How to manage vehicle downtime for fleet efficiency

Whenever a fleet vehicle isn’t available for business use, it’s referred to as downtime. The most common cause of vehicle downtime is defects that require repairs or part replace­ments. Accidents or failure to pass inspections also contribute to downtime.

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Limiting downtime is a key priority for fleets. That’s because vehicle downtime can erode productivity, leading to revenue and reputa­tional losses. It’s also important to mitigate downtime, since it can have an impact on your total cost of ownership (TCO).

Vehicle downtime can be planned or unplanned. Planned downtime is exactly what it sounds like: You’ve decided to keep your vehicle off the road for a set amount of time — it’s part of your operational schedule. Unplanned downtime is unpre­dictable and therefore unexpected. Like accidents, breakdowns are a type of unplanned downtime.

This guide explains how vehicle downtime can affect your business. It also offers strategies to reduce downtime, so you can operate efficiently and provide reliable service to your customers.

Under­standing the cost implic­a­tions of vehicle downtime

Under­standing the cost implic­a­tions of vehicle downtime

It’s virtually impossible to overstate the ways in which vehicle downtime can eat into your bottom line. Let’s look at the direct and indirect costs associated with downtime.

  • Financial impact: Direct costs like maintenance and repairs are part of your operational overhead. Indirect costs may be harder to track, even as they can contribute to a higher TCO. A survey from Northgate Vehicle Hire shows that LCV fleets in the UK lose a combined £2.4 billion per year due to downtime. That averages out to £800 per day in lost work for every unavailable vehicle. The same survey also shows that 47% of fleets face fines or penalties when their vans are off the road for a week.
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  • Reputa­tional damage: Service reliability is essential in a competitive business landscape. Prolonged vehicle downtime can damage a company’s reputation among customers, potentially leading to lost business. Fleets may work around this by renting vehicles, though this temporary fix can be a significant budgetary drain.
  • Operational disruptions: Any fleet’s success depends on vehicle productivity. There will always be some amount of downtime — after all, you will need to schedule in maintenance and repairs. The trick is to operate as flexibly as possible, mitigating for planned as well as unplanned downtime.

Strategies to reduce vehicle downtime:

Strategies to reduce vehicle downtime:

Proactively managing vehicle downtime is key to maintaining a productive, cost-ef­fective and safe fleet operation. By imple­menting the following four strategies, fleet managers can minimise unplanned disruptions and optimise their assets' uptime:

1. Conduct routine vehicle inspections

Regular inspections help you identify potential issues before they lead to vehicle failures, thereby reducing unexpected downtime and repair costs. Daily vehicle inspections help you stay compliant, meaning you can better avoid inspection or safety issues that could pull your vehicles off the road. Webfleet’s Vehicle Check app simplifies daily inspections for fleet managers and drivers. Discover how digitising vehicle inspections with the Vehicle Check app can increase your fleet efficiency.

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2. Track and analyse vehicle health

By under­standing vehicle health trends, you can schedule maintenance more efficiently, preventing costly breakdowns and reducing the time vehicles spend off the road. So how can you effectively track and analyse the condition of your vehicles? Fleet management software comes in handy, as it will provide the right business insights. With a solution like Webfleet, you can analyse vehicle data histor­ically and in real time while also automating some of your maintenance tasks.

3. Monitor driving behaviour

Driver performance influences vehicle wear and tear, not to mention road safety. By keeping an eye on driving habits, you can assess whether coaching or training could benefit your team. Coaching drivers on limiting harsh braking and speeding supports vehicle longevity and helps prevent accidents, reducing downtime. Improving driving habits can also lead to savings on fuel, replacement parts and insurance premiums.

4. Schedule in regular maintenance

Routine servicing, also known as planned prevent­ative maintenance, allows you to allocate expenses accordingly and keep your vehicles in top condition. It’s therefore one of the best ways to prevent vehicle downtime: well-main­tained vehicles are far less likely to break down, fail safety tests or cause compliance headaches.

Leveraging technology to minimise downtime

Leveraging technology to minimise downtime

A fleet management solution like Webfleet gives you visibility over your fleet operations, making it easier to stay on top of maintenance, driving behaviour and vehicle health.

Smart scheduling with Webfleet

With smarter maintenance scheduling, you gain insights into the condition of each fleet vehicle. Create your prevent­ative maintenance schedule with set dates and automated reminders. You can even base your maintenance planning on odometer data, minimising the chance of unplanned downtime.

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OptiDrive 360 for enhanced safety

Well-main­tained vehicles are safer vehicles. Keeping brake pads and tyres in premium shape, for example, means drivers have better control behind the wheel. But driving performance matters too. Webfleet’s OptiDrive 360 feature gives you the tools to evaluate driver scores and provide your team with actionable feedback.

Advanced diagnostic and trouble code notific­a­tions

As a fleet manager, you need to act promptly — before something goes wrong. In the case of diagnostic or engine trouble, Webfleet instantly sends you the relevant codes so you know which actions to take. Any related maintenance tasks will also be scheduled automat­ically.

Get it all done with Webfleet

Get it all done with Webfleet

This guide sheds light on the impact of vehicle downtime on fleet businesses, from financial losses to disrupted customer service. We hope the strategies outlined above help you can optimise your fleet's productivity and reliability.

Looking for more guidance on keeping your assets on the road and delivering exceptional customer service? Request a free consultation with one of our experts and see what you can achieve with Webfleet:

  • Keep your vehicles in roadworthy condition
  • Monitor driving behaviour and vehicle health
  • Automate routine maintenance schedules
  • Empower drivers with real-time feedback
  • Digitise your workflow, including inspections
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