By Mark Cartwright, head of LCVs, Freight Transport Association
Van operating costs are always at the forefront of operators’ thoughts yet so often we see a key component of cost management neglected.
Van operators are becoming more switched on to managing their fuel spend, residual values, etc. but still almost half of respondents to a recent Van Excellence survey admitted they failed to manage their planned and unplanned vehicle off-road (VOR) time.
This figure is, at least, an improvement over the feedback received in a similar survey last year when only a third of respondents measured VOR.
Given that many operators would put the cost of having a vehicle off the road as being in the hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds per day, it is surprising that more operators aren’t taking more positive action to manage their exposure.
In exploring this issue it is useful to distinguish between planned and unplanned VOR time. We would include regular servicing/maintenance and ‘duty of care’ inspections as planned and time off road due to breakdown, collisions, delays in servicing/maintenance and repair schedules as being unplanned.
Year-planner provides a simple solution
Planned VOR time should be a ‘known known’.
Operators of heavy commercial vehicles have long mastered the use of a simple year-planner to manage services, preventive maintenance inspections, VED dates, etc. When looking to minimise the impact of planned events, there are a number of recurring strategies reported.
“We liaise carefully with the lease provider to schedule maintenance out of hours where it will have the least disruption to our business,” says Rory Morgan, national logistics general manager at Iron Mountain.
“We also look at how we can move vehicles within the fleet to even out use. By adopting a pro-active approach, we’ve reduced our maintenance costs while minimising the disruption of planned VOR and maintaining high safety standards.”
Accidents and breakdowns were identified as the causes of most unplanned disruptions to vehicle availability and, perhaps understandably, they were seen as being more difficult to manage.
Delays and hold-ups at dealers and repair agents were a common theme among respondents; something the services provided by Van Excellence partner Leaseplan’s UPtime and R2C aim to address.
Against that background, it’s not surprising that one of the key pieces of advice from major operators is to get to know your maintenance providers and ensure they understand your business.
“We use specific dealers who understand our operation,” says Geoff Wright, fleet services manager at Celesio Group UK.