Continued supply chain disruptions, scarce capacity, surging customer demand and the continued growth of e-commerce has driven freight rates higher, but also has pushed shippers to depend more on third-party logistics companies and develop private or dedicated fleets.
The average fleet participating in the ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council and FleetNet America Vertical Benchmarking Program operated 42,459 miles between unscheduled repairs in the fourth quarter of 2021, which is highest it has been in the past two years. The increase in miles signifies fleets are paying more attention to preventive maintenance, according to the report.
This could spell good news for fleets, because while average repair and maintenance costs declined in 2020 to the lowest level since 2013, maintenance costs will likely continue to rise as more traffic returns to the road.
The average age of trucks on the road has continued to rise as demand for new equipment outpaces supply. As carriers struggle to manage these aging fleets and a shortage of technicians, costs will likely increase as fleet managers pay more in maintenance and repairs because they either cannot or choose not to purchase new trucks.
Even those who do get newer trucks in 2022 or 2023 won’t be immune to rising costs.
While it may seem as though newer trucks would decrease maintenance costs by lowering maintenance frequency and parts costs, historical data by the American Transportation Research Institute shows that newer trucks are still expensive to maintain and repair as costs increase for diagnostics, parts and diesel technician labor costs.
“Some experts believe that the diesel technician shortage may ultimately surpass the truck driver shortage over time — particularly when autonomous and advance safety technologies become pervasive,” ATRI officials wrote in its 2021 Operational Cost of Trucking report.
This data and analysis first appeared in the August 2022 special Fact Book issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.