply a lack of understanding of the damage that can occur, some drivers do not report a fluid leak, a lack of power or any other tell-tale signs that indicate a possible, pending failure.

Many mechanics also lack care and will carry out a service or repair, following only the instructions on the job card, but will not spend an extra few minutes looking for warning signs that could indicate the imminent failure of another component.

Over the years, interviews with prominent and respected road-transport operators who have been successful in extracting the full potential from their trucks – without incurring high maintenance costs – indicate that drivers play a very important part in the process of caring for the vehicle.

Equally, some operators have indicated that, by educating drivers and working to change attitudes and mindsets, while also improving skill sets, maintenance costs have been minimised and productivity increased.

To motivate and change the attitude of drivers, most of these successful operators looked to increase the frequency of their driver training programmes, implementing policies that compel all drivers to undergo initial driver training courses – usually lasting for about two weeks – plus yearly refresher courses.                  

Once the drivers had been trained, motivated and rewarded with a fair and liveable salary, the following benefits were immediately apparent:

• Vehicle maintenance costs were reduced;

• Accident rates were cut;

• Expensive roadside breakdowns were reduced;

• Tyre replacement intervals were extended;

• Brake linings and driveline components such as clutches, gearboxes and prop shafts lasted longer;

• Customers were happy, since their goods were delivered on time;

• Drivers were happy and showed more courtesy to other road users; and

• The image of each of the companies involved was improved.

The next factor that helped to reduce costs and maximise the economic lifespan of the fleet was preventative maintenance. As regular FOCUS readers – and certainly regular readers of this column – know, well-planned preventative maintenance helps to extend the life of a vehicle by keeping it in premium condition and, in most cases, negating the need for any rebuild.

Lastly, keeping all the trucks in the fleet clean was said to have a positive effect on driver attitudes, helping to promote a company’s image as well as aiding the vehicle’s longevity.

Vic Oliver is one of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, and has been in this industry for over 50 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel (now UD Trucks), 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.

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