Commentary: Total cost of ownership a factor when outsourcing maintenance

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Deciding to turn the maintenance of your vehicles over to someone else can be a tough decision and it might feel like you are giving up control.

But given the increasing sophistication and complexity of today’s vehicles, it might make sense to turn it over to someone who specializes in repair and maintenance. Quality shops will have made investments to ensure their technicians are properly trained and also will make sure those trained technicians have the proper tools and equipment to complete the repairs effectively. This is what I call the schooling and the tooling.

Having trained technicians and the right equipment is just part of what’s needed to maintain and repair trucks properly. You also need the correct parts. While it might seem like parts selection is relatively simple — pick a well-known brand name — the reality is that even top tier manufacturers are offering products at a variety of price points and various levels of quality.

Joe Puff is vice president of truck technology and maintenance for NationaLease.Joe Puff is vice president of truck technology and maintenance for NationaLease.

The focus here should not necessarily be lowest initial purchase price, but rather should focus on total cost of ownership. A part that costs less to buy but has to be replaced more often is not necessarily a good deal. A quality outside service provider should have a wealth of data on how a certain part performs and can leverage that knowledge when selecting a part for your vehicles.

In addition, there is a lot you need to know about even the simplest part to make sure you are getting the best component for your specific application. Let’s take oil filters for example. To choose the right filter, you need to know what type of media it has, the micron rating, the flow rate and whether a bypass filter is also needed. While choosing the wrong filter might not have immediate consequences, it could cause significant damage that may not show up until much later.

Decisions like this have to be made for replacement parts for engines, transmissions, brakes, steering and suspension systems, and on and on across the entire truck. You need to ask yourself if you have the expertise in-house to make the correct decision each and every time. If not, then outsourcing your maintenance and repair probably makes sense for you.

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To help you select the appropriate service provider, ask the following questions:

  • Can you explain the criteria you use to select maintenance and repair parts to offer my fleet the best TCO?
  • What is your incentive to focus on my TCO rather than just focusing on price?
  • What kind of certification and training do your technicians have? (What is the schooling?)
  • Does your shop have the necessary tools and software to support my fleet?
  • Will you be outsourcing any of the repairs on my vehicles?
  • What are your hours of operation?
  • Where are your servicing locations in relationship to my routes?
  • What criteria will you use to make recommendations about maintenance schedules for the various trucks in my fleet?

The long-term focus of vehicle maintenance should focus on TCO, and sometimes that means turning the maintenance reins over to someone with the expertise.

Joe Puff has more than 35 years of experience in complex sales and fleet operations, including extensive experience in commercial vehicle maintenance. He is responsible for advising NationaLease members and the National Account team of new truck technology, industry trends, and maintenance best practices.