Tips for In-House, Dealership, and Outside Service of Fleet Maintenance

Repairing a utility truck

There are three main options when it comes to servicing your fleet: in-house, dealership, and an outside contractor. We spoke to an expert from each category and share their insights with you.

In-house servicing

When it comes to utility fleet maintenance, Glenn Yamada, Fleet Supervisor for Hawaii Gas is a near expert. He shares three insider tips with us on fleet maintenance when servicing in-house.

1. Make the most of data collection and use it to synchronize times when a machine is in use and when it’s available for service.

Servicing should bring minimal disruption to the work schedule, which takes careful planning. Some disruption is nearly inevitable when scheduling service but is always less disruptive than an unexpected failure of the machine. “There’s a sweet spot in the amount of data you gather,” says Yamada, “and that spot is prone to change as other aspects of your operation change.” He says Hawaii Gas is increasing its use of telematics at this time. They do oil analysis annually.

2. Exhaust after treatment is commonly overlooked. “DPF and DEF systems require maintenance, not just repair and replacement. Inspect filters and screens and clean the DEF tank.” Partial use and storage of opened containers of DEF can lead to crystallization of the product. They buy 2.5-gallon jugs for better product management and cleanliness.

3. Perform regular inspections. Check lights and safety equipment at the start of every work day. Compact excavators all have tracks and those tracks often have excessive wear that goes unreported. “The new work ethic tends to be lax at inspections. It’s up to management to institute a system that ensures inspections are performed and to assign accountability for that task.”

And don’t forget inspections and service of attachments and truck-mounted equipment. “Knuckle booms, augers, brooms…they all need maintenance which is mostly but not exclusively lubrication.” It’s hard to track hours on these pieces so it’s best to check them every time the truck or piece of equipment comes in for service.

Vermeer truck maintenance Service from the dealership

In terms of getting service from a dealership, Spenser Remick, External Sales Manager - Utilities Division, Vermeer offers the following tips.

1. Communication is key. “The dealership and owners know service intervals, terms of service agreements, and other details that crews and operators often do not know. There needs to be regular communication to close this knowledge gap.”

2. Telematics is not one-size-fits-all. Communication is essential here as well. “Make sure everyone knows what’s available so the customer can select the right package if there are several available.” He says Vermeer offers telematics with basic information, such as run time, idle time, and location, up to packages that provide rod-by-rod data on directional drill rigs.

Ask your dealer what value each level of telematics provides and don’t hesitate to ask for numbers to back up those evaluations.

3. Understand what is/is not included in the service agreements. For instance, fluid sampling may or may not be included in the customer’s service agreement or extended warranty. Employees can be unaware of this feature, or if it’s not included, could result in unforeseen costs.

4. Trust your dealer. Dealers see a lot of machines used in a lot of applications and develop a broader, yet more specialized knowledge base from this. They know which parts to check for excessive wear or risk of premature failure. They know what lubes and fluids to use given soil types, weather conditions, and other local factors. “If it’s something that impacts the function of the machine, get the dealer involved,” says Remick.

5. A central lubricant system does not negate the need for regular inspections. Contractors and equipment operators must understand grease points and intervals, and contrary to popular belief, having a central lube system does not do away with the need for inspection.

6. Adjust maintenance for the climate. For instance, much of North America has prolonged periods of sub-freezing weather; know how this affects fluids and pumps for directional drilling and make the necessary procedural adjustments.

Service from an outside contractor

Some contractors have great uniformity in their fleets; perhaps three types of equipment from one or two manufacturers. Others, especially utility contractors, often have great diversity. Servicing a uniform fleet in-house or through the dealer is fairly straightforward. But a diverse fleet, with many types and brands not all serviced by any single dealer, is much more challenging. The challenge is increasing as specialty parts and supplies and costly, brand-specific diagnostic equipment becomes more common. Then there is the hassle and expense of training and a large parts inventory. A diverse fleet is the perfect reason to bring in an outside service contractor and outsource the headaches. Although broad, Chris Britt, President and CEO of Mobile Equipment Service Options provides one overarching tip that he feels is crucial to all who typically service their fleet through outsider contractors.

1. Invest in a contractor for lubes and fluids. Tri-axle dump trucks, skid steer loaders, excavators, light towers, gensets,… no matter the equipment, the one thing all have in common is lubes and fluids.

“For customers, establishing a dedicated service team and creating a proactive approach to service can be a daunting and expensive undertaking,” said Britt. “For most companies with a large fleet of equipment, it’s more efficient to hire out preventive maintenance and on-the-job service and repair work.”

It's not just having all the right fluids in the right places at the right times, it’s also about the careful management of those fluids. It’s now common amongst the industry that contaminants in microns are measured, which helps extend PM intervals to 500 hours or more, reinforcing this is no environment for haphazard lube and fluid management.

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