How to Implement a Fleet Preventive Maintenance Program

September 2006, Government Fleet - Feature

by Patrick Bartole, CAFM

File photo of a fleet maintenance shop
File photo of a fleet maintenance shop

Preventive maintenance (PM) consists of scheduled servicing, inspections, and vehicle repairs to prevent potential problems and maximize vehicle availability. It is used in fleet management to proactively avoid or reduce vehicle breakdowns and is based on time, mileage, engine hours, or gallons of fuel used. Preventive maintenance actions include vehicle inspection, lubrication, adjustment, cleaning, testing, repair, and/or worn parts replacement.

Why Should Fleet Managers be Concerned with Preventive Maintenance?

To maximize the availability of vehicles, PM services must be performed on a scheduled basis. If preventive maintenance is not performed regularly, vehicle life span will be greatly reduced.

Some vehicles may be prone to excessive breakdowns requiring expensive repairs, causing a vehicle to be out of service when least expected and possibly when needed most. Vehicles may become unsafe due to lack of PM. Proper maintenance will also help prevent litigation from negligence.

Preventive maintenance is as important as driver safety programs. If a vehicle becomes unsafe due to lack of maintenance or repair, the fleet manager can be held liable for negligent entrustment. As defined, liability is premised upon providing an employee with a dangerous tool or instrument, such as a vehicle, while knowing, or having reason to know, that use of the vehicle creates unreasonable risk or harm to others. Simply stated, the vehicle must be safe to operate. Should the brakes fail causing a serious crash or fatality, the vehicle is impounded by authorities for investigation.

Should the investigation determine that bad brakes or other vehicle malfunctions contributed to the accident, the authorities can seek a court order to obtain vehicle maintenance records. If your operation fails to practice preventive maintenance under these circumstances, you could be prosecuted for a negligent act, which you failed to prevent.

Fleet Maintenance Methods

Vehicle maintenance and repairs can be performed in one of two methods:

Proactive: scheduled preventive maintenance.
Reactive: unscheduled breakdown maintenance.

A scheduled vehicle service consists of preventive maintenance, scheduled component repairs, and driver inspection. Unscheduled breakdown maintenance is most often due to lack of preventive maintenance. Reactive maintenance can be costly and should be minimized by a proactive preventive maintenance program. The object is to have the majority of vehicle maintenance and repairs scheduled rather than unscheduled.

Developing an Effective Preventive Maintenance Program

An effective PM program should consist of the following:

    • Checklist of PM service tasks performed.
    • PM service interval or frequency to perform tasks.
    • Driver written-up inspections and/or complaints.
    • An automotive facility with trained professional automotive technicians — either in-house or outsourced.
    • Scheduling and recordkeeping, either manual or electronic.

Developing a Preventive Maintenance Service Checklist

An effective PM program should include a task list of both preventive maintenance and safety items.

The following should be addressed during a routine preventive maintenance service: engine oil and filter changes; transmission fluid; fuel system; cooling system; engine and transmission mounts; drive shafts or CV joints; belts and hoses; tune-ups; electrical system components; braking system; steering and suspension system; tires, wheels, and rims; exhaust system; undercarriage and frame; exterior and interior lights; body, glass, and mirrors; windshield wiper system; horn; seatbelts and seat structures; fluid leaks; and auxiliary systems.

The Driver is the First Line of Defense

The vehicle operator is the first line of defense against unexpected breakdowns and repairs. It is important that the driver communicate vehicle problems immediately to fleet management. This allows the vehicle operator to participate in the PM program, proactively reducing breakdowns. The following vehicle systems should be monitored by the driver:

    • Vehicle safety items (e.g., tires, wipers, horn, brakes, steering, etc.).
    • Vehicle drivability items (e.g., misfire, rough idle, etc.).
    • Vehicle body (e.g., glass, body damage, cleanliness, etc.).
    • Vehicle miscellaneous repair items (heater, radio, etc.).

The vehicle operator must be held accountable for inspecting these items. The PM program depends on the driver for continued success. Should the vehicle operator fail to inspect the vehicle prior to, during, and after a trip, a potential problem may go unnoticed causing a breakdown or unsafe condition.

Training and accountability are important. The vehicle operator must be trained on proper inspection procedures and be held responsible for failure to inspect and report vehicle problems. This requires the support of each department and senior management. As a team effort, the PM program can be a great success.

Determine Preventive Maintenance Intervals

Check the vehicle owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended PM intervals. However, note that PM service intervals depend upon vehicle operating conditions during either “normal” or “severe” duty. Most fleets operate under what is considered severe duty, including:

    • Towing a trailer or using a camper or car-top carrier.
    • Extensive idling and/or low-speed driving (such as inner-city driving or stop-and-go traffic).
    • Vehicles used for commercial applications such as deliveries, taxi, livery, or patrol car.
    • Vehicles used by multiple drivers such as fleet or motor pool operations.
    • Vehicles operated in off-road or dusty conditions.

Technology Eases Scheduling

Preventive maintenance can be scheduled manually or by using a fleet management software (automated computer system).

Manual systems can be tedious and time-consuming to manage, especially for larger fleets. These days, technology is affordable even for the smallest fleet. Computerized systems are a more efficient method for gathering timely reports on all aspects of fleet management. Reports can be generated faster and more accurately, allowing the fleet manager to make timely proactive decisions.

Affordable software systems can be purchased from reputable companies specializing in fleet management software. When it comes to hardware, most companies have an information technology department that can supply fleet management with the appropriate computers or an IT expert can be hired.

Regardless of which scheduling method chosen, it is important to purchase a system that can be customized to your specific application requirements. Depending on those fleet operating requirements, the system should enable you to create customized preventive maintenance schedules, create and track work orders, track fuel usage, record detailed maintenance histories and tire logs, track accident and claims, manage inventory, and monitor labor, invoicing, and stock reports.

Who Performs a Preventive Maintenance Service?

Preventive maintenance can be performed by either an in-house certified automotive technician or outsourced to a local automotive service center specializing in fleet preventive maintenance with certified technicians using state-of-the-art equipment.

Teach in-house technicians the importance of performing thorough preventive maintenance service. The PM service is only as good as the person performing it; shortcuts must never be taken. The technician must proactively service each vehicle to reduce breakdowns and repairs.

If your fleet operation outsources preventive maintenance, use a local vendor specializing in maintaining fleet vehicles. It is a good idea to meet with the service manager to discuss the following PM service issues:

  • Expectations.
  • Requirements.
  • Scheduled intervals.

Supply the vendor with your PM checklist. Most shops focus on breakdown maintenance, not preventive maintenance. Communicate your exact expectations to the maintenance facility using your own PM program. Request the fleet discount on both parts and for unscheduled maintenance, track the number of repairs, breakdowns, jumpstarts, tows, emergency repairs, and collision repairs.

The majority of maintenance jobs should be scheduled PM. Tracking and comparing scheduled and unscheduled maintenance provides a detailed report on the success of a preventive maintenance program.

Not all unscheduled maintenance can be avoided; for example, drivers may accidentally leave on the interior lights, causing a dead battery. Nevertheless, by analyzing breakdown maintenance, PM frequency can be adjusted and the PM task list can be modified to best suit a fleet’s requirements.

Monitor the Cost of Preventive Maintenance

Since maintenance and repair cost are considered a variable operating expense, fleet mangers should track parts, labor, vendor, fuel, and collisions. These costs should be monitored and analyzed routinely to determine which vehicles cost the most. This enables proactive decisions regarding vehicle efficiency and replacement. A properly maintained vehicle provides the lowest operating cost. If the vehicle is running poorly, it is prone to costly breakdowns, higher fuel cost, and driver write-ups.

Assemble a Detailed Report

Using data collected from tracking preventive maintenance activity and cost, assemble a detailed report using an Excel spreadsheet. The report should be generated on a monthly basis and submitted to senior management for review. Outline the total number of completed vehicle jobs, both scheduled and unscheduled. Provide detailed information on the type of scheduled and unscheduled work performed. Also include fleet variable operating cost items.


  1. 1. Colleen Morton [ August 26, 2013 @ 06:48AM ]

    Our Fleet Mentor software helps organizations manage their vehicle and driver records for safety compliance, vehicle inspections and maintenance scheduling. Check it out at:

  2. 2. Clifford Nwahiri [ April 27, 2014 @ 08:14AM ]

    Hi I want your assistance on plan preventive maintenance for a typical industrial truck

  3. 3. Clifford Nwahiri [ April 27, 2014 @ 08:26AM ]

    I am writing a project concerning preventive maintenance program in my school. Please help me. Thanks

  4. 4. Clifford Nwahiri [ May 16, 2014 @ 09:47AM ]

    I am a student writing a project on preventive maintenance of a typical industrial truck. Please i need a guide.

  5. 5. Jay Canete [ June 20, 2014 @ 01:19AM ]

    Hi! I am very glad to know so many things on PM service programs as well as the objectives of this. Thank you very much for this very interesting and knowledgeable informations.

    But, please give me an advice on how to determine expected troubles, causes of troubles and how to minimize or to prevent without revising the methods or the s.o.p from other sections.

    FYI: We are operating a business where we transport cargo with an average capacity of 37 metric tons including the trailer which the prime mover towed every trip going to plant with the distance of 240 km away.
    During loading the cargo, we need to shake the unit to levelize the thing by running quickly and suddenly stop (about 10 meters run only).

    Please give me advice. Thank you so much and More Power to you

    Jay Canete
    Repairs & Maint. Executive
    Logistik - Bintulu, Malaysia

  6. 6. prashant surve [ April 01, 2015 @ 04:47AM ]

    i required a preventive maintenance sheet for monthly basis in excel
    pls. help me in this

  7. 7. SHAUN [ April 04, 2015 @ 09:40PM ]

    I am group logistics manager. I manage a fleet of 1000 vehicles. Thanks for your. PM guides. I surely will implemrnt these measures . Once again Thank You

  8. 8. satnam singh [ April 15, 2015 @ 04:55AM ]

    i required a preventive maintenance of electrical sheet for monthly basis in excel
    pls. help me in this

  9. 9. Bea [ July 13, 2015 @ 06:09AM ]

    This is just a helpful article.

    Thank you, thank you.

  10. 10. novamed88 [ July 26, 2015 @ 03:18AM ]

    I am writing a project concerning preventive maintenance program in my Pharmaceuticals compny. Please help me. Thanks

  11. 11. novamed88 [ July 26, 2015 @ 03:22AM ]

    send me a soft copy preventive maintenance Schedule in pharmaceuticals
    Novamed Pharmaceuticals in Pakistan
    [email protected]

  12. 12. Andekuba [ August 12, 2015 @ 06:22AM ]

    Send me a soft copy of PM schedule for a heavy duty trucks.

  13. 13. thabo [ August 30, 2015 @ 10:36AM ]

    please send me a soft copy of PM for tractors

  14. 14. m parent [ September 02, 2015 @ 01:27PM ]

    Hi, we are using eMaint for keeping track of our fleet. Very helpful!

  15. 15. D tech [ October 24, 2015 @ 05:48PM ]

    Send me a soft copy of PM schedule for a heavy duty truck

  16. 16. venkata krishna [ November 26, 2015 @ 02:18AM ]

    Hi! I am very glad to know so many things on PM service programs as well as the objectives of this. Thank you very much for this very interesting and knowledgeable informations.

    But, please give me an advice on how to determine expected troubles, causes of troubles and how to minimize or to prevent without revising the methods or the s.o.p from other sections.

    thanking you

    Venkata krishna

  17. 17. Suresh [ December 09, 2015 @ 09:50AM ]

    Send me a soft copy of PM schedule for truck and trailer with a carrying capacity of 40 MT

  18. 18. Chris brady [ January 14, 2016 @ 02:27PM ]

    hi just took over a church fleet new at this could use any information you can send me thank you

  19. 19. Ogunjobi Taofiq [ October 12, 2016 @ 06:34AM ]

    I work with DRUGFIELD PHARMA as a Transport Officer. Thanks for this helpful info. I used the info to organise a trainee for staff under me. Please could you assist with a soft copy of PM schedule for trucks and a format of tire log

  20. 20. Georgia B [ October 25, 2016 @ 11:41AM ]

    I love your distinction between proactive and reactive maintenance. Although many people overlook it, it is much more efficient to do preventive maintenance on vehicles. It prevents expensive repairs and keeps you from having to go without the vehicle unexpectedly while repairs are done.

  21. 21. tan choon hock [ January 10, 2017 @ 07:28AM ]

    pls send me a pm program for 10 ton truck

  22. 22. Ericson Canas [ March 03, 2017 @ 04:52AM ]

    I work as Fleet Maintenance Officer in a batching plant industry. Please could you assist with a soft copy of PM for Concrete truck Mixers..
    Thank You

  23. 23. COLLINS WERE [ April 30, 2017 @ 08:52AM ]

    Am a head of transport department and would lie your assistance on PM schedules and procedure if any .Online tutorials if any

  24. 24. Thimmareddy [ May 14, 2017 @ 07:48AM ]

    how to implementation maintenance

  25. 25. Isaac Zakaria [ May 27, 2017 @ 04:47AM ]

    I am a fleet workshop manager. Any online tutorials me?

  26. 26. Aatif Iqbal [ July 22, 2017 @ 11:35PM ]

    I am working on PMS for our transport company. Please Send me a soft copy of PM schedule for a heavy duty trucks.

    Best Regards,

  27. 27. Lloyd Burgess [ August 24, 2017 @ 09:00PM ]

    Hi There
    I am trying to implement a PM program for the batching plant industry in Cambodia currently there is very little maintenance conducted on a trucks,pump trucks front end loaders etc etc.
    I would like some advice please.
    Thank you


  28. 28. Rakesh [ September 11, 2017 @ 08:24PM ]

    Im also having same problem as Lioyd Burgess.. Please help us.

  29. 29. Zakeer hakimally [ September 21, 2017 @ 05:04AM ]

    i am a junior fleet co-ordinator for Parmalat. i manage a fleet of 90 truck. please assist me with a spreadsheet & guidline of how to implement a PM for my fleet

  30. 30. leanda venter [ September 21, 2017 @ 07:19PM ]

    Hi .can I please have a copy of the spreadsheet and guideline of how to implement a Pm for my fleet thank you

  31. 31. Callum Palmer [ October 26, 2017 @ 03:31PM ]

    There really are a lot of questions that you need to answer before you can set up a preventative maintenance program for your truck fleet. The article raises a particularly good question about who you will get to perform the maintenance. After all, some companies may prefer an in-house group of mechanics while some may be comfortable with outsourcing the repairs.

  32. 32. Dennis morang [ November 30, 2017 @ 04:31PM ]

    We have a fleet of 50 trucks & 30 intermodal chassis
    25 of the trucks are 2016-17 mack Pinnacle & 25 2011 freightliner cascadias . Our chassis our 20' tri axles, 40'spread axles, 12 pin spread axles
    Please send met any info that you would think could help me with a good pm software . I also would like to know if you can recommend a shop book that shows repair hours .
    Example : how long should a compressor replacement take on our truck

  33. 33. Calvin itungi [ December 13, 2017 @ 02:09AM ]


    Your ideas are really helpful and I will use some of them in the motor pool maintenance plan which I'm required to draft as a motor pool supervisor.

  34. 34. JOHN MWANIKI [ January 03, 2018 @ 02:57AM ]

    i required a preventive maintenance sheet in excel
    pls. help me in this

    Kind Regards,

  35. 35. mesfin zewdu [ January 29, 2018 @ 06:18AM ]

    hey.i want information about preventive maintenance of heavy duty vehicle.plc help me.

  36. 36. Mary-Anne [ February 07, 2018 @ 07:30PM ]

    Looking for a PM template to implement for a small landscape company. Pick up trucks, tractors, lawn equipment etc. Anything you have would be most helpful. Thanks

  37. 37. mclhit [ April 13, 2018 @ 07:05AM ]


    I'm developing a Motor Pool Preventive Maintenance Plan / Program can you assist me please to make it happen. Hoping you can share Program templates and checklist very much appreciated if you could help me with this.

  38. 38. Alecia [ April 24, 2018 @ 10:54PM ]

    Im assisting my fleet manager with developing a maintenance plan for our fleet. Open to any info shared. Thanks.


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