One of a fleet manager’s greatest enemies is downtime — especially unscheduled downtime. A sidelined truck or trailer usually means costs, and it always means lost revenue. While most fleet managers are continually working to reduce downtime, many people overlook some effective methods that can make a noticeable impact.
There are three main culprits that contribute to fleet trailer downtime — maintenance, accidents, and underutilization. Let’s take a look at ways you can address each of these areas.
Some downtime is inevitable, because you have to keep your trailers maintained. But in reality, it’s a continual struggle to keep trailers on schedule and well-maintained. Here’s a few ways to mitigate that problem.
Your drivers are responsible for daily pre-trip inspections. But just because a driver inspects, that doesn’t mean he knows when a trailer is due for maintenance. Trailers change hands all the time, especially when you’re dropping and hooking. Maintenance schedules get lost in the shuffle, and a trailer’s scheduled maintenance date can come and go like that.
Incentivize drivers to pay attention to maintenance schedules and to immediately communicate any issue they notice during inspection. Offer rewards that will motivate, and make it as easy and painless as possible for them to communicate.
Keeping your trailers clean is a simple way to prevent unscheduled downtimes. Clean equipment runs better, and it makes it easier to spot potential issues during pre-trip inspections.
Be sure not to clean your reefers or vans with caustic cleaners. Soaps are mild, but chemicals that contain acid or bleach can cause pitting in metal surfaces. Pitting creates tiny holes that allow moisture to enter, which reduces fuel efficiency and ROI; and may also cause harmful damage, especially to an aluminum reefer floor.
Use telematics to track signs that your trailers are in need of maintenance or repair. Smart trailer technologies let you track tire pressure, brake and light operation, excessive vibration, wheel end temperatures, and other metrics that could indicate a need for maintenance.
These systems automatically feed you the information you need to know about the health and safety of your trailers, without relying on feedback from your drivers. This lets you schedule trailer downtime, keeping you in control of your fleet’s maintenance and reducing your overall costs.
Fleet accidents are a leading cause of unscheduled trailer downtime and a big hit to the pocketbook. Not only are you dealing with a trailer that’s out of commission, you’re paying for expensive repairs. You could also have an injured driver that’s sidelined for a time.
Many fleet managers try to keep accidents low by hiring safe drivers and providing regular training. But the fastest and most effective way to prevent accidents is by installing aftermarket advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). The results are immediate, they don’t depend on changing your drivers’ habits, and the cost often pays for itself by preventing a single accident.
- Blind spot detection can reduce injury-producing collisions by 23%.
- Lane departure warning systems lower related accidents by 21%.
- Rear vision cameras reduce backup accidents by 5%.
- Parking sensors cut incidents by 28%.
- Rear cameras and parking sensors together drop accidents by 42%.
Underutilization is a form of downtime that causes a missed revenue opportunity. You can have underutilized trailers due to an oversized fleet, or because you’ve lost track of your drop-and-hooks.
If your fleet does a lot of drop-and-hooks, you probably don’t know where all your empty trailers are sitting. Drivers drop off at two in the morning and they don’t communicate that they’ve dropped and picked up another load. They lose track of the one they dropped, and they forget it’s there. It happens more often than you may realize.
You can keep track of those trailers by installing GPS tracking devices. Many companies are now installing battery- or solar-powered GPS tracking devices for their dry vans. Reefers often come with GPS units installed.
Use the Right Trailer for the Right Job
The lighter your trailer, the more you can haul. While you want to purchase trailers that will give you the greatest fuel efficiency and highest ROI, you should also make sure that your purchase will fit your hauling needs.
Each floor system is rated for a maximum load, and it’s critical to pay attention to that rating. If you load a trailer beyond its floor rating, you can damage crossmembers and prematurely damage the flooring. That leads to more maintenance costs and more downtime for each trailer.
Replacing crossmembers can take three days or longer, and the repair will run you about $2,000.
Before you purchase a trailer, be sure you consider the floor rating and whether it will allow you to run the freight that you want to pull.
At CRTS, it’s our mission to help you get more value out of your purchase for the long run. We look out for your best interests—not our biggest sale. We’ll talk about the positives and negatives (if there are any) to every piece of equipment we sell, because we want to make sure you have as little trouble as possible.