Can Predictive Maintenance Extend a Vehicle’s Lifecycle?

Gretchen ReeseJuly 23, 2021

A vehicle’s lifecycle begins the day it is assembled in a factory and ends when it is broken down in a recycling plant and repurposed. For a fleet manager, however, the more relevant time period is from the day of the vehicle’s acquisition to when it is ultimately resold or disposed of. Deciding the lifecycle of a vehicle is a strategic decision that affects operational costs and a company’s bottom line. The decision could depend on the intended use of the vehicle, the terrain and environment in which it operates, and the impact of maintenance costs and downtime to business. 

Regular maintenance is essential in keeping vehicles running smoothly and avoiding breakdowns that result in downtime and high repair costs. Fleets have long depended on routine, preventative maintenance procedures such as oil changes, belt changes, transmission checkups and more. These types of check-ins have a very regular frequency and are fairly simple to keep up to date by using the instructions given by OEMs for each model. Still, some issues are subjective to vehicle condition, driver behavior, and other variable factors that make it more difficult to determine a standard schedule for service.

This is where predictive maintenance steps in, and traditional, preventative maintenance falls short.

What is predictive maintenance?

With vehicles being so data-driven today, it only makes sense that these data analytics be used for maintenance scheduling as well.

Predictive maintenance uses statistical techniques to identify red flags in a vehicle’s condition that might be difficult to see. With this method, vehicles are serviced proactively when they need it, instead of reactively once a problem has occurred. Though with newer vehicles, preventative maintenance might seem like the better option, as breakdowns are less common and machines are not yet worn down, as the vehicle ages, breakdowns occur more often and sporadically. By monitoring unhealthy patterns in the machinery or in driver behavior, maintenance can be scheduled before damage is incurred and likely before preventative measures would have called for.

This method of vehicle maintenance can greatly enhance fleet operations in many different ways by saving companies time and money, and ultimately prolonging vehicles’ lifespans.

How does this benefit fleets?

For vehicles already fitted with telematics hardware and software, preventative maintenance is a great way to take advantage of the valuable data collected. By looking at a vehicle’s actual condition instead of going off of a set-in-stone schedule given by manufacturers, fleet managers can tailor service schedules to each individual vehicle’s needs.

Reduced maintenance costs

Though manufacturers put a lot of thought and trial data behind their determined service schedules, relying on these suggestions implies that all vehicles are exactly the same. This discounts the fact that fleets serve countless purposes, with some vehicles driving on rough terrain or in harsh environments, others making long haul journeys, and some operating all day but driving very few miles. Suffice to say, the conditions of these vehicles will likely be difficult to generalize and should be monitored individually.  

Using predictive maintenance gives managers the advantage of letting their vehicles keep running until their conditions actually demand service. On the other hand, if a vehicle needs servicing before scheduled, managers can pull the vehicle off the road and avoid a breakdown. In either case, managers are cutting down on costs from servicing more often than necessary and avoiding expensive repair bills by catching a problem before it is too late.

Increased vehicle lifespan

Using predictive maintenance can potentially increase a vehicle’s lifecycle in many ways. First, because a vehicles actual condition is being monitored in real time, its ultimate lifecycle will be determined on the vehicle’s health instead of the number of years it has been at work. For fleet managers, this means that they could likely get a few more years out of many of their vehicles, saving the company the high acquisition costs of new vehicles for at least a few more years.

This type of maintenance also improves vehicle lifespan by keeping the vehicles in better condition from the start. Vehicles’ needs are tended to much more closely, not letting problems build up and worsen machine function. 

Decreased downtime 

Another way that the use of predictive maintenance is beneficial for companies is because of the reduction of vehicle downtime. Vehicle downtime due to unexpected breakdowns can impact business heavily, especially for those who work under strict time constraints, such as produce delivery trucks. Even one day out of service can be detrimental and give a business an unreliable reputation. By servicing vehicles on an as-needed basis, breakdowns will be far less likely, improving fleet dependability.

What does this mean for fleets? 

All things considered – predictive maintenance isn’t wildly different from what fleets have already been doing. Any good fleet manager should be constantly reevaluating their maintenance schedules to best serve their vehicles and optimize vehicle lifespan. However, it is true that with telematics technology there is a plethora of more interesting data to be discovered and in a much timelier way, making it worth the investment.

If you are interested in learning about how deploying a strategic telematics and analytical strategy could massively benefit your fleet’s operations, now and in the future, schedule a demo with a member of our analytics team today.

Gretchen Reese

Growth Marketing Manager

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