Preventive Maintenance Checklist - Common tips for Trucks and Fleets

Common preventive maintenance tasks for trucks and fleets must be customized to fit the individual vehicle and its usage pattern. Preventative maintenance  checklist allows fleet managers to schedule maintenance tasks in advance. Strong preventative maintenance programs ensure teams complete work orders without spending extra time, labor, and money.

Preventative maintenance is essential for any fleet company to succeed. Here are the different types of fleet maintenance tasks and preventive maintenance examples of fleet maintenance schedules to prepare you to improve your fleet preventative maintenance program. 

This is an example of the types of tasks you would find on a preventative maintenance checklist for trucks and fleet.

Types of Fleet Maintenance

Most businesses or organizations operating a fleet might have a group of trucks or cars that perform the same task.

For example, a delivery company will operate trucks or vans that do a great deal of idling and low-speed driving through neighborhoods. In this case, scheduling preventive maintenance tasks based on engine hours may make more sense than scheduling tasks based on mileage or time.

Service companies are another industry that requires vehicle maintenance. Police vehicles or taxis may log a great deal of city driving. Some fleets may experience greater wear and tear because multiple drivers use them. These vehicles may need more frequent maintenance on items, such as braking systems.

Fleets involve vehicles that could operate in hazardous locations. For example, some industrial fleets may operate in dusty or harsh environments. In this case, you may want to employ electronic monitoring devices to consider the condition of vehicles or backhoes.

Tip: Manage the unique needs of your fleet with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to ensure that vehicle-specific maintenance is performed on time.

Preventive Maintenance Checklist for Fleet

The following list includes some of the basic things most vehicles require. Be sure to check the recommendations provided by the vehicle manufacturer. Don’t forget to consider your company’s usage of specific vehicles in establishing preventive maintenance plans.

  • Change engine oil and filter.
  • Check, change or fill transmission fluid.
  • Inspect fuel system.
  • Check cooling system.
  • Inspect engine and transmission mounts.
  • Look at drive shaft, CV joints, belts, and hoses.
  • Perform regular tune-ups.
  • Inspect electrical system and braking components.
  • Be sure steering and suspension is in good condition.
  • Rotate and inspect tires, wheels and rims.
  • Examine exhaust system.
  • Check undercarriage, frame, all lights.
  • Inspect body, glass, and mirrors.
  • Ensure windshield wipers are working and fluid is full.
  • Check seat belts, horn, and auxiliary systems.
  • Repair fluid leaks.

It can be challenging for a fleet manager to keep track of these tasks, especially if they are on a pen and paper checklist. A fleet manager can use a CMMS to keep track of the many details that could get lost in the paper shuffle. In doing so, a fleet manager can equip their maintenance team with the tools to reduce equipment downtime and increase productivity.

Empower and Reward Driver Observation

Although preventive maintenance tasks can be scheduled, the drivers know the needs of their vehicles best. Sometimes, a driver can notice an issue that is not in the PM schedule. Be sure to give your drivers and operators an easy, accessible way to report problems and issues they experience.

Drivers should be required to report safety-related items such as tire issues, soft brakes, and worn wiper blades. If they notice that the vehicle has a rough idle or misfires, they should alert the maintenance department immediately. The faster the problem is addressed, the lower the cost and likelihood of complete breakdown. Any issues such as windshield cracks or body damage should be addressed as well.

Consider integrating a mobile app that can be used on a smart phone to report driver-observed issues easily. Fleet managers who use a CMMS can improve bottom-line savings by implementing preventative maintenance schedules.

Key Considerations when Constructing a Fleet PM Checklist

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for creating PM checklists for your fleet. When putting together your lists, consider the following factors.

Fleet Preventive Maintenance Checklist

First of all, consider your maintenance goals with respect to your fleet. What do you hope to achieve? Some companies are focused on reducing maintenance costs, while others are more geared toward improving reliability and fuel efficiency. Some are focused on both.

While any preventive maintenance plan should achieve either of the above goals, it’s still important to define what you want to accomplish in order to better focus your PM tasks. Without that focus, it’s easy to spend time on checklist items that don’t achieve anything.

Causes of Fleet Vehicle Downtime

With a goal in mind, it’s important to realize that fleet vehicle downtime will almost certainly get in the way of achieving it. For instance, if your goal is to keep costs to a minimum, then the average downtime cost of $448 to $760 per vehicle per day will definitely make unplanned downtime worth preventing.

]Note: Downtime costs in general average out to $260,000 across all industries, so efforts that reduce it can be highly cost-effective.

This area is where tracking vehicle performance data is truly important since it will help you figure out the possible causes of your fleet’s unplanned downtime. Once you know what puts your vehicles out of service for repairs, the better you can plan PM tasks to counter those causes.

Types of Vehicles

The types of vehicles you maintain will often impact the kinds of maintenance tasks you plan as well as their frequency. For instance, massive semi-trailers will have very different needs from those of fleet cars since they have different uses and involve different components (such as a trailer and hitches on a semi). Different makes and models may have different wear patterns, and therefore different timings for the upkeep and replacement of individual components.

Federal and State Regulations

Many aspects of fleet management have to conform to federal and state regulations, and often, those regulations will determine what you need to look for when inspecting your equipment. Some laws even make regular inspections themselves mandatory to keep fleet vehicles as safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly as possible.

For example, the EPA requires inspections and maintenance on fleet vehicles in several areas in the nation to reduce emissions, and they have various rules governing how those inspections should be conducted. Conducting inspections that support this law is therefore vital to minimizing liability and helping your company reach its maintenance goals.

Skills Required to Complete PM Tasks

When considering the individual tasks you’ll need to include on your fleet maintenance checklists, it helps to consider the skills involved in completing each task.

Some companies are able to cover everything in-house, from simple inspections to complex diagnostics. Others may not have as many resources at their disposal, or their business operations may center entirely on their fleet, meaning it’s harder to justify keeping in-house personnel on hand to do everything. In those cases, specialized third-party professionals may be needed to handle some of the PMs you have planned for your fleet.

Task Frequency

Having the right tasks planned is one matter, but it’s equally important to make sure your PMs are performed as often as they are needed—and no more often than that. Roughly a third of maintenance tasks are carried out too frequently on average, so making sure you have the timings correct can help you keep costs down.

Just as it’s important to keep from over-maintaining your vehicles, you also need to make sure you perform necessary tasks often enough to keep them running. You’ll need to strike a careful balance—do a task too often, and you waste time and resources; don’t do it often enough, and you put your vehicles at risk.

Tip: The manufacturer’s recommendations are a great starting point for determining the right frequency for each task. As you track your vehicles’ condition over time, you might adjust those timings based on usage and wear patterns.

Locations Where Inspections are Likely to Occur

Every fleet and company is unique, and the locations where PMs and inspections are performed will vary from one organization to the next. Some inspections might be performed by the driver out on the road, while others are handled each time a vehicle checks in to your lot. The location will affect how PMs are performed and by whom, and that should be reflected in your checklists.

For instance, if a professional needs to perform some of the preventive tasks in your list, it may be worth including those in a separate list from those that you’ll do on your own lot. An inspection lane check may involve different tasks from a yard check, such as when handling the Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) for large commercial vehicles.

6 tips for constructing a preventive maintenance checklist for your fleet

The most effective preventive maintenance checklists conform to best practices. The tips can help you make the most of your fleet maintenance checklists.

1. Include All Vehicle Components in Your Preventive Maintenance Checklist

When determining the tasks you need to include in your fleet maintenance checklists, make sure you account for all vehicle components. For example, if your fleet consists of large tractor trailers, include components from both the tractors and the trailers on your list (in some cases, the trailer may require a separate checklist all its own). Missing a crucial part may leave your vehicles under-maintained and at risk for breakdowns in the future.

2. Separate Necessary Tasks From the Unnecessary

While you don’t want to leave anything out, sometimes certain tasks aren’t necessary and would end up costing you more in the long run. For instance, it’s often more efficient to replace tires rather than rotate them, or to limit the tasks performed on tune-ups.

It all comes down to a cost analysis that answers the following questions:

  • What expenses are we trying to prevent?
  • Would the cost of the required work be more than the loss it’s designed to prevent?

With those questions in mind, you’ll be able to perform the tasks that are truly needed without wasting resources on inefficient PMs.

3. Determine Who Will Perform Each Task

Just as important as what tasks to perform is the matter of who should do them. Many tasks can be handled by your drivers, whereas others may require professional attention. Knowing who will do what will help you create checklists accordingly.

For instance, a checklist for a DVIR in the commercial trucking industry would be conducted daily by your drivers, whereas more complex upkeep tasks may require a dedicated maintenance technician. Each would likely be best served with an individual checklist outlining their assigned tasks.

4. Organize Vehicle PMs by Type and Frequency

Different tasks will naturally have their own timelines. It may help to organize your fleet PM checklists by task frequency. For instance, tasks that need to be conducted daily could be one list, while monthly or yearly tasks would have their own.

In addition, some tasks can be done together, such as checking the oil and transmission fluid. Making sure those items are grouped together can save time and streamline vehicle inspections.

5. Create a Preventive Maintenance Checklist for Pre-Service Inspections

Most of the time, we think of preventive maintenance as a recurring task performed over the life of each vehicle. However, it’s also important to inspect vehicles when they first arrive in your lot, whether they’re new or used.

Creating a pre-service checklist can help you detect any abnormalities that may exist in your new vehicles and resolve them before they develop on the road. In addition, it will give you an opportunity to log important vehicle information (make and model, components, serial numbers, etc.) at the very start to help with ordering replacement parts later on.

6. Be Clear Yet Concise With Task Descriptions

When it comes to actually writing your checklists, each item should be arranged in a logical order and written with as much detail as necessary. Each task’s description should be clear and complete, but you should also make sure to keep it concise as well. After all, it’s very easy to miss important details inside a large block of text.

Making sure your checklists have a logical flow and are organized by location in the vehicle (and even labeling them as such) can help keep checklist item descriptions short while still covering all the details that you need to (such as what to do, how to do it, tools needed, and so forth).

Create Your Own Preventive Maintenance Checklist

While many items are common staples in fleet and truck maintenance checklists, the best PM checklists for your fleet will be the ones you create. As long as you follow best practices, listen to your drivers, and take the needs of your vehicles into account, it should go a long way toward making your fleet as reliable as possible.

More top checklists:

This post was updated and expanded in April 2020.

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