How to Transition from Reactive to Predictive Fleet Maintenance

You know the old saying — “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” But in the world of fleet maintenance, an ounce of prevention is worth 100 pounds of cure.

Regular maintenance is a start, but it’s not enough. Because when you’re managing a fleet at scale, you know that key factors like driver uptime, asset utilization, and the total cost of ownership, not to mention unplanned (scheduled maintenance routine) SMR costs, can quickly erode your ROI if you’re not carefully maintaining your fleet.

The Hamster Wheel: Reactive Fleet Maintenance

Reactive maintenance is the least effective way to maintain a fleet. 

It relies on Murphy’s Law to dictate when and where you make repairs and maintenance to your vehicles. It puts your team in a state of near-constant reactivity. And these problems? They’re all preventable constraints.

You’ve become a victim to rising costs from all angles: drivers experiencing downtime, rising vehicle repair costs, and even problematic red flags like vehicle safety issues (read: significant liability problems ahead).

And if you’re managing all of your fleet maintenance on a whiteboard, you can see how keeping up with all the details for every vehicle can become a headache — really quickly.

If you’re finding yourself up against a steady stream of breakdowns and headaches, there is a better way to operate.

Preventative Maintenance: A Better Version of Standard Operating Procedure for Fleet Management

Managing your fleet based on a schedule of preventative maintenance is clearly lightyears ahead of any sort of reactive maintenance model.

If you’re looking for some basic ideas on how to get started, the first step is to go from a whiteboard to a spreadsheet or a project management tool that will allow you to keep all your information in one place and also share it to your team, no matter where they are on the map.

When it comes to preventative maintenance, consider these key areas when you’re streamlining your approach:

Driver-Centered Vehicle Monitoring

In between scheduled maintenance milestones for your fleet, you should also implement a system for your drivers to monitor and report any existing or potential vehicle issues to build a strong culture of proactivity.

Some example bullet points for drivers to track should include:

  • Telltale signs of engine & transmission malfunction
    • Rough idle
    • Jumps or skips
    • Difficulty shifting
    • Stalls
  • Regular check of all engine fluids
  • Tire tread
  • Brakes not slipping
  • Interior & exterior lights 

Note: this is by no means an exhaustive list — these are just a few of the important factors to monitor when implementing a more sophisticated and value-generating fleet management system.

Centralized Vehicle Health Reporting

In addition to having your drivers report any issues in real-time, you also need to make sure that your system for capturing, aggregating, and channeling this data is one that you can interpret, maintain and act on. Otherwise, you’ve got a recipe for chaos.

Going Beyond Preventative Maintenance: What Is Predictive Maintenance?

If there’s a better way, then there must be a “best way.” Introducing predictive maintenance. 

Telematics is the mechanism that allows you to synchronize and inspect your fleet maintenance schedule by collecting key data from your vehicles. Obviously, a small team can function with a simple system like a whiteboard or a spreadsheet, but this gets a lot more unmanageable when you’re dealing with a fleet of significant scale.

With telematics, you can automate things like calendar notifications for when it’s time to do routine vehicle maintenance and make sure that the right team members get the task sent directly to them. This will not only save you time as a fleet manager, but it will also help your team better coordinate with you and your drivers to make sure everything stays in ship-shape.

If you’re already using telematics to improve your fleet performance, then predictive maintenance is the natural evolution of this method.

So aggregating this data over distance, time and vehicle types creates a robust field of opportunity to leverage data science and AI to make the most of this valuable data.

The real-world application of this kind of thinking?

Consider the hundreds or even thousands of error codes that your fleet of vehicles generates – tracking these in real-time along with a host of other details that enter into your data capturing system. 

This kind of data that, when paired with machine learning, could actually help you spot and prevent specific vehicle malfunctions before they happen. So all of the headaches mentioned above? You can look forward to the world of reactive maintenance going all but extinct

Imagine the implications for improvements in driver uptime, maintenance costs, reduced liability issues and an overall increase in throughput and your ROI.


If you’re still in reactive or preventative mode, there are several steps you can take in the short term to turn things around, get ahead of the curve and preserve your assets to improve driver uptime and overall ROI. Consult with one of our expert Fleet Advisors about how you can save your fleet time and money with telematics-based fleet maintenance management.