Costs of unscheduled roadside repairs climb but fleets can take steps to prevent breakdowns, study shows

Truck awaiting repairs
The number of miles between vehicle breakdowns requiring roadside repair vary between truckload, less-than-truckload and tanker fleets, according to a recent benchmarking study.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The results of the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Technology and Maintenance Council’s (TMC) first-quarter 2020 benchmarking survey with FleetNet America, released June 25, showed wide variance in the distance traveled between unscheduled roadside repairs.

“The data gathered by this project has been very instructive as to where maintenance improvements can be made.” said Robert Braswell, executive director of TMC. “We believe this TMC member benefit can help participants efficiently identify opportunities to improve their operations and reduce costs.”

The benchmarking report, a collaboration between TMC and FleetNet America (an ArcBest company), divides fleets into three verticals — truckload, less-than-truckload and tanker fleets. All participating fleets ran 33,637 miles between breakdowns; however, the miles run between breakdowns varied widely by industry vertical.

The data indicates most fleets could adopt maintenance practices to reduce the cost of unscheduled roadside repairs. The greatest opportunity exists for the truckload vertical in which the best-in-class fleet ran 300% more miles between breakdowns than the vertical average. The average tank fleet could realize a 21% improvement by matching the best-in-class performance, and the average less-than-truckload (LTL) fleet could realize an 11% gain.

During the first quarter of 2020, five vehicle maintenance reporting standards (VMRS) systems accounted for almost 70% of the total unscheduled roadside repairs. This was a slightly higher share of repairs than previous quarters. The top four VMRS systems were the same as the fourth quarter of 2019 (tires, brakes, lighting and powerplant), adding exhaust systems to round out the Top 5 repairs in the first quarter of 2020. For the first time, tires, were not the No. 1 VMRS system repaired for at least one of the verticals. The truckload vertical realized improvements in miles run between tire breakdowns, pushing tires to the second-most frequently repaired system in the first quarter.

“It was interesting to find the truckload vertical, who has been in the program the longest, continues to improve their miles between breakdowns. We believe that the availability of this data has contributed to this improvement,” said Jim Buell, executive vice president of sales and marketing for FleetNet America.

The benchmarking report also reveals that the cost of unscheduled mechanical repairs continues to climb, but not as fast as in previous quarters. The first-quarter cost for a mechanical repair ($491) was 30% higher than mechanical repairs in same quarter in 2019.

The vertical benchmarking program is a benefit for TMC fleet members and a partnership with FleetNet America. In addition to the executive summary, which is available to TMC fleet members, carriers that participate by sharing data are provided an analytic tool that allows them to drill into their data, comparing it to the industry average.

The program is a strategic collaboration between TMC/ATA and FleetNet America and is open to TMC fleet executive-level members and FleetNet America customers. The analytics provided through the program are cumulative and non-fleet specific. For information about the TMC/FleetNet vertical benchmarking program, click here.

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