Truck Maintenance: Everything You Must Know

Truck Maintenance: Everything You Must Know

Making sure your truck is well-maintained is no simple task. Truck maintenance can be neglected when you're focused on the financial aspects of your business, but we'll help you make this task easier. In today's blog, we'll go over everything that you need to know to keep your fleet in pristine condition. No more slacking - let's dive in.

Key Takeaways

  • Proactive truck maintenance is essential for fleet reliability; it reduces downtime, lowers repair costs, and extends vehicle lifespan.
  • Creating a maintenance schedule based on the manufacturer’s recommendations and adjusting it for each vehicle is crucial.
  • Training for drivers and technicians should be standard practice for all trucking companies. Informed personnel - less unwanted incidents.
  • Choosing the right fleet management software will prevent or increase the speed of repairing your trucks.

Understanding Truck Maintenance Essentials

Semi-Truck on the road

Truck maintenance is all about taking a proactive approach. Regular inspections and preventative maintenance are much needed to keep your trucks running smoothly, and also to prevent further problems down the line.


So, what does that look like in practice? Preventive maintenance checklist - easily one of the most important factors for keeping you organized and making sure you're not missing anything.

Trucks are made up of numerous components, each requiring specific care, and this makes it very easy to get lost or skip over important maintenance steps. From the engine to the transmission, from the filters to the fuel level, every aspect of a truck needs regular attention. 


But it’s not just about the big-ticket items; even smaller elements like seat belts and mirrors have a huge impact on safety and performance.


Not all trucks are created equal, and neither are their maintenance needs. Some trucks are manufactured to carry lighter weights, while heavy-duty trucks are much more resilient, capable of carrying loads of up to 35,000 lbs.


The Role of Preventive Maintenance in Fleet Management


Why should you be obsessed with preventive maintenance? Nothing 'hurts' yet, so why bother with it, right? Wrong. 

Preventive maintenance is the backbone of a successful fleet. Its importance can be tracked in:

  • Reducing unplanned downtime
  • Cutting repair costs
  • Extending vehicle lifespan
  • Meeting safety standards
  • Reducing potential liabilities originating from non-compliance.

But it’s not just about ticking boxes on a checklist. Effective preventive maintenance requires staff engagement, optimizing parts inventories, and utilizing inspections for educational purposes.


It’s important to create a culture of care and responsibility, where every member of the team understands their role in maintaining the fleet’s health. So following a consistent framework of practices is crucial for your business.


Preventive Maintenance Tasks for Trucks

Man changing the engine oil

So, what does preventive maintenance look like for trucks? Each day, several tasks need to be performed, including:

  • Checking the engine and transmission
  • Inspecting the fuel level, suspension, and steering systems
  • Examining belts, hoses, auxiliary systems, and the clutch
  • Checking the exhaust system

These tasks are essential for keeping your truck in good working condition and preventing breakdowns on the road.


While daily checks are a great start, you may have to add in some more comprehensive inspections. These inspections should cover tune-ups, the electrical system, brakes, steering, suspension, and the health of engine and transmission mounts.


Routine fluid checks are also crucial, going through power steering fluid to brake fluid, wiper fluid, transmission fluid, and engine and brake oils. If all of these pass the test - congratulations - you're the owner of a rock-solid truck.


Creating a Truck Maintenance Schedule

Truck maintenance schedule

Creating a truck maintenance schedule isn't just about listing a few tasks on a piece of paper. Establishing the right frequency for each task, based on the truck’s usage, seasons, mileage, and engine hours are crucial factors.


It's all about finding the right balance. Check them too often and you're wasting resources and time. Don't check them enough and you'll see red all over your dashboard. Ideally, you want to have a basic service every 10,000-20,000 miles.


And make sure you don't forget about the manufacturer's recommendations. In the truck's technical manual, you'll find plenty of information on when and how often certain tasks should be performed. This is a great starting point for creating your maintenance schedule. However, these recommendations should be adapted based on the current condition of your truck.


Importance of Adhering to Manufacturer's Recommendations

Checklist

We have already agreed on the fact that the manufacturer's recommendations are important. But how important are they?


The answer is quite important. Nobody knows better what a truck needs than its manufacturer, right? The owner's manual is not only designed to keep your truck in good condition, but you'll also find tips on how to improve fuel consumption, which is going to save you a lot of cash in the long term.


Also, aligning your preventive maintenance checklist with the manufacturer’s recommendations ensures each routine item is serviced at the appropriate time, preventing small issues from escalating into major, costly repairs.


Essential Truck Maintenance Checklist


We addressed how important it is to have a schedule and to follow the owner's manual. So far so good. But what exactly should you add to your maintenance checklist?


A typical maintenance checklist includes:

  • Windshield, back windows, and mirror inspections
  • Engine, transmission, and suspension system checks
  • Fluid level checks
  • Condition of interior elements like gauges and air conditioning systems

Daily Inspection Points


Preventive maintenance shouldn't be done too often because it can be a waste of resources, we talked about this earlier, but there are a few things that you may want to check daily to make sure that you don't run into bigger problems later. Don't worry - this shouldn't take you more than 5 minutes. 


These are the main things you want to take a look at:

  • The vehicle’s body
  • Glass integrity
  • Mirror condition
  • Windshield wipers
  • Fluid levels
  • Gauges
  • Air conditioning system

Pay close attention to safety and emergency equipment too. Check the seat belts, horns, and make sure you have easy access to the first aid kit. Inspections like these will prevent minor defections from becoming major headaches.


Routine Maintenance Items


The most important routine checks involve checking the most important parts of a semi-truck:

  • Checking the engine tuning
  • Brake checks
  • Tire rotation
  • Lubrication checks
  • Steering system evaluation
  • Monitoring the alternator to keep the truck’s battery charged
  • Regular checks of the truck’s wiring system to prevent electrical problems

While brake and lubrication checks can be performed at every stop, engine tuning, tire rotation checks, and steering system evaluation should be performed every 10,000-15,000 miles.


Seasonal Maintenance Considerations


Maintenance needs greatly differ from season to season. Each season has its pros and cons, and trucks can definitely feel that. Summer maintenance may include:


  • Checking the air conditioning and defrosting systems
  • Inspecting belts and water pump for leaks
  • Examining alternator wiring and battery condition
  • Ensuring the radiator is free from corrosion and the coolant is clean

Winter maintenance includes:

  • Checking coolant levels
  • Inspecting engine heaters
  • Using cold-resistant diesel fuel
  • Assessing battery strength
  • Maintaining the windshield, brakes, and exterior condition to prevent downtime due to harsh weather.

Increasing Fleet Maintenance Efficiency with Technology

Fleet management software illustration

Notebooks are out of fashion. You can easily lose them and sometimes you can totally forget what or where you wrote something in them. Fortunately, we're living in the digital era and we have quite a few options to choose from. Automated systems and software can simplify processes, track technician productivity, and provide real-time visibility of fleet conditions. This not only makes your job easier but it makes for a more efficient fleet with increased performance.


A fleet management software has the following benefits:

  • Collects fleet and driver data to assist with maintenance scheduling
  • Provides centralized tracking of technician productivity, asset health, and repair expenses, all in one system
  • Sends automated reminders for routine maintenance
  • Provides insights on vehicles needing repairs

This type of software can be easily integrated with telematics devices or fuel cards. This makes it much easier for you to check the health of your trucks and perform maintenance as soon as they need it. Convenient, isn't it?


Electronic Pre-Service Checklists


If a fleet management software isn't enough for your digital needs, then electronic pre-service checklists may fill that spot. These digital checklists link directly to a centralized database, where inspections are organized and conducted. They reduce paperwork and bureaucracy and put you on the road faster.


Electronic checklists have the following benefits:

  • Ensuring compliance with safety regulations and manufacturer guidelines
  • Enhancing vehicle safety
  • Creating a culture of accountability within the organization
  • Reducing liability in accidents by maintaining pre-trip inspections evidenced by electronic records.

Training for Effective Truck Maintenance

Truck driver looking at the camera

Now you have all the tools and information that you need to maintain your trucks in good shape. Great news! But how do you transfer all this information to your employees?


Don't worry - we got your back.


Preventive maintenance programs are the best way to ensure that your employees have the proper training. In these programs, you want to go over all the basics (daily inspection routine, periodical inspections), but you should also dive deep into the more complicated stuff (how to operate a fleet management software, electronic pre-service checklists must-dos)


Training also extends to specialized areas such as managing heavy loads and off-road conditions. These situations require unique skills and knowledge, and properly trained drivers will handle challenges much easier.


Advanced Training for Managing Heavy Loads and Off-Road Conditions

Road covered by sand

Specialized training is essential for managing heavy loads and off-road conditions. Some key areas that should be covered in this training include:

  • Routing and escort requirements due to the size and weight of the loads
  • Weight distribution
  • Securing cargo
  • Adapting driving techniques to maintain vehicle control

This training is particularly important for heavy haul truck drivers, who often encounter these logistical situations.


Off-road driving conditions are challenging. Reduced traction and increased wear are expected to leave some marks on your truck. Drivers need certain skills for these conditions, such as maneuvering through brought terrain, recognizing safe paths, and knowing what their vehicle is capable of.


Conclusion

Truck maintenance is an extremely important aspect of fleet management. It involves regular inspections, preventive maintenance tasks, and following a maintenance schedule specific to the needs of each vehicle. Technology and proper training make it easier to streamline your maintenance processes, improve the performance of your fleet, and cut costs. Remember, a well-maintained truck is not just a reliable truck; it’s also a cost-effective one.

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