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Prepare Your Fleet for Peak Demand This Season

Originally published
Originally published: 6/7/2021

With a continued increase in business, it’s critical that managers properly service their vehicles to ensure no delays that could impact your ability to conduct business.

 

With summer finally upon us, HVACR companies find themselves on the precipice of peak customer demand. Just as business owners and fleet managers prepare their operations and staff to withstand the increased volume of business, it is imperative you do the same with your fleets.

While many industries rely on the upcoming peak season to offset some of the negative business implications the coronavirus pandemic caused over the last year, the same is not necessarily true for the HVACR industry, which has been operating under peak season conditions for more than a year.

Given the airborne nature of the coronavirus, the role of HVACR systems in minimizing transmission and improving air quality was emphasized by health organizations. This, coupled with other factors such as an increase in home construction projects, resulted in many HVACR companies reporting a sales boom in 2020. And there are no signs that the industry will slow any time soon. A recent report estimates the HVACR global market will grow $6.8 billion between now and 2025.

With this continued increase in business, it’s critical that managers properly service their vehicles to ensure that no dead battery, shredded tire, or faulty system has the potential to cause any delays that could impact the company’s ability to conduct business.

How vehicle maintenance has evolved

With the evolution of technology, the intervals in which vehicles need to be serviced are greater and the maintenance required is less than in years past. Managers should still monitor core parts such as belts and hoses, brakes, tires, batteries, and wiper blades to keep their employees safe while on the road, especially in hot climates like the south and southwest.

While some companies do this in-house, for businesses located in warm regions, fleet managers should consider having the vehicle inspected by a professional technician to ensure its safety and longevity through the duration of peak season.

Despite the convenience they offer, experts recommend that quick-stop maintenance shops should be excluded from this inspection category. While fleet operators use these facilities for an oil change and tire pressure check, they aren’t always able to thoroughly inspect and repair brakes, hoses, belts, cables, and other important components.

It’s important to monitor these parts as a shift in weather can have an impact of varying severity, especially after a particularly cold winter.

A recent report found that there are long-term financial benefits for keeping a car for 200,000 miles — for consumer vehicles, this could add up to $30,000 or more. While the frequency, duration and cargo demand within the HVACR industry are certainly different than driving a personal car, it provides a relative benchmark for what savings could look like when routinely maintaining a fleet of one; imagine multiplying that by five or more, depending on your company’s size and number of vehicles operated.

A vehicle owner’s manual offers specific guidance and suggested maintenance intervals that fleet managers should reference regularly.

But for companies that are busier than ever, owners and managers should also consider implementing a fleet maintenance program. These programs are designed to identify and create efficiencies in administrative processes, so servicing and replacing fleets can remain a top priority.

The importance of cyclicality

A great way to prepare for the peak season is to ensure that your fleet is on a cyclical maintenance schedule, as well as a proper replacement schedule. Cycling vehicles is a cost-effective way to manage repair costs since replacing vehicles using industry standards can help companies avoid major (and costly) repairs like transmission and engine overhauls.

For companies with larger fleets on a cycling schedule, vehicular replacements typically take place in the fall and spring to align with the auto season. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit early last year, no industry was left undisrupted, for better or worse.

For the auto industry, it was the latter: there was high demand and limited supply due to production delays. After a year, the impact of these delays is still being felt across retail and commercial auto dealers alike, as supply remains limited and 2021 orders were cut off early. This is now coupled with the latest semiconductor chip shortage, again bringing big-time automakers to a standstill.

So, what does this mean? If business owners and fleet managers haven’t already made plans to get new vehicles in 2021, they’ll likely need to stick with maintaining their current fleet until 2022 models arrive later in the year.

But for companies cycling their vehicles, using a structured, staggered replacement schedule helps. By staggering their approach, fleet managers can replace vehicles on a rolling basis, softening the financial impact on a company’s budget and bottom line.

A good fleet management partner can help in planning a proper replacement cycle to keep both vehicle acquisition and maintenance costs at a minimum.

They can also be a helpful intermediary. As the impact from the global supply chain shortage continues to play out with no concrete end to the ripple effects in sight, a fleet management partner can be a guiding force through the unforeseen.

What happens if the order gets cancelled? What does it mean if your cancelled order is no longer a carryover product? What if the model you’re looking for is no longer available? What are the cost differentials? How will vehicular changes impact upfitting?

These questions are now an integral part of how fleet managers are thinking about and managing the replacement cycle while the supply chain remains fluid.

As your company vehicles hit the roads this peak season, be confident that they will get the job done, safely and effectively, by following these maintenance best practices.

 

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