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Commercial trucks lead a taxing existence. Whatever the job demands, there’s no respite — it’s back to the road. That’s why it’s crucial to follow an effective fleet maintenance plan to ensure trucks stay serviceable.

Not only are well-kept vehicles required to pass inspections from government agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), but they also help keep employees confident in their equipment. The alternative is an unreliable fleet that lets customers down, costs you money in repairs and deters employees. That’s nothing you want, so here are a few tips for keeping vehicles on the road.

Implement Fleet Maintenance

An effective maintenance schedule is central to minimizing downtime. A good program ensures every time a driver takes a truck out, that truck has received the necessary attention.

A typical maintenance schedule will include A, B and C services. The A service is the most frequent kind and covers most major components. That means tires, transmission, brakes, windows, etc. B and C services add more components on top of those, with B services typically including new oil and grease for running gear and C including checking axels.

Each of these services is performed at a specific mileage interval. A typical service schedule might specify an A service every 3,000 miles, a B service every 6,000 and a C service as needed. Suspension components should be checked at every 12,000 miles but some trucks vary, so it’s important to check the manual. Depending on what it says, helps you determine its service category. In addition, trucks should receive regular cleanings and should be subject to a mandatory pre-trip checklist and service before they go out the door.

Pre-Trip Tips

The pre-trip checklist is essential to ensure drivers leave with a safe truck. Tire pressure and wheel nuts should be checked and rechecked each morning before the driver hits the road. The driver should know how to recognize a knock and listen to their engine before setting off.

Tire tread should be intact and even across all wheels, and it’s a good idea to run a balancing agent in your wheels to maximize fuel efficiency and tire life. All hoses on the truck should be intact and inspected in the driver’s morning walk-around. Brakes should be checked for functionality on initial departure.

Log Data

Computerized fleet management systems can make keeping your fleet operational much simpler. Instead of relying on drivers to record mileage and operating hours from memory, the onboard computer will track this data and submit it to your management system automatically.

Tracking these data points automatically ensures you don’t overlook a maintenance window, which reduces the chance that something will go wrong.

Low Rolling-Resistance Tires

Tire manufacturers are in the process of shifting nearly all production to low-rolling-resistance designs that use shallower tread and can save your fleet thousands of dollars in fuel. While the initial price-per-tire is slightly higher than traditional casings, a fleet outfitted with low-rolling-resistance tires will see a roughly 3 percent increase in fuel economy for every truck in the fleet.

The SmartWay program, pioneered in California, makes it easy for fleet operators to identify tires and other components that maximize fuel efficiency. Check the SmartWay listings to find tires, cabs and trailers that are approved. In some states, compliance with the program is mandatory.

Fleet maintenance is a practice that will pay for itself when done right, but you’ve got to commit to it. One slipup can result in a failed inspection, or worse, an accident.

The reason FMCSA, DOT and NHTSA are so stringent in the way they regulate trucks is the extreme mileage those trucks cover and long days drivers spend on the road. As a fleet operator, your responsibility is keeping your drivers and therefore, others, safe. With regular maintenance, everyone has safer travels.