Where is the value in preventive maintenance strategy verses breakdown maintenance strategy for vehicle fleets and mobile plant?

Modern industrial vehicle fleets challenge us on the sense of rigidly doing scheduled preventive maintenance. Todays industrial vehicles are better designed, their financing can include regular replacement of the vehicle before it is very old, and the parts and oils used are well built and permit flexible timing of maintenance. But all arguments in favour of breakdown maintenance strategy fall apart once you have vehicle breakdowns.



Hello Mike,

I am contacting you in regards to a client who I am having a hard time convincing that a good maintenance program is not only cost effective but a requirement of their business.

They are predominantly a mining company, but also do exploration activities in very remote areas.

The vehicles they use are mainly Land Cruisers, trailers, generators, quad bikes and medium rigid trucks.

A comment made to me was that “there is no way we can possibly record all of our repairs that we do, like replacing tyres.”

Could you point me in the right direction as to where I can go to find some literature, i.e. governmental guideline or legislation that outlines my client’s obligations in this regard.



Hello Harry,

You do maintenance so that you do not have breakdowns. We know that preventive maintenance is cheap; it is breakdowns that are expensive. You would be horrified at the money thrown away when you tally the total expenditures, work time losses, workplace and administrative wastes, downtime impacts, opportunities lost and all the other knock-on consequences of a breakdown. A breakdown will in total cost a company something like 10 to 30 times the cost of the direct maintenance cost, i.e. parts, labour, supervision, to fix the breakdown.

Your client has fleets of vehicle types that they have selected for mining work. I presume that by now they have used trial and error to determine good vehicle models for their needs and are suffering breakdowns at rate that they are willing to pay for. If they were not happy to pay for their current breakdown maintenance strategy they would have by now changed to preventive maintenance.

It is hard to convince companies making good money that their current strategies are the wrong ones to use. Mining contractors get good profits at the moment and they will not want to take risks that might lower those profits.

You will need to explain to your client how much more money they could make if they changed to a preventive maintenance strategy. They will not lose by going to preventive maintenance of their fleet vehicles; they will make even more money and see that improvement within 12 months!

Here is a number of areas that you can explore to build your case.

1) If they practise breakdown maintenance they must be carrying a lot of extra vehicles to cover for the random but expected failures. They need vehicles to do the work, but some will be broken down or under repair. Those items of equipment are unavailability for use and so they must have brought additional vehicles to cover for the vehicle outages. They have spent a lot of extra capital, as much as 30% more, on trucks and equipment unnecessarily to cover operating asset breakdowns.

2) I also would not be surprised to learn that they have high LTI and MTI workplace saftey results and are paying more insurance premiums than they would do if they had a proper preventive maintenance program. Every vehicle failure puts drivers and maintenance people at more risk of an accident than if there was no failure. Since there are more opportunities to be hurt there will be more injuries and accidents. Consequently insurance premiums will be higher.

3) The Mining Regulations and Act would have requirements for the maintenance and upkeep of operating asset and electrical equipment used in mining operations. As a minimum anyone working in mining must meet those regulations. The Occupational Health and Safety Act that applies to the workplace would also need them to maintain regulated and registered plant properly (e.g. pressure vessels, cranes, lifting gear).

4) If your Client has no records of the maintenance that their vehicles undergo how do they know their equipment is safe to use? One reason you keep maintenance records is to prove the equipment is safe to operate. You can say it is safe because the records prove that it is properly maintained. In a court of law ‘no maintenance records = so safe system of work = unsafe equipment’. You also keep maintenance records to prove you have have fixed problems on your equipment. With the equipment maintenance history and a problem’s associated maintenance costs you have justification to get better equipment. Remember that the real cost to the company of an equipment failure is ten times the direct maintenance cost. A $10,000 equipment maintenance cost is a $100,000 loss to the company.

5) Without maintenance records you have no idea of what is causing the maintenance. It seems that your Client keeps no failure and renewal records and so has no means to know what to do to reduce their maintenance costs. They have no evidence to identify the root problem. Is their maintenance expenditure due to equipment design problems, or poor maintenance practices or lousy operating practices? If the problem is operator induced breakdowns then the maintenance records would show that vehicles are being broken and are not breaking down by themselves.

Why not ask the company’s maintenance people why their vehicles have breakdowns? Equipment type by equipment type ask them to list the top three causes of vehicle failure—they know the truth of the maintenance problems in their business.

You are in a challenging situation. Trying to prove past practise is not good practise without real evidence means no one will believe you, even if you are right. If you cannot convince your Client to take-up preventive maintenance of their vehicle fleets, your alternative approach is to ask them to trial a different maintenance strategy.

Get them to put several vehicles into a 12 month test where preventive maintenance strategies are used. This lets them collect their own ‘real’ data to compare their old strategy with the new alternative. It is an approach where they gain experience without anyone being embarrassed or offended that what they have been doing for years was wrong.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ


PS. If you require advice on industrial asset management, industrial equipment maintenance strategy, defect elimination and failure prevention or plant and equipment maintenance and reliability, please feel free to contact me by email at info@lifetime-reliability.com