Perfect Preventive Truck Maintenance Perfect Preventive Truck Maintenance

Technician working on truck with hood up

Committing to a consistent preventive truck maintenance (PM) schedule for all of your fleet’s equipment — tractors and trailers alike — not only maximizes uptime, but can help boost longevity, resale value, and even safety.

Here are some PM tips covering a range of components — from engines and transmissions to tires, wheels, brakes and even marker lights — that will help you get the maximum overall value from your fleet.

Top 10 Preventive Maintenance Tips:

Keep your tires properly inflated: About 30 percent of commercial truck and trailer tire failures are due to under-inflation. Most tire makers stress that maintaining correct air pressure is the single most effective maintenance practice that a fleet can employ, one that will also reduce tire rolling resistance and thus boost fuel economy.

Monitor tire tread depth: Commercial vehicle tire casings can last a long time – through two or three re-treadings – if the tread doesn’t wear too thin, a condition that will damage the tire’s casing and prevent retreading. Tractor steer tires should be pulled from service when 6/32nds of an inch worth of tread is left, while tractor drive and trailer tires should be pulled with 4/32nds of an inch left.

Keep your wheels properly aligned: According to the Truck-frame & Axle Repair Association, “toe error,” which is a condition in which tires are not properly forward-oriented, can shorten tire tread life by 25 percent. Correct vehicle alignment can also help improve fuel mileage by 0.5 to 1 mile per gallon.

Clean air is a must: When it comes to properly maintaining air brake systems, clean air is a priority. Components such as air seals, brake modulating valves, and brake chamber diaphragms are susceptible to premature damage if an air system is contaminated by moisture and/or oil, with deterioration of seals leading to air system leaks. Ensuring air dryers/filters are clean and functioning is a critical PM step. Moisture contamination can also be reduced by manually draining the air tanks every three months in winter conditions for a typical line haul truck, or as frequently as once a month for ‘high air demand’ vehicles.

Use more efficient oil: Oil is the lifeblood of a truck engine. Using a high efficiency product contributes to engine life and improved fuel economy. At Ryder, we use 10W-30 grade oil to service all Ryder lease, rental, and maintenance customer vehicles - improving fuel economy by 1.5 percent and saving nearly 110,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually.

Tap prognostics to tailor transmission PM programs: Most truck transmission makers offer prognostic systems that notify the technician and/or driver of impending services interval based on specific operational data points. Does the vehicle drive long hauls or perform a lot of stop-and-go driving? Prognostic programs recognize those conditions and can make PM schedule adjustments regarding fluid and filter needs accordingly.

The DVIR is your canary in the coal mine: Regularly review driver vehicle inspection reports or DVIRs and take action to fix things they note as being out of spec. If drivers see that you are taking their findings seriously, they are more likely to become diligent in their pre- and post-trip inspections. DVIRs also note issues that can lead to tractor-trailers failing roadside inspections too.

You need to use VMRS codes: Vehicle maintenance and reporting standards or VMRS codes are the “universal language” of the truck and trailer maintenance and repair business. They define exactly what is wrong with a truck and what was done to repair it. They become especially important if outside service providers are used for PM services; they keep everyone on the same page.

Check your truck batteries twice a year: Summer heat is actually the most harmful seasonal condition. While trucks require less cold cranking amps to start in warmer weather, heat accelerates the chemical “wear and tear” on a battery. And that “wear and tear” is often what causes batteries to fail in the winter month.

Protect the integrity of your electrical and lighting systems: The electrical system, wire, connections, exterior marker lights, etc., can be compromised when water leaks in and corrosion builds up. Ensure lamp shells are not cracked and remain properly sealed, along with warning harness checks to ensure their integrity. Corrosion, especially from roadway de-icing chemicals, is especially deadly to electrical systems as copper wiring soaks up moisture and contaminants like a dry sponge.

Carlos Mendiola is Group Director, Finance for the Fleet Maintenance Solutions business segment at Ryder System, Inc., a FORTUNE 500® commercial fleet management, dedicated transportation, and supply chain solutions company. In this role, he is responsible for the SelectCare Maintenance product line’s profit and loss, the life cycle of products in the Ryder portfolio, as well as evolving new products to take to market based on customer needs. 

"Regularly review driver vehicle inspection reports and take action to fix issues."