Fleets could avoid over 13,500 days' downtime through increased awareness and maintenance

Article date: 18 June 2009

The lack of basic vehicle maintenance and knowledge among fleet drivers is causing unnecessary breakdowns, increased repair costs and substantial downtime, says RAC.

According to RAC’s 2008 Vehicle Fault Analysis (VFA) data, fleet drivers are causing at least 13,715 days1 downtime. This equates to nearly 115,000 fleet breakdowns that could be avoided if fleet drivers conducted basic maintenance checks of their vehicles and undertook driver training.

Frank Flynn, technical information manager for RAC, says: “Our research shows that fleet drivers are causing downtime. And with the cost of replacement or hire cars, missed appointments, lost business contracts and warranty disputes over vehicle repairs, the impact on businesses can be significant.”

The findings show that a puncture and the need to change the wheel is the most frequent reason for a call out.

“By adding together all of the call outs for punctures and calculating the resultant downtime, we can see that 2,140 days were lost in 2008 for this reason alone. Basic training on how to look after the vehicle and change a wheel could help reduce the downtime caused. Of course we understand this isn’t always realistic or practical for all fleet drivers but we believe fleets in general could benefit by training drivers on how to change a wheel.

“Where the driver has had a puncture but does not have a usable spare wheel, this could be due to the fact that the driver has not had it repaired following a previous incident, or that they are simply not carrying one. The latter has become quite common with more manufacturers producing vehicles without a spare wheel.

“Where the fault specified states that tyres were the problem, a high proportion of these call outs were for shredded tyres due to excessive wear or when the driver has discovered lumps appearing. Although we haven’t included this in the overall downtime figure, this is largely down to a lack of maintenance.”

Battery problems rank as the second highest reason for a call outs with just over 50,700 occurring last year, equating to 2,113 days downtime. 

Flynn continues: “A flat battery can be the result of a number of things but largely we find that drivers continue to leave lights on accidentally, whether internal or external, or that other technology or gadgets have been left plugged in to the vehicle and drained the battery. Again, driver training would highlight the impact of charging mobile phones and other gadgets used by many fleet drivers on the battery.”

Ranking seventh on the top 20 fault list is diesel contamination.

“Although the number of individual call outs for diesel contamination is significantly less than for batteries or punctures, the downtime per instance can be much greater.  Taking travel and wait times into consideration, it can take up to a day to drain a fuel tank. This resulted in a staggering 9,349 days downtime in 2008 that could easily have been avoided with a higher level of driver awareness.

“The final avoidable reason for call outs in the top 20 list is due to drivers locking themselves out of their cars, with 2,717 instances last year.”

A large number of last year’s call outs were due to road traffic accidents, at 18,179.

Flynn said: “Although it is near impossible to conclude whether an accident could have been avoided, some typical causes of accidents include driver fatigue, often through not taking breaks or a lack of journey planning, or a car not being suitable for an employee – all of which could be put down to a lack of an effective driver training strategy.”


RAC Press office contact:
Elinor Graveson from Staniforth on 0161 919 8025 / 07973 360141 or Erik Nelson on 01603 682 264 / 07989 427 086.

Notes to editors:

Top 20 Fleet call outs


Fault Description


Puncture - Wheel Change


Battery Flat - Other




Road Traffic Accident


Battery - Non Serviceable


No Fault Found


Fuel - Diesel Contaminated


Clutch - Assembly




Puncture - No Spare


Battery Flat - Interior Lights


Starter Motor




Battery Flat - External Lights


Gearbox - Manual


Ignition Coil




ECU - Engine Management (Combined)




Lockout - Key in Seating Area

Based on RAC’s 2008 data

1 Total downtime = 2,140 + 2,113 + 9,349 + 113 = 13,715 days

Time taken to attend and repair vehicle (estimation) = one hour

Total call outs = 51,349

51,349 / 24 = 2,140 lost working days

Time taken to attend and repair vehicle (estimation) = one hour

Total call outs = 50,701

50,701 / 24 = 2,113 lost working days

Diesel contamination
Estimated downtime = one working day for drainage of fuel tank 

Total call outs = 9,349

9,349 lost working days

Estimated time to attend and retrieve keys = one hour

Total call outs = 2,717

2,717 / 24 = 113 lost working days

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