Maintenance and repair contracts have become increasingly popular in the commercial vehicle sector as businesses seek to streamline their operations and ensure the smooth functioning of their vehicle fleets. These contracts offer several advantages, such as reduced downtime and predictable maintenance costs. However, they also come with certain disadvantages that businesses need to consider before entering into such agreements.
With recent changes to the Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness and updates to the DVSA guidance on the categorisation of defects our Managing Director Andy Miles discusses the types of continued problems that A S Miles Consulting staff are finding when visiting clients, whether they are being proactive or reactive, around their maintenance providers, and asks.
‘Is your R & M Contract still right for you or is it putting your Operator Licence at risk?’
The vehicle industry is keen to sell an operator the Advantages of an R & M contract, the typical selling points are:
- Cost Predictability: One of the key benefits of maintenance and repair contracts is the ability to accurately forecast and budget for vehicle maintenance costs. This predictability helps in improving financial stability and managing cash flow efficiently.
- Reduced Downtime: Maintenance and repair contracts often include scheduled maintenance services, which can help prevent breakdowns and costly repairs. Regular inspections and preventive maintenance ensure that vehicles are in optimal condition, reducing the risk of unexpected failures and minimizing vehicle downtime.
- Expertise and Efficiency: Maintenance and repair contracts often involve partnering with experienced service providers who specialize in commercial vehicle maintenance and even a particular brand of vehicles. These providers have extensive knowledge and expertise in the field, ensuring that vehicles receive professional care and attention.
- Improved Fleet Management: Maintenance and repair contracts can offer businesses valuable insights into their fleet's health and performance. Service providers often provide detailed reports and analysis on vehicle maintenance and repair history, identifying patterns and trends.
Disadvantages of the R & M contract can be:
- Cost Considerations: While maintenance and repair contracts provide cost predictability, businesses need to carefully evaluate the terms and conditions to ensure they are receiving fair pricing. Some contracts may include hidden costs or restrictions that can significantly impact the overall value. It is crucial to thoroughly review the contract and negotiate favourable terms to avoid potential financial pitfalls.
- Reliance on Service Providers: Businesses entering into maintenance and repair contracts must rely on the service provider's performance and availability. If the service provider fails to meet expectations, it can lead to delays in repairs, increased downtime, and potential disruptions to operations. Selecting a reputable and reliable service provider is essential to mitigate these risks.
- Limited Flexibility: Maintenance and repair contracts often have fixed terms and conditions, which can limit a business's flexibility. If the business experiences changes in its operations or fleet size, it may face challenges in adjusting the contract to accommodate those changes.
- Potential Over-Reliance: By outsourcing maintenance and repairs, businesses may become overly dependent on the service provider.
But it goes much further than this and should go right back to the beginning of the process.
- Did you tell the R & M provider everything? - in detail about the operation you are running and your expectation from the R & M contract? In our experience most operators, even some very large one fail to do this. They simply buy an off the shelf product.
- Did you read the agreement thoroughly and make sure the agreement covered everything about your vehicles, the use it is to be put to and the equipment on it? Often, we see operators where the Hiab or Tail lift LOLER testing is missed off the R & M, or that suddenly becomes a ‘chargeable extra’. Even a refusal to carry out laden brake testing stating, ‘it’s not a legal requirement’.
- Paperwork: Is it to the most recent standards of the Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness? Please do not assume that it will be, we regularly find paperwork being used that is anything between 5 and 17 years out of date, some not even dated.
Also is the paperwork completed correctly to show your vehicle has been fully inspected, after all this is a safety inspection. Do you want it safe and ready to use or just ‘it seems OK?’
- Updates and review: In our experience very few operations are exactly the same from the time they take on a vehicle to the time they hand it back. The workload can change and the type of work can change. So, are there opportunities to review the R & M contract and make changes to reflect the use and the operation now and in the future?
- Legal and Regulatory changes: Do either you - the operator - or the provider review your R & M contract when there are changes to the law and regulations that are put on the operator?
With recent changes to the Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness, we have seen no evidence of any of the R & M providers contacting clients to discuss the changes and how they will make changes to support legal compliance If the regulations change and you do not respond then you are none compliant, after all it is your licence not the R & M providers.
Maintenance and repair contracts offer numerous advantages in the commercial vehicle sector, including cost predictability, reduced downtime, expertise, and improved fleet management.
However, businesses must also consider the potential disadvantages, such as cost considerations, limited flexibility, and the risk of over-reliance. At the end of the day, if things go wrong and your vehicle is found to be non-compliant or in a dangerous condition it will not be the R & M provider who is facing a DVSA investigation, the Courts and the Traffic Commissioner, it will be the Operator.
Make sure that there are opportunities during the life of the R & M contract to review it and make sure that the contract provides you with a service that ensure a Safe vehicle that complies with changes in legislation.
Check list points to consider.
Start right: Careful evaluation and negotiation are crucial to ensure that the contract aligns with the business's specific needs and goals.
Have an enquiring mind. Take time to plan into your operation regular reviews of all aspects of the business, including the R & M and other maintenance providers. Have things changed in your operation? What was great 12 months ago may not be sufficient now, and if it isn’t, then change it. You can, it is your business.
Hold your supply chain to account. Just like your clients will do to you.
If a maintenance provider is not delivering, challenge the R & M contract supplier about why their supplier is not delivering what was agreed and required.
Documentation beats conversation: an old saying but in the area of compliance so true, document the conversations, even an email to say ‘To confirm our discussion today ………...’ If they disagree with you, they will respond quick enough.
If you cannot get the service that you require, have asked for and are paying for then there is only one choice, MOVE supplier. It can be difficult to do but failure to do so will likely to been seen as a weakness by the Traffic Commissioners, doing nothing really means you cannot be bothered or are happy with your lot.
So, challenge those who supply your safety critical maintenance support to deliver what they promised, when regulations change make sure you respond, and your supply chain responds too.
If you fail to take positive action and accept non-compliant poor-quality service from your R & M contact and their maintenance supplier you are putting your Operators licence and your own repute at risk, which will ultimately affect your business.
For any advice and support on any of the issues brought up in this article please feel free to contact A S Miles Consulting on 01455 389053 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org