Top 10 Maintenance Mistakes

* Making inaccurate specs of vehicle chassis and components. An estimated 60 percent of premature vehicle failures are the result of improper specifications. Work closely with the truck chassis, body and trailer original equipment manufacturers to acquire the right vehicle for the specific job. Also, since the purchase program sometimes involves trades, ensure your trade vehicles are in agreed-upon condition.

* Bargaining. Some managers still try to negotiate the lowest price when purchasing vehicles, despite the fact that these trucks' costs ultimately will be judged on the total cost per mile and not on the sticker price. The total cost per mile or "life-cycle costing" is comprised of the initial purchase price, fuel costs, maintenance costs and reale value. This concept also is true for replacement parts.

* Overlooking warranties. Managers sometimes forget about vital warranty problems. When a warranty is neglected, it can catch up to you, especially when the vehicles hit high mileage. A warranty program should be hammered out well in advance of the delivery and details must be explained thoroughly to all maintenance personnel.

If the supplier requires the failed parts, get them as quickly as possible without causing any additional damage during removal, storage or shipping. This ensures that the parts can be analyzed properly, allowing for corrective action and appropriate warranty reimbursement. Failure analysis will help obtain proper warranty reimbursement, and any significant findings should end up in your vehicle spec file.

* Failing to maintain thorough vehicle records. Vehicle records should be detailed enough to provide histories of the various components for each individual truck. It's also necessary to keep fuel records on each vehicle. Consider the records in terms of vehicle cost, repair frequency and mechanic performance.

* Neglecting theft reduction efforts. Theft reduction requires more than locking up flashlights, batteries, light bulbs and small, boat-size fire extinguishers. There's no sense in working hard to reduce expenses in some areas if your savings are "walking" out of the shop.

* Disregarding safety. Vehicle and in-shop safety are important responsibilities. Many shop safety practices are not only required by regulations, but also are considered by most fleet executives as economic necessities.

* Making uninformed replacement parts purchasing decisions. If you're considering purchasing something other than a new part, be certain you know the difference between used, rebuilt, remanufactured and repaired. Also, price out kits versus buying only the parts needed individually - you may be surprised in some cases. Watch out for counterfeit parts, know your supplier and be cautious of poor-quality rebuilds. Sometimes, rebuilds cost only 50 percent as much as new, but produce only 40 to 45 percent as much service in time or miles.

* Failing to keep up with new government regulations. Stay abreast of current and impending regulations through your company's compliance department.

* Using mismatched or shoddy tires. Tires generally run approximately 20 percent of total vehicle costs. Original specifications and retread use are important. Be certain to keep tires matched and maintain the correct air pressure.

* Being uninformed on fuel economy. This figure will depend on specs and professional driving.