Downtime: The constant headache

Downtime. If we were to rank bad words to fleet managers, it’s an easy top five representative. Depending on the fleet, it could be the top dog. It’s one of those words, and situations, no one wants to deal with.

But it happens, a lot.

One of the best things a service provider can do to appease its customer base is to work diligently to manage vehicle downtime.

I say manage because downtime can’t be eliminated. Trucks are always going to break down, and it’s always going to take time to fix them. A truck that never broke down or could be repaired in 10 minutes or less would be the greatest innovation in trucking history — but it doesn’t exist.

The best solution we have regarding downtime is to manage and minimize it, and that’s the goal of the Universal Downtime Tracking task force operating at TMC.

Chaired by Jack Porter from Decisiv, the goal of the task force is to define downtime as it relates to fleets, dealers and service providers, and create an RP with a tracking index and tools for managing and communicating the dreaded D-word.

And while defining downtime seems like an easy thing to do, there’s no industry standard for it and exactly how it should be evaluated.

According to Porter, fleets and service providers may have wide variances between their definitions for downtime, and how they calculate it when a vehicle breaks down.

“Service providers and fleets need to track downtime together,” he said; which means starting and stopping downtime clocks at the same time.

Right now most dealers and service providers track downtime from when they receive a breakdown call to when they complete a repair. That’s great, but if a truck breaks down three days before that service provider is called, its downtime figures will be incorrect.

The Universal Downtime Tracking task force aims to fix that.

Porter hopes to create a method for fleets to communicate breakdown information to service providers so they are constantly aware of how long a vehicle has been out of service. Those interested in joining the task force can do so by contacting Porter at, and anyone who wants to follow the progress of the RP should come to TMC’s next meeting in September in Pittsburgh.

With all the money wrapped up in downtime, this is a problem that needs to be fixed. Fleet representatives at Monday’s task force meeting said downtime costs fleets an average of $600-650 per day.

“That starts to add up pretty fast,” Porter said.

Indeed it does. No wonder it’s such a bad word.

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