How Is Pandemic Idling Complicating Truck Maintenance?

How Is Pandemic Idling Complicating Truck Maintenance?

Many trucking companies saw a dramatic downswing in maintenance costs for CY-2020 compared to the previous year. Stay-at-home orders halted all non-essential drivers, which left many commercial vehicles sitting unused for long stretches of time. However, underutilized vehicles are creating new maintenance headaches for fleets.

New Problems for Idle Trucks

The most common issues for underutilized trucks include dead batteries and flat tires. Parts on the vehicle may rust as well, and drivers will be less likely to notice. Getting the vehicle back into serviceable condition takes time and ultimately drives up maintenance costs as the economy recovers and trucking companies get their drivers back on the road.

Finding available technicians for maintenance has been an ongoing challenge for many motor carriers, as most repair facilities have reduced hours of operation during the pandemic.

How to Avoid Underutilization Hassles

With variants of COVID-19 preceding cold and flu season, the trucking industry needs to prepare for continued pandemic-related issues. The following steps can help fleets protect the health of their vehicles if they must sit unused for weeks at a time:

  • Clean the vehicle, inside and out. Bird droppings, salt or dirt buildup, and water stains can eat away at a truck’s paint over time. Leaving food wrappers in the cab also invites rodents and pests.
  • Minimize rust buildup. Rust can build on brake rotors within days of disuse, particularly for trucks left on outside lots. Driving the vehicle at least once per week can curtail rust and keep the battery from dying as well.
  • Check the tires. Tires lose air at a steady rate, and stationary vehicles can develop flattened areas on their tires. Uneven wear affects the truck’s fuel efficiency and increases the likelihood of a blowout. Driving the truck weekly can reduce this problem, but fleets should monitor tire pressure and inflate their trucks’ tires when needed.
  • Check the oil. How often a truck needs new oil is usually a mileage-based calculation, but oil doesn’t retain its efficacy forever. The oil in unused trucks degrades over time, which limits its ability to protect the moving pieces of the truck. Time also reduces how effective the oil is at preventing corrosion. Replace the oil as often as recommended in the driver’s manual, even if the truck hasn’t reached the typical mileage.

Preventative maintenance is critical to keeping fleet vehicles in tip-top shape, but it’s easy to overlook when trucks aren’t in use. To learn more about protecting your fleet from costly repairs and other risks, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.