“We operate a standard fleet and where possible schedule our planned maintenance out of hours to minimise impact.”
The old management axiom – you can’t improve what you don’t measure – rings very true for those operators better managing their fleet availability.
The use of daily VOR reports and the agreement of KPIs and SLAs with maintenance providers were common themes among some of the larger fleets’ replies.
However, probably the single most effective weapon an operator can use to reduce unplanned VOR is the humble pre-use defect check.
Terry Barfield, of Chelmsford District Council, confirms: “We would advise any operator looking to maximise fleet availability to ensure their drivers carry out pre-use checks.”
That view is echoed by David Walton, transport manager at Alsford Timber: “It costs us over £150 per day if we have a van off the road due to unforeseen circumstances.
"We have well established processes to ensure our drivers inspect their vans each day before use along with a planned maintenance programme.
"Along with driver training, this keeps our unplanned VOR to a minimum and forward planning minimises the impact of planned maintenance.”
Amey goes a step further by requiring maintenance providers to attend site first thing in the morning to rectify any defects found prior to their vans going out to their duties.
Julie Davies, compliance manager at Amey, says: “This level of service from our providers, coupled with effective pre-use inspections, allows us to maximise the availability of our fleet.”
Reducing breakdowns was seen as vital. The costs and business disruption must be factored into the decision on when to replace vehicles.
Minimising operational stress
Minimising the operational stress on the vehicle and ‘engineering out’ potential causes of VOR time also need to be considered.
Several operators reported benefits with the adoption of automatic transmissions, speed/rev limiters and more easily repairable vehicle specifications, etc.
With so many operators’ work-load being time- critical, there can be no reason not to do everything possible to eliminate unplanned VOR time and reduce the duration of all VOR time.
Mark Lovett, head of commercial vehicles at Leaseplan, says: “Since the launch of our UPtime product we’ve seen some very significant improvements in vehicle optimisation with our clients.
“One of our operators, a large utility company, has seen an improvement of over 50% in fleet availability.”
There is a clear common theme around each of the best practice strategies identified.
VOR cost can be significant and unavailability of vehicles can disrupt operations with obvious results.
There are often ways to better plan your planned VOR and there are certainly clear, proven ways to reduce unplanned VOR.