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Why usage-based preventative maintenance is better

Last updated on January 8, 2024 in Fleet Optimization by Tony Summerville |  3 minute read

Scheduled preventative maintenance (PM) is important, but if not done correctly, you can under or over-maintain your equipment. Read about a better option.

Scheduled preventative maintenance (PM) is a great way to reduce costly, unplanned maintenance, and shrink vehicle downtime. However, if not done correctly, you can under or over-maintain your equipment. Traditionally, there are two strategies for scheduling PM: by calendar date or meter reading (and sometimes a combination of both). This post reviews the different approaches to PM, then discusses an even better option, which is usage-based maintenance.


See also: Understanding the value of technology in your fleet

Time-based preventative maintenance

Time-based (also known as calendar-based) plans for vehicle maintenance are easy to schedule and predict — they’re simply based on a calendar interval.


For example, say you want to winterize your vehicles every year in October. When the next due date approaches, the maintenance task is triggered. It’s also easy to predict when maintenance will be next due, such as October 1st of the next year.



Example of a routine PM schedule with drastically different usage between occurrences.


Time-based plans are a great way to schedule seasonal PM tasks but aren’t very good for maintaining equipment components based on actual utilization. You’ll end up doing maintenance too often (over-maintenance) or not enough (under-maintenance) — both of which can be problematic and expensive.

Time-based preventative maintenance — Advantages and disadvantages


  • Simple and easy to manage and track
  • Easy to predict future occurrences


  • Not based on utilization of asset
  • Can lead to over-maintenance or under-maintenance

Meter-based preventative maintenance

Basing preventative maintenance off meter readings instead of time is better for most PM plans because it is tied to the utilization of the asset instead of an arbitrary date. For example, if a fleet truck needs an oil change every 5,000 miles, it’s better to schedule PM based on the odometer readings, not a recurring time interval.



Meter-based PM relies on numerous, tedious meter readings. Too few readings cause late or missed PMs. No forecasting of future occurrences.


A meter-based approach can helps fleets reduce unnecessary extra maintenance and also not doing enough maintenance, but it requires more overhead to implement. Firstly, you need regular meter updates to trigger maintenance tasks — and getting meter readings can be a big challenge. It’s cumbersome to chase down drivers for a current reading. Additionally, relaying the information from written reports or emails into a fleet maintenance system can be a major source of errors.


Unlike time-based triggers, it’s very difficult to predict when an asset will be due for meter-based maintenance. PM tasks become due when a meter reading is near or beyond the next trigger point (the next due meter value). Since there isn’t an actual due date, it’s hard to plan when maintenance will be due using a calendar or simple fleet maintenance spreadsheet.

Meter-based preventative maintenance — Advantages and disadvantages


  • Based on actual utilization
  • PM tasks are triggered only when needed, not by an arbitrary date


  • Getting timely meter readings is difficult, leading to late or missed (and costly) PMs
  • Hard to predict the date of future occurrences

Combining the best of both worlds: Usage-based preventative maintenance

Usage-based maintenance (UBM) is a form of predictive maintenance (PdM). Similar to meter-based plans, maintenance is triggered based on actual utilization of the fleet’s asset. This type of maintenance takes the average daily usage of an asset into account and uses it to forecast a due date.


Usage-based maintenance is typically a better approach than time or meter reading triggers, since you get the best of both approaches: maintenance is triggered by estimated utilization and it’s easier to predict future occurrences!



In UBM, fewer meter readings are needed. Future occurrences forecasted based on average usage.

Usage-based preventative maintenance — Advantages and disadvantages


  • Based on estimated utilization
  • Ability to predict future occurrence dates


  • Requires somewhat regular meter readings (e.g. monthly) to work properly, but does not need as many as meter-based maintenance triggers

Proactive vehicle maintenance can have a dramatic impact on your overall fleet efficiency. If you are investing in PM program, it’s important to get it right the first time. Using a fleet maintenance software like Fleetio that supports usage-based preventative maintenance is a great way to ensure assets are properly maintained with minimal overhead. Plus, it gives you forecasting capabilities to plan and budget for future maintenance.

Learn more:

Manage maintenance, fuel and drivers — Track, analyze and improve fleet operations. Fleetio offers simple and comprehensive management of all day-to-day fleet operations and data while also providing fuel card integrations, Geotab integration, all-inclusive support, unlimited account users, and online and mobile accessibility, including native apps like Fleetio Fuel.


Visit Fleetio on the Geotab Marketplace.

About Fleetio

We believe managing a fleet should be easier. Today thousands of people use Fleetio to manage their company's vehicles and drivers. We're passionate about making it easy to manage a fleet so organizations can spend more time focusing on their own mission.



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Geotab's blog posts are intended to provide information and encourage discussion on topics of interest to the telematics community at large. Geotab is not providing technical, professional or legal advice through these blog posts. While every effort has been made to ensure the information in this blog post is timely and accurate, errors and omissions may occur, and the information presented here may become out-of-date with the passage of time.

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