- Breakdown costs for fleets in the fourth quarter soared 25.7% year over year, according to Jim Buell, executive vice president of FleetNet America.
- More frequent use of towing companies drove the cost up in Q4, Buell said.
- Truckload and LTL fleets saw improvement in miles between breakdowns from Q3, but tank-truck fleets saw more breakdowns, Buell said as he discussed his latest findings on unscheduled roadside repairs with Transport Dive.
Roadside repairs caused by breakdowns in the engine, the tire system or the lighting system can pull a truck over and cost a fleet plenty. Industry officials said the costs are shooting up.
"Cost per repair looks like a permanent headwind our industry is facing," said Robert Braswell, TMC executive director, in a joint news release with FleetNet.
The occurrence of roadside repairs vary across the three sectors.
Truckload fleets tend to be away from their maintenance shops the longest, so the average roadside breakdown happened every 14,333 miles in Q4, Buell said. That was a 20% improvement from Q3 2019. LTL fleets visit home base more often, so their average breakdown happened every 57,012 miles in Q4, a 15% improvement from Q3 2019.
But tanker fleets saw their performance drop 28% to a breakdown every 37,630 miles. In Q3 2019, tank trucks broke down every 52,063 miles, Buell said.
Buell found tires and brakes led to the most repairs, in that order, while cooling systems accrued the most miles between repairs.
One way Buell helps fleets understand how to avoid roadside repairs is to talk to fleets that are "best in class": the fleets that go the longest between breakdowns. Truckload fleets considered best in class travel nearly double the number of miles between breakdowns compared to the vertical average.
Buell said one fleet went unusually long times between lighting-system breakdowns by making sure the lighting systems were protected from moisture at each preventive maintenance session.
Successful maintenance sessions should involve such efforts, and not simply go through checkmarks on a list, Buell said.