Service vehicles need many of the same maintenance procedures as any other motor vehicle. With regular service, a service vehicle can last for many years. Even if they will likely mechanically wear out much sooner than an equally robust passenger vehicle, because they’re driven hard and often over their lifetimes, service vehicles are very durable and reliable. They are generally built to durability standards that far eclipse their passenger siblings because they’re expected to be on the road most of the time, and have little downtime for repairs.
What’s a Service Vehicle?
When we talk about a service vehicle, we’re talking about a vehicle in a corporate fleet whose job it is to carry goods to their destination or to carry services to a customer. So a service vehicle may be a truck belonging to a produce wholesaler, a tow truck, or even a large-animal veterinarian’s pickup truck transporting medications and medical instruments to the farms that he visits.
Service vehicles are the backbone of a commercial fleet. They are the cars and trucks responsible for moving your workers and their tools to and from work sites. In the case of a towing service, the service vehicle itself is the work site, as the customer will mostly interact with you when you’re in your vehicle. Mostly because customers seldom engage a towing service unless their vehicle is in trouble, or they are in danger. Presenting a solid, professional front from your service vehicles is crucial. When you are designing your fleet livery, make sure that it includes your contact information and US and state Department of Transportation licensures on the sides, following state laws and corporate policies. Also, be sure that customers know where they can reach you via phone.
Keep it Cool: Air Conditioning
Automotive AC repairs are important for any car. But a passenger vehicle can sometimes get away with “4-40” air conditioning for a while if the weather isn’t too hot. The interior of a closed vehicle can rapidly exceed 130 degrees in the sunlight, however, service vehicles need to be operating all the time, as well as being the vehicle that transports customers back to the shop while their car is on the bed or the tow. Because of this, service vehicles need auto AC repairs as soon as the AC breaks down — letting it ride for a while is simply not an option. Regular service can keep this from ever being a thing, though.
With a properly and regularly serviced air conditioning system, your fleet’s cars and trucks can keep their cabins cool and protect both your drivers and the cargo that they’re tasked with moving. A comfortable environment in the cabin also protects your customers’ goodwill, as even with small temperature rises, there’s a proven connection between hotter environments and poorer decisions.
Fleet Auto Detailing
Because of being on the road and getting into/out of tight parking ramps, auto detailing is going to be a necessity to keep your fleet’s livery in good shape. Scrapes on your fleet vehicles’ sides from the occasional quarter or door panel bash into the side of a ramp can be quickly refreshed just by making sure your fleet’s livery detailer is on call to quickly touch up any damage to your service vehicles’ paint.
Regular service for vehicle touch-ups will keep your fleet looking sharp on the road, and making sure your trucks have smooth and well-maintained paint will reflect well on your cars’ maintenance. The cosmetic appearance of your service vehicles from the outside is the first impression that customers will have of your fleet. It’s an appearance that they will likely have many times before they need to call you for any services. So make sure that a customer’s first impression is a good one by keeping your fleet’s livery looking sharp, clean, and clear, and by having your service’s phone number displayed prominently on each side of your trucks.
Service vehicles should get wheel alignments frequently. More time on the road means more time for the wheel alignments to drift out of true, making the vehicle harder to control. Once new tires are installed in the service vehicle, the vehicle will be aligned at the fleet’s shop, but drivers are the first line of defense in a service vehicle alignment, with drivers being able to tell when the vehicle begins turning more roughly, pulling to the left or right or not being straight when driving on a straight road.
Wheel alignments help maintain handling and fuel efficiency, which reduces costs in the operation of a commercial fleet. A tire alignment is going to make everything work better in your service fleet, and you will certainly appreciate the savings in your fleet’s upkeep costs. For moving fleets where smooth driving on the roadways is crucial to getting your customers’ belongings from one place to another in one piece and on time, wheel alignments can avoid costly corrections that will risk your customers’ wrath.
A constant life of getting into and out of a tow truck or other service vehicle will make auto upholstery repair a crucial necessity sooner rather than later. Repairing auto upholstery in a service vehicle will make the ride much more comfortable for everybody. With tough fabrics being the norm in a current service vehicle, drivers and service passengers don’t have a problem anymore with their bodies sticking to the surfaces of the vehicle, and tears should get regular service rather than sitting with shabby and worn upholstery in your fleet vehicles. Remember that after the livery of your trucks themselves, the first impression that your customers will have of your fleet is the interior of your tow trucks, so make sure that those are getting regular service and don’t skimp on the interior detailing.
Save Money with Used Auto Parts
Used auto parts can be something of a game of risk for a service vehicle owner. The truth is that when you have service vehicles, reducing expenses is always an important thing. With used auto part markets online and used auto & truck part dealers in most major and many smaller cities, you can save your fleet costs where cost saving is an important consideration while keeping the overall quality of your fleet high. Regular service will permit you to handle the used parts, and any wear and tear on those parts will be noted and the parts can then be easily restored or replaced.
Used auto part dealers will also often sell their wares with a warranty, giving you the peace of mind of knowing that your car’s parts are being treated with the same respect as new parts. Fleet service vehicles with new parts are great, but in the modern environment, if it’s possible to save a few thousand dollars per vehicle by buying used or remanufactured parts, you need to go for it.
If your business operates or rents utility trailers, they represent a great opportunity for profit. But they also come with many of the same costs as a vehicle. Not all the same, because they lack an engine and the other associated parts, and air conditioning typically (but not always) is not part of a utility trailer. But a utility trailer still needs to have regular service done on its interior and exterior, making sure that the wheels stay in alignment, the doors and interior pieces work, and the suspension is in good working order. If these steps are taken, your utility trailer will be a good profit source for many years, and you can use it both for handling your own business and for the business of your clients who rely on you. Just like with the auto detailing talked about above, a utility trailer’s detailing needs to have its DOT registrations and license plate, working running lights and other important parts, and of particular importance, your business’s contact information. It doesn’t make sense to rent out a trailer that doesn’t advertise your business on the side. It’s not going to bring back repeat and new customers if you don’t have your name and phone number easily visible, or if it goes out in visibly poor condition. Trailers are money — make sure you’re protecting yours!
More Fleet Maintenance
Moving companies are in a special case for fleet maintenance. Many moving companies rent their equipment to other people to do their moving, following the lead of industry leader U-Haul. With truck rentals to customers come new and important issues, like the fact that your customers aren’t going to feel as concerned about possible damage to the sides and tails of your trucks. If you rent out a moving truck, be sure that it especially is given regular service and properly equipped with necessities like propane tanks or 4-wheel parts. The rental trucks are going to be an extremely important business ambassador. Nobody gives a rental truck a second thought, unless something bad happens to it, so make sure that your rental trucks say only good things about your company by making sure that the motor, the air conditioner, the upholstery, and the wheel alignment are all in good shape and ready to go for every rental customer. If your moving trucks for roll off rental companies are employee-operated, this advice also applies. Company employees need to be wearing uniforms every time, too. Make sure that you have the money to have polo shirts in the company’s uniform image available for your workers to wear on customer sites. This may not be advice relating to your service vehicles, but it’s no less important. The people who represent you need your help to look as professional as they possibly can.
Storage Rental Vehicles
One of the newest popular forms of hauling and storage rental is the roll-off container or box. These cargo containers are undersized modular containers, much like the intermodal shipping containers seen on ships and trucks, and they can be attached to and moved by trucks in much the same way as their bigger cousins. With no real limitations on these roll-offs, you are free to rent them out with the customer and wait for them to come back. They need relatively little regular service because they’re giant metal boxes. But they do need to be inspected every time they come back to make sure that the customers have left them in good condition, and haven’t left anything in them that was not intended to be left. A dumpster is fine, you will be hauling away whatever the customer puts in the dumpster anyway. But a personal storage pod that has personal effects stored in it needs to be inspected to make sure that the customer has not left any personal effects behind in it. If they have, they might come calling, and if you send the container back out again before the customer does, it’s going to look bad on your company. Especially if the next customer gets it and keeps it for themselves. So be careful!
Maintaining Semi Trucks
You’ve done all you can to make sure your vehicles remain in good repair and on the road. Sometimes, however, vehicle engines still break down. In these cases, make sure that you’re on good terms with a semi truck engine repair service. These truck repair services are vital to keeping other trucks on the road and can save your fleet the expense of having to buy a new truck when one breaks down or at least of having to be towed to a truck stop in that case. Making sure that your semi truck engine repair service is on speed dial will keep your truckers happy.
Making all of these precautions sounds like it’s going to cost your company a lot — and it might. But remember that every dollar you spend on maintenance is worth ten in repairs.