5 steps to ensure your fleet is ready for the big leagues
Authored By: Andrew Montanino
Are You Ready to get called up?
Fleet management is a never-ending battle of balancing cost and utilization in order to maximize the efficiency of your business’s vehicle assets. One of the greatest obstacles is the money and time lost due to overlooked or under-executed vehicle inspections that lead to more down time at the repair shop. This article will outline a general program that, when supplemented to your daily inspection routine, can help operators avoid these costly oversights. As well as, ensure that your fleet will be ready for any demanding work environment at the drop of a hat.
Depending on how many miles your vehicles travel, the length of time and intervals they sit unused, and the conditions under which they work will determine the frequency of when these detailed inspections should take place. A few examples of when a good time to perform these are: Before and after a cross country trip, after they sit unused for an extended length of time (COVID-19), if they spend extended periods idling at work sites, or before and after they are used for heavy hauling/towing.
As a fleet manager, a good rule of thumb is to issue inspections before and after high–stress use of your vehicles to avoid component fatigue and early replacement of wear parts. Below is basic index of how to train your employees to complete these inspections. (Note: this is a sample inspection and you may wish to add or subtract steps to best suit the needs of your type of vehicles.)
1) PRESENTATION/DOCUMENTATION: Make sure your vehicle is properly identified and looks clean & well maintained.
- Verify all requisite DOT markings. If applicable, make sure they are applied and visible. This includes the operator’s company name, DOT #, GVWR rating and proper license plate(s).
- Is the vehicle clean? Are the correct warning signs and safety reflectors visible? Is there any cosmetic damage that can be quickly repaired? Is the company logo applied well and in good shape?
- Open the glovebox and make sure the owner’s manual, proper registration, insurance, and current DOT inspection are available if needed. Also, check that the current DOT inspection decal as well as fire extinguisher and road hazard kit are in the cab as needed.
- If required, look for no smoking stickers or maximum clearance decals.
2) STARTING/IDLING: Make sure the vehicle starts properly and idles correctly. Listen for any odd noises, look for any leaking fluids, and make sure there are no unusual smells. Leave the vehicle running for the remainder of the inspection.
- Set the parking brake and carefully engage drive to make sure it is holding correctly.
- Turn on the headlights and hazards. Walk around the vehicle to make sure all the lights are working, including clearance/running lights. Turn off the hazards and check the turn signals. Engage the parking brake again and check the reverse lights. Use a brake-buddy to check the brake lights.
- Check the dome/cargo lights in the interior.
3) BODY CONDITION: Verify all the exterior functions are working right.
- Check the driver, passenger, and any cargo doors to make sure they open, close, and lock.
- If the vehicle has a rear roll up door make sure it opens, closes, and latches.
- If equipped, verify the condition of lift gates, ramps, and racks.
- Look over any receiver, goose neck, or 5th wheel hitch equipment and verify the trailer lighting plug operates as expected.
4) TIRES: Go over each wheel and make sure the tires are in good shape. Check the tread depth, inflation and inspect for any deformities. This is a good indication of not only tire health, but alignment, suspension and brake health.
- Visually inspect each tire for deformities and dry rot along the sidewall. Confirm that each tire is adequately rated for the load and speed the vehicle will encounter.
- Use a tread-depth gauge to make sure there is sufficient tread at multiple spots on each tire.
- Refer to the tire service decal in the d/s door jam. Then using a calibrated pressure gauge, make sure each tire is inflated the correct psi (cold.)
5) UNDER THE HOOD: Use this opportunity to check your fluids and the condition of the components in the engine bay.
With the engine still running and up to operating temperature:
- Remove any debris that has collected under the hood
- Check for any loose connections.
- Visually inspect the condition of the belts, battery, and rubber connectors for any sign of wear.
- Top off washer fluid
- Check the brake, power steering and coolant levels.
- Pull the transmission fluid dipstick and examine the level and condition.
- Shut the engine off and let vehicle sit for approximately 1 to 2 minutes:
- Pull the engine oil dipstick and check the level and condition.