Vehicle uptime

In these tough economic times vehicle uptime, or vehicle availability to do the job, has become a key requirement in many fleets.

During the past two years we have witnessed the escalation of medium and heavy duty vehicle operating costs, the continuous increase of new vehicle and parts pricing, as well as demands by qualified technicians for higher wages.

In most companies operating heavy duty vehicles these rising costs have resulted in shrinkage in profit margins.

In an effort to counteract profit margin shrinkage, many of these companies are realising that optimising vehicle uptime is one method that they can use to increase their overall productivity and reduce costs, as well as improving customer satisfaction.

To achieve top and consistent vehicle uptime the vehicle has to be the right one for the job. Reliability is crucial, and vehicles should be well maintained and supported by good after-sales service from dealer and manufacturer.

The driver plays an essential role in ensuring the wheels are kept rolling. The vehicle has to be driven in a professional way, and drivers should be required to do a proper pre-trip inspection before setting off on any trip. Often, it is the driver who detects a telltale clue that could indicate a potential roadside breakdown resulting in expensive vehicle recovery, repair and unnecessary downtime.

In some fleets, operators believe that servicing and maintaining their vehicles in their own workshops increases their vehicle uptime. But, operating an in-house workshop can be expensive, especially if the workshop productivity is low and workshop efficiency is not controlled and measured.

The necessity for fleets to be out on the road during normal business hours means vehicles are not usually available for service during the day. The result is that workshop technicians are often idle with workshop productivity extremely low. Hours lost due to idle time cannot be recovered at a later stage, as workshop productivity is measured by the number of hours worked in comparison to the number of hours available.

Workshop efficiency is also generally low in fleet operator’s workshops, as flat-rate times are unavailable nor are they measured. Efficiency is the measurement of the time taken to complete a job in comparison to the estimated standard flat-rate hours as set by the manufacturer to complete the task.

Several vehicle manufacturers and dealers have taken cognisance of customers’ requests to find ways to increase vehicle uptime in the fleet, and have introduced attractive vehicle maintenance packages to help increase vehicle availability.

Various methods and maintenance packages offered by a number of dealers and manufacturers consist of:

• Service agreements whereby the operators and the dealer establish a suitable method of servicing a vehicle that is beneficial to both parties and optimises vehicle uptime. These agreements are tailormade and consist of arrangements such as:
– Servicing the customer’s vehicles on site at the customer’s workshop. (Don’t come to us we’ll come to you);
– Preferential workshop labour rates;
– The dealer guaranteeing fast turnaround time for normal vehicle servicing;
– Fast delivery of parts guaranteed;
– The dealer agreeing to supply the customer with consignment parts;

This is just some of the innovative marketing taking place by commercial vehicle manufacturers and dealers in an effort to assist their customers in ensuring high vehicle availability and cost reduction. Other methods offered are:

• Comprehensive and competitive full maintenance contracts. Lately some highly professional transport companies have selected a full maintenance contract when purchasing a new vehicle. The choice was made after carefully scrutinising the financial benefits of using a full maintenance contract.
• Competitive service contract covering the costs of the standard services.

Fleet operators would be well advised to investigate the various vehicle servicing and maintenance options that are available on the market today.


One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for 45 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel, 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.

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