iStock_80149971_MEDIUMSome of us grew up hearing that saying from a major oil filter company, “Pay me now or pay me later,” and we also might remember the old adage, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Fleet vehicles of today are designed and manufactured significantly better than vehicles produced just 10 years ago. It is true they may require less frequent maintenance due to items such as synthetic lubricants.

Unfortunately, this frequently gets interpreted by today’s fleet driver to mean no service is required. Preventative maintenance and general auto repair requirements are becoming more blended with a belief that the vehicle gets maintenance when it needs repairs, not before. This belief may be due to the lack of experienced in-house or maintenance vendor personnel who are responsible for reviewing, negotiating and authorizing these maintenance and repair invoices.

Conscientious efforts such as regular oil and filter changes along with an occasional transmission service (not a hot flush — know the difference?) will save a company thousands of dollars when compared to replacing an engine or transmission. Belts and hoses are subject to drying out, therefore checking and replacing the belts and hoses as necessary can prevent a potential larger problem as well.

A well-maintained vehicle may only need to go to a shop three or four times a year for a check-up and oil change, perhaps taking up four to six hours of a driver’s time over the year and costing the company only $40 to $75 per visit. A breakdown can easily consume two to three hours of a driver’s time per visit plus the cost of the corrective repairs, which adds up to much, much more.

A good maintenance management program leads to less “pay me later” general repairs and/or breakdowns. However, “rubber-stamping” every suggested maintenance service does not equate to “maintenance management.” That is just bill paying. The most important financial piece of any vehicle maintenance management program — whether done in-house or through a contracted vendor — is the knowledge of the personnel reviewing and authorizing the repairs.

If you are using a vendor whose call center personnel do not know the service requirements and maintenance components of that particular vehicle, I guarantee you are going to pay for unneeded repairs. In addition, if you are using a national vendor network understand that the shop’s objectives may very well be different from the best interests of your company.

I will share a personal story with you: A few years ago, I was early for an appointment with a national oil change vendor. Their staff was in a training meeting with a number of new franchise owners. I was invited to join the meeting as an observer. In that meeting, the training was focused on “upselling” each customer by offering and suggesting additional services to increase the ticket price of that service.

In the retail environment, that makes sense. Most retail buyers will benefit from some expert advice on vehicle maintenance. But it is also a training method to increase the revenue at the shop level. In the fleet world if you are working with a knowledgeable vendor with a knowledgeable staff of service advisors who control the upcharge environment, you will not endure an increase in your maintenance budget beyond what your vehicles really require to maintain your vehicles in a safe and functional capacity.

A good corporate maintenance policy includes good quality care and an experienced, knowledgeable individual monitoring and authorizing the necessary repairs. So find the right people to control and manage your company vehicle maintenance program. “Pay them now” and you and your vehicles will sleep well at night.