A recent report by J.D. Power and Associates carries some bad news for fleet managers: vehicle dependability measures have declined for the first time in over 15 years.
Though the problems reported weren’t necessarily catastrophic, there was an influx of complaints over transmission and engine issues, including engine hesitation and rough shifting among other things. The results were particularly bad for major truck brands like Ram and Ford, who saw their reliability rankings drop 9 and 4 spots respectively.
And while these issues may not be ‘catastrophic,’ we are still talking about new vehicles, and the types of issues that drivers are complaining about don’t bode well for future performance. Even seemingly trivial issues like annoying sounds and a sluggish transmission can erode driver morale and make them less likely to care for vehicles properly.
Fortunately, many of these problems can be mitigated with basic preventive maintenance (PM) services, particularly if they are implemented with a full-featured fleet maintenance program like ManagerPlus Enterprise.
+ Schedule regular transmission flushes
Before jumping to the conclusion that a new vehicle is low-quality, it’s important to determine whether its issues can be resolved through some basic maintenance. For instance, if drivers are complaining of unusual noises, vibration, sluggish shifting, etc., there’s a good chance that dirt, grease or other contaminants could be interfering with the transmission’s function.
The first step is to check that transmission fluid level is adequate. If it is full, but appears brown or black in color, rather than red, this could be a sign that it is contaminated and needs to be flushed. If drivers complain of issues like random engine surges, slipping gears, and intermittent engine stalling, these can be additional signs that a transmission flush is needed, so it’s important to perform these checks regularly to catch any potential issues early.
+ Check for Recalls
Anyone who periodically reads or watches the news will be familiar with recalls—particularly when the problems are highly costly, dangerous and/or affect a lot of people. But recalls can also be issued for smaller parts or problems that may not make the headlines, which can make them easy to miss.
Fortunately, the federal government offers an online database where all recall information can be found. In addition to information on major recalls, the site also provides a handy technical service bulletin from the manufacturer, making it easy to find common issues that are being reported for specific vehicle makes and models.
If your search fails to pull up any information for your particular vehicle, you can also submit a request to have the government investigate the issue. It should be noted, however, that only safety-related issues will be considered for a full investigation. If the problems drivers are reporting are merely annoying, it will be more difficult to make the case that they warrant a full recall. In that case, the manufacturer may still post a technical service bulletin addressing the issue if it is common enough, so it is still worth looking into.
+ Track Warranty Information
Fleet maintenance software provides a simple, effective way to track warranty information for vehicles. If this information is easy to find, it will be much easier to determine whether it could be used to resolve issues encountered with a new vehicle.
It’s important to note that extended warranties can be purchased at any time up to the point that the original manufacturer warranty expires. This will give you some breathing room and allow you to add additional coverage if problems emerge soon after the initial purchase.
When deciding whether to added extended coverage, it is vital to have a reliable record of maintenance history. This will provide the clearest insight into historical wear and tear, and provide you with hard data to determine whether purchasing an extended warranty would be cost effective.
The bottom line: fleet managers don’t have to let nagging problems with new vehicles irritate drivers, erode morale, and potentially develop into more severe, costly issues. Adopting a proactive outlook with respect to fleet maintenance and care is the best way to keep fleets in optimal condition.