Dollars & Sense

Kevin Rutherford

Dollars and Sense

Kevin Rutherford | March 01, 2010

Handle maintenance with a savings account

Owner-operators who are skipping small preventive maintenance items are finding out later it’s costing them much more money to get the problem corrected.

When times are tough, it can become a tough decision whether to fix a small item or to let it go till you can afford it. In other cases, lack of preventive maintenance is simply due to not knowing what maintenance tasks should be performed. Be assured, however, that fixing it now is always less expensive than fixing it later.

maintenanceOne way to get ahead of the game is by starting a maintenance fund. Open a savings account and deposit a set amount for every mile the truck runs.

If your truck has less than 500,000 miles, put 6 cents per mile into your maintenance fund. If your truck has 500,000 to a million miles, set aside 10 cents per mile. Once your truck passes a million miles, go to 12 cents. Keep good records of mileage and make the savings deposit every week without fail.

If you are contracted to a carrier, check to see if it offers a maintenance fund. You might be able to put this strategy on autopilot by drafting money from your settlement every week.

For example, if your truck has less than 500,000 miles, your carrier could set your account so that weekly miles would be multiplied by $.06. If you run 2,350 miles one week, you’d automatically get $141 (2,350 times $.06) set aside. If you think you can’t afford $141, remember this amount covers all your maintenance. When the next unforeseen maintenance need arises, how much better to pay for it with money in hand than with credit that will require interest payments for untold months.

The per-mile math is easy, but the discipline is hard. I can’t stress enough how important it is to do this weekly. You’ll find you won’t be forced to skip preventive maintenance. For that reason, you’ll also find your overall maintenance cost per mile will be lower, which means more money in your pocket over time.

Next month we’ll explore some of those preventive maintenance items you should be working on, and help you work out a return on investment on each one. n

MILES                                               SAVING

Less than 500,000                                6 cpm

500,000 to 1 million                            10 cpm

More than 1 million                             12 cpm strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.