8 Commonly Overlooked Maintenance Tasks in Modern Truck Fleets
Maintenance is a crucial part of managing any fleet. Professionals know this going into the industry, and regular repair schedules are a standard part of most fleets’ operations, but many may not be thorough enough.
While most fleet managers understand the importance of changing their oil and rotating their tires, other maintenance tasks go overlooked. Here are eight commonly overlooked processes that should have a spot in every maintenance checklist.
1. Checking Brake Pads
Checking brake pads to ensure they have proper thickness is a standard part of many maintenance checks. However, commercial fleets often don’t check them frequently enough.
Since long-haul trucks are 20 to 30 times heavier than average passenger vehicles, they require far more force to stop. As a result, their brake pads wear out faster than even large consumer vehicles, requiring more frequent replacements. Many brake pads can also be difficult to see on a vehicle with multiple axles, so it’s easy to skim over this process.
Commercial fleet repair professionals frequently see truck brakes worn down to the brake caliper. Considering how much costlier caliper replacements are compared to brake pads, fleets should check their brakes more often.
2. Battery Testing
Another maintenance task that often goes overlooked in commercial fleets is battery testing. While most maintenance stops include checking to ensure electronic components are working correctly, they don’t check the battery itself. This is insufficient, as there are often no external warning signs of battery life draining until it’s entirely dead.
While truck batteries last several years, long-haul shipments can take their toll on this equipment faster than some may expect. For example, vibrations break down internal battery components, so traveling over miles of roads in poor condition will deteriorate batteries. To avoid any unplanned downtime, every maintenance check should involve testing batteries and, if necessary, replacing them.
3. Considering Idle Time
Any fleet manager or driver knows the importance of changing their trucks’ oil. However, many fleets may take too long to check and change their oil because they don’t consider truck idling time.
While newer vehicles can go 7,500 to 10,000 miles between oil changes, driving isn’t the only thing that works the engine. Spending a significant amount of time idling, as most commercial trucks do, also wears out the engine and its oil. Despite this degradation, many fleets overlook it because they go by what the odometer says, which doesn’t account for idling.
To account for idle time, fleets should change their oil more frequently than they would normally. Frequent checks can help determine when oil changes should happen. Internet of things (IoT) sensors can provide even more insight, alerting drivers and managers when to change their oil.
4. Preventing Corrosion on Underride Guards
Another maintenance task that’s easy to overlook is checking for rust on underride prevention guards. Since these parts don’t actively affect a truck’s performance, they often don’t come to mind when inspecting components for corrosion. Despite that, enough corrosion could make them weak, ultimately not preventing underride accidents if a crash occurs.
Workers should always inspect underride guards closely to ensure they’re not corroding, including looking at their underside and back. If there’s some rust, workers can use a biodegradable, non-acid-based rust remover. Acid removers can be expensive and cause disposal problems, so it’s best to avoid them.
5. Refrigerated Trailer Maintenance
Fleets that use refrigerated trailers should also be careful not to overlook their refrigeration systems. If these trailers start to fail, they could lead to spoiled products, costing companies thousands and costing fleets their reputations. This maintenance can also be easy to forget about since refrigerated trailers carry unique concerns that may not be immediately apparent.
Moisture can break down insulating materials faster than normal, so teams must check for leaks and moisture inside the trailer. Similarly, they should look for any punctures or tears in the walls and ensure the trailer doors seal properly. IoT temperature sensors can help inform these inspections, alerting workers of irregular fluctuations or rising internal temperatures.
6. Testing Collision Sensors
Many newer trucks come with sensors to detect potential collisions and keep drivers aware of their surroundings. Things like automatic braking and lane departure warning have significantly reduced collisions, so they’re becoming increasingly popular. As drivers rely more heavily on these systems, fleets must ensure they work properly.
The sensors themselves are the most important part to check with these systems. If they get dirty, misaligned or broken, they may not detect what they’re supposed to accurately, potentially leading to crashes. Consequently, every maintenance stop should include checking these sensors to ensure they’re safe.
Cleaning sensors and cameras will help them achieve maximum accuracy. Workers can also pull diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) from the truck’s onboard computer to see if there are any issues.
7. Looking for Leaks in Fluid Hoses
Most maintenance stops involve checking all of a vehicle’s fluids. Part of that inspection that may go overlooked is checking the fluid hoses, not just the reservoirs. A truck may have plenty of coolant, wiper fluid, oil or other fluids, but a dipstick test may not reveal smaller leaks in the hoses that could cause problems down the line.
Fluid checks should go beyond measuring levels with a dipstick. Even if these tests reveal a reservoir is full, maintenance workers should check under the truck to see if any hoses have leaks. If they do, they should replace them immediately, as even a small leak could cause substantial problems after a long drive.
8. Downloading Software Updates
Today’s trucks are technological marvels featuring a wide array of digital technologies. Since this abundance of technology is a relatively new trend, many fleets forget that proper maintenance now includes some IT considerations. More specifically, fleets must ensure all of their trucks’ onboard software is up-to-date.
Some devices may have an option to automatically download updates, which fleets should enable. If that’s not available, drivers should regularly check for updates and download them as soon as they’re available. If one driver notices a new update, they should inform the whole fleet to everyone can ensure their trucks feature the latest software.
Since 86% of commercial fleets today use telematics, they should apply this to these devices as well. Any IoT devices need regular software updates to stay safe from cybercrime and reach optimal performance.
Don’t Overlook These Maintenance Steps
Maintenance is one of the most important parts of running a fleet. While these eight steps are not the only parts of a sufficient maintenance stop, many fleet managers overlook them, leading to unnecessarily high costs and risks. Incorporating these tasks into maintenance schedules will keep fleets efficient and safe.
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