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Truck lifecycle monitoring more critical as regulations ramp up

April 29, 2024
By analyzing maintenance costs per mile, fleets can gauge when to extend their vehicles’ useful lives or when it’s time to purchase a new truck.

With more stringent regulations on the horizon for model year 2027 trucks, along with projected price increases of $25,000-$30,000 per vehicle, fleets are looking for ways to maximize their ownership costs with the vehicles they have and when to purchase new ones. This is where maintenance cost monitoring comes in, argued Brian Antonellis, SVP of Fleet Operations for Fleet Advantage.

“We believe that the number one way to save money when you're running a fleet is to manage your lifecycle,” Antonellis said.

By balancing the ratio of high maintenance costs and decreasing miles per gallon that come with age to the cost of a new vehicle, fleets can gauge when it’s time to pull the trigger on new assets. And, if they plan carefully and monitor their maintenance costs, they can even prepare and budget for purchasing MY 2027 vehicles.

To buy or not to buy

The key to saving money with this approach is to balance the economic tipping point, Antonellis explained, or the relationship between the costs a vehicle incurs versus their remaining efficient miles. However, it is important that this tipping point varies depending on the duty cycles and environment any truck runs in.

“The reality is even within a fleet, certain trucks run more miles than other trucks,” Antonellis explained. “You run different terrains, there's different effects on the trucks depending on how much they're hauling. If one truck is hauling 1,000 pounds every day and the other truck is only hauling 20, that affects the life cycle.”

This means that fleets need to truly break down the composition of their costs in maintaining their vehicle. Antonellis argued that 60% of a vehicle’s total cost typically go towards fuel, and 25% towards maintenance. So, fleets should consider if those costs can be maximized with more efficient driving practices or adapted maintenance plans instead of buying a new truck. 

How to time vehicle lifecycle with maintenance costs

To gauge whether or not a vehicle is ready to be replaced, Antonellis recommended keeping an eye on fuel degradation and costs per mile, with a general rule of thumb that a tractor lifecycle is best between 450,000-500,000 miles.

“As engines get closer to that 500,000 mile mark, depending on how they've been used, you're gonna see your mpg drop,” he stated, which can be a good indicator it’s time to start shopping. But if fleets want to be prepared before they see a drop in fuel efficiency, they can keep an eye on costs per mile.

Antonellis stated that newer trucks, typically within one year of service, might usually incur about two cents of maintenance costs per mile, assuming they run roughly 100,000 miles per year. That cost could increase to 3.5-4 cents after another year and begin to reach 10-20 cents per mile in years 5 to 7 of service.

“When you get close to that eight to 10 cents, you're going to see a very quick escalation in the next 12 months,” Antonellis warned. “If you're not watching those numbers, it's going to cost you more to run the old truck than it is to run a new truck.”

Preparing for MY 2027 trucks

These maintenance benchmarks are particularly important with fleets planning for accruing MY 2027 vehicles and beyond. By leveraging vehicle lifecycle now, fleets can plan to avoid purchasing newer vehicles until the emissions technology they use, and the vehicle costs overall, have stabilized.

“You have to have a plan to understand how you're going to procure your assets, and there are certain cost increases that we know are going to come,” Antonellis observed. “So set your team up for success.”

From monitoring and managing maintenance costs to maximize vehicle life cycle to preparing budgets for 2026 prebuys, this will help fleets be ready for the changing truck landscape.

About the Author

Alex Keenan

Alex Keenan is an Associate Editor for Fleet Maintenance magazine. She has written on a variety of topics for the past several years and recently joined the transportation industry, reviewing content covering technician challenges and breaking industry news. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

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