Vehicle lifecycle planning has always been a hallmark of fleet management. After all, each vehicle in your fleet has a window of optimum performance and low-demand maintenance.
With proper care, your vehicles typically last between three to eight years before it's time to consider replacing them with newer models for both appearances and your maintenance budget.
However, with the global vehicle shortage due to microchip and supply chain problems, fleet managers are taking a closer look at the vehicle lifecycle. Do you really need to cycle out your 2017 and 2018 models without a clear route to replace them? Obviously, you can't leave your fleet short on vehicles, so it's time to rethink the vehicle lifecycle strategy for your fleet.
What elements make the best possible vehicle lifecycle strategy for efficiency in a vehicle-short market? Let's dive into how you can make your best fleet vehicle lifecycle strategy for the market as it is today
Predictable Expenses by Model and Year
The essential element of a vehicle lifecycle strategy is your map of expenses by model and year. This is a predictable arc in how much maintenance each of your fleet vehicles will cost yearly as they age. Naturally, newer vehicles need less maintenance, but different models age very differently.
Make a map of each fleet vehicle's predicted maintenance costs over the next five or even ten years. Then map their predicted performance drop-off, even with ideal maintenance. This can give you perspective on just what each fleet vehicle's lifecycle really looks like - and where to draw the line on cost and performance efficiency as your vehicles get older.
Preventative Maintenance to Avoid Known Pitfalls
With your lifecycle map ready, consider how preventative maintenance can avoid known expenses and problems with your chosen vehicle models. For example, you might know that a new battery 3 years after purchase is more cost-effective to replace early rather than put up with two years of fading performance over time. You may know that X model needs more care when it comes to oil changes while Y model often needs a certain part replaced while the rest of the vehicle runs perfectly for years.
Keeping a regular schedule of both monthly and annual maintenance is also essential to extending the lifecycle of your vehicles for optimum performance and avoiding known performance pitfalls as time goes on.
Adapting to Regional Stressors
Your local weather and road conditions also play a role. Changing out tires with the seasons and washing the underside of vehicles that drive on salted roads is necessary for any region that gets significant snow or ice in the winter. If your service area includes steep hills or mountain passes, you may need to prioritize vehicles with good traction and hauling power on those routes, cycling older vehicles to less demanding routes to maintain acceptable performance.
You will also want to consider how local weather and road stressors may shorten a vehicle's lifecycle and how to compensate for some of these factors.
Planning Ahead for Longer Vehicle Efficiency
Before the vehicle shortage, fleets typically cycled vehicles out fairly quickly. The vehicle lifecycle was calculated to favor replacement over long-term maintenance because replacement is - ultimately - more efficient. However, without the ability to quickly replace vehicles, it's time to plan for longer vehicle lifecycles. This means more focus on vehicle efficiency over a longer span of years.
Many vehicles perform well up to a decade after being manufactured - if they are maintained with care and attention to longer efficiency. Make sure that your upkeep and preventative maintenance steps include a focus on maintaining that vehicle efficiency for as long as possible so that your fleet is not left short without new vehicles available.
Looking Good with a Longer Lifecycle
Last but not least, we know that one of your major concerns as a fleet manager is often fleet appearance. One of the leading reasons to update your fleet vehicles every few years is to stay sharp and impressive to your clients. You can still achieve this impression with a fleet of older vehicles - and non-matching new vehicles - with a little extra attention to appearances.
Cleaning, waxing, and decals are the key to making even an older fleet look slick and professional. Right now, it's easier to repaint your fleet than buy a new vehicle. Vinyl wraps, decal design, and the simple act of regular wash-and-wax action make the last stage in extending your fleet vehicle lifecycle.
Fleet management has never seen challenges like we are seeing today with the global vehicle shortage. Wilmar is here to act as your fleet partner in both sourcing new vehicles and optimizing the fleet you have for maximum lifecycle performance. Contact us today to learn more.