Age, Mileage Factor into Utility Vehicle's Condition
One of the first factors to note when determining a utility vehicle's condition is its age and mileage. Each vehicle has an industry-accepted life expectancy that managers can use to estimate its remaining performance life. For example, managers can determine the life expectancy of a mower by multiplying its horsepower by 100. The product is the number of operating hours managers can expect the vehicle to last. Additional factors, such as infrequent maintenance and excessive wear and tear, can shorten its performance life.
Life expectancy is a good place to start, but it also is essential that managers have mechanics inspect and rate each component separately. Inspect the vehicle chassis for rust and corrosion, examine the frame and axles for damage, and note any leaks, noises or vibration coming from the engine or drivetrain. They also need to document loose play in the steering and suspension, as well as the condition of the tires and wheels.
If the vehicle is equipped with a blade, inspect it for dents and other damage and note excess wear, which provides a basis for calculating future expenditures. Assigning a ranking — excellent, good, average or poor — to each major system component can help prioritize repairs.
Finally, ensuring safety is a critical part of the utility vehicle inspection. Inspectors must ensure all original guards, flaps and deflectors are present and inspected for damage. Also, examine glass windshields for cracks and chips, note any missing nuts, bolts and screws, and examine the brake system for wear and fluid leaks. Utility vehicles designed for use on rough terrain might have rollover-protection systems and passenger restraints, while others might include reverse warning indicators. Inspecting these devices can confirm they operate effectively.
Reviewing the maintenance history of a utility vehicle can provide important information about maintenance costs, reliability and life expectancy, all of which are important in making the repair-replace decision. Among the key considerations:
Reasons for repairs. As vehicles age, they require scheduled maintenance and repair, including more frequent lubrication, oil changes and adjustments. Examining this maintenance history helps managers determine if the vehicle has been out of commission for normal maintenance or if accidents or malfunctions might have created excessive damage. Accidents can create ongoing problems and lead to unlimited maintenance.
Quality of service. Managers can use the maintenance history and the details of each repair to measure the quality of those repairs and rate the way they might have impacted the vehicle's performance life. The maintenance history also might include a record of the technician responsible for scheduled maintenance and repairs. The skill level and experience of the technician performing the work might contribute to its effectiveness.
Trends. Because the maintenance history tracks frequency of repairs, managers can analyze data to spot trends. Are repairs more frequent over time? Are there ongoing issues, or do they seem random? The history also should include information on the downtime required for each repair, which can help managers determine the impact of costly new repairs on productivity.
Managers can use data obtained from analyzing the utility vehicle's maintenance history to compare the cost of maintenance and repairs with replacement costs. Calculating the cost of repairing the vehicle should include all parts and labor, as well as the financial implications of disrupted workflow.
Once managers have reviewed the data and assessed the condition of the vehicle, they can determine the most viable option. If the data provides evidence that retaining and repairing the vehicle is the most cost-effective solution, managers can use information provided during the evaluation to proactively mitigate unscheduled repairs and further reduce costs. Alternatively, they can use it as a guide for selecting a replacement vehicle.