Follow key service intervals, investigate and correct minor problems before they become major headaches
By Brenda Silva
In the daily management of construction equipment and job site priorities, busy installing contractors risk having preventative maintenance of vehicles and equipment fall by the wayside. To reduce those risks, contractors are encouraged to establish a preventative maintenance program and educate staff on how to follow it. When maintenance becomes everyone’s responsibility, there is less chance for routine maintenance to be neglected.
Aside from routine oil changes and tire checks, several additional maintenance tasks should be at the top of every to-do list. This includes many items that have the potential to decrease productivity and increase costs, ultimately affecting much more than just your vehicle fleet.
Well-maintained vehicles and equipment will help your machines last longer, provide more reliable service, and pay you back when it’s time to sell. And more importantly, properly functioning equipment will protect your crew, according to Leighann Follis, marketing specialist at Geneva Equipment of LaSalle, Illinois.
“Vehicles in good operating condition also reduce the likelihood of operator injuries due to faulty equipment,” she says. “On the other hand, poor maintenance results in employee downtime, untimely project completion, lost wages, and increased operating costs.”
According to industry professionals, the following five tips can keep contractors moving in the right direction:
- CREATE AND FOLLOW A PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE PROGRAM
By creating a preventative maintenance program for your support vehicles and having all employees adhere to it, performing maintenance quickly becomes second nature to everyone. Maintenance program templates are available online for contractors to download, copy, or duplicate; however, some contractors prefer to make their own. With a clearly defined and explained program, there’s no reason support vehicles can’t receive the same attention as job-specific heavy machinery. Getting into a new habit can play a crucial role in increasing the life of the vehicles and the project bottom line.
- TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES TO HELP SPOT POTENTIAL PROBLEMS
All employees should be trained to spot the signs of trouble long before they occur and become much more costly to the job duration and profits. Follis points out the importance of a five-point inspection for all support vehicles and equipment.
“Our staff thoroughly examines the interior and exterior of all vehicles and equipment, specifically looking for signs of damage,” Follis says. “This includes checking for any bare wires that may be exposed and that all connectors are intact and not corroded or damaged. We also inspect all brakes, belts, hoses and shifters to ensure they are in good working order. It’s also important to check for any front-end maintenance, transmission flushes and to check all fluid levels.”
Protect electrical wiring from pooled rainwater and melting snow and ice that can end up inside machinery during long periods of field operation. Ongoing exposure can ultimately shorten the life of the equipment.
- PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO FLUID LEVELS
Ensure vehicles and equipment have the proper fluid levels and lubrication to guarantee high performance. While contractors realize fluid levels are vital to machine life, this is a commonly overlooked aspect of regular maintenance. Noticed too late, improper or inadequate fluid levels can lead to faster wear and damage along with a shortened equipment life span. Fluids should be checked and sampled regularly as part of a scheduled preventative maintenance program — adjusted whenever necessary and documented — for optimal operation.
- FOLLOW FACTORY-RECOMMENDED MAINTENANCE SCHEDULING
Follis urges contractors to pay close attention to maintenance scheduling and says, “It is always advisable to follow all manufacturer recommendations because they are put in place by those who know the vehicle and/or equipment best.” It’s a good idea to place stickers on equipment that need maintenance at certain intervals as a constant reminder to schedule service. In addition, contractors should keep original owner’s manuals for equipment as a reference of service-related conditions that can void a warranty.
- KEEP DETAILED RECORDS FROM THE TIME OF PURCHASE
Keeping detailed service records cannot be stressed enough. These records serve as the vehicle or equipment’s personal history after purchase and provide new employees or second owners with important information about what is due for service at any given time. Good record keeping can add value at resale and is key to maintaining and extending the life of your vehicles and equipment.