Fall is the perfect time to start reviewing your fleet needs and evaluating the condition of current equipment and vehicles. You want to be ready to go when operations crank up again next spring.

Most of you know that when you over-extend the useful life of equipment and vehicles, repair expenses add up fast. Repair expense is a profit killer; it reduces profitability and never increases productivity. New equipment and vehicles and reliable, well-maintained older equipment and vehicles allow crews to improve performance and productivity while reducing revenue-killing idle time.

Equipment vs. labor burden

New equipment and vehicles allow you to increase revenue without adding to your labor burden. The drive systems on new equipment and vehicles allow employees to provide faster and safer service. And, since they are covered under warranty, that eliminates repair expenses for a while.

Also, alternate power sources give you more choices than many of us imagined as few as 10 years ago. You now have the choice of gasoline, diesel, propane and electric-powered equipment when it comes to selecting mowers and hand-held equipment. One manufacturer of battery-powered mowers claims it has a commercial unit that can run an entire day on a single charge, something that a few years ago was not possible. Several major industry suppliers offer commercial-grade, battery-powered, hand-held equipment. With hybrid and electric-powered cars entering the market, expect more options for your vehicle fleets soon.

An important factor in getting the most from our equipment and vehicle fleet is limiting the brands and models. A fleet with several brands is a fleet with maintenance and repair challenges. Follow the example of other successful contractors who partner with their suppliers and benefit from fleet or reduced pricing. Vehicle manufacturers usually offer fleet programs or rebates that reduce acquisition costs.

Involve your team

Fall is the perfect time to examine rolling assets. Involve your top operations person, fleet manager and shop foreman, as each of these employees is responsible for creating revenue and ensuring the company gets jobs done efficiently.

Your operations manager should prepare a schedule for retiring and replacing equipment or vehicles so repair costs don’t eat into profits. Your fleet manager, working closely with the operations manager, should be aware of new options and models that can reduce job times and operating costs.

And, don’t forget the shop foreman, who is in the best position to know the condition of the vehicles and production equipment. The shop foremen should have a computerized maintenance-tracking program that records the condition and repair history of each piece of equipment and vehicle. He should also be responsible for a service parts inventory to keep everything running at peak performance.

One pitfall I see is contractors ordering the same service parts, like blades or filters, many times throughout the year. The best way to reduce the cost of regularly used parts is to batch orders with suppliers. Most suppliers offer discounts and terms for pre-season service parts orders. This assures the inventory is in stock when needed and at a lower cost.

Fall is the best time to set up your fleets for efficient operations and have everything ready to perform when the season begins. It’s simply smart business.