“The equipment we buy today is much more expensive to maintain. I know that is disappointing to hear, but it’s a fact,” observed Bruce Stockton, president & CEO of Stockton Solutions, at a recent Webcast called: “Cutting Maintenance Costs/Improving Results: Using technology to reduce maintenance costs and facilitate CSA compliance,” presented by Fleet Owner and Truckload Carriers Association and sponsored by Zonar.

Stockton was the featured guest speaker at the live Webcast (now available for viewing free online), and he shared a number of observations and practical tips from his 25 years at CFI (now Con-way Truckload) about the business of maintaining vehicles in today’s fleets.

Much of the blame for today’s higher maintenance costs, Stockton attributed directly to engine emissions regulations and the additional equipment and increased systems complexity they have added to vehicles since 2007. According to a fleet study he cited, the average per-truck monthly cost of maintenance rose from $548 in 2006 to $829 in 2008.

Concerning CSA, Stockton observed that, “Maintenance departments all have internal customers, including drivers and operations people, who they are trying to please, but they were never really rated on that before.” CSA, he noted, has created much closer ties between operations, drivers and maintenance, whose success (or failure) is more interdependent than it ever was in the past.

“We [maintenance] need to do our jobs well every day,” he said. “One way to do that is by keeping the fleet’s tools, their equipment, ready to go to work.”

Stockton also stressed the importance of identifying “where maintenance costs are really coming from,” and advised maintenance managers to establish key performance indicators (KPI’s) to help monitor and then attack and eliminate or reduce unnecessary costs.

“It is also very important to educate senior management concerning why maintenance costs are increasing or decreasing and in what areas,” he said. “If cost-per-mile isn’t a good metric for your operation, try cost-per-month to help identify trends and their causes.”

Stockton observed that he is often surprised by the inefficiencies that still persist in many parts departments and maintenance facilities. “For instance, how many times does equipment move in a shop during maintenance?” he asked. “How many times does it actually have to move?

“You really have to step back, watch the process and ask yourself, ‘Why do we do it this way?” Stockton added. “Often times, the answer is, ‘because we always have.’”