Making the Case for In-House Maintenance
The in-house maintenance facility at Dallas Gutter King alleviates owner Gary Kulp from having to pay the overhead of an outside mechanic's shop, which could run $100 per hour or more.
For larger fleets, especially those with trucks used in heavy-duty or vocational situations, servicing fleet vehicles in-house is a no-brainer. For small fleets, however, the expense of a company-run maintenance facility would seem to surpass taking your vehicles to an outside shop on an as-needed basis.
The maintenance facility operated within Dallas Gutter King belies that assertion. The rain gutter installation company runs a fleet of 25 standard work vehicles and, according to owner Gary Kulp, is saving some 60% in maintenance expense by doing most of it in-house.
Kulp runs a typical small service fleet of light-duty vans, pickups and sedans. The local service vehicles put on an average of only 10,000 miles per year, while the ones traveling further do 20,000 to 25,000 miles. The sales vehicles average 30,000 miles, according to Kulp.
These commonplace work vehicles produce commonplace maintenance issues — flat tires, tire balancing and alignments, parts wear and tear and brakes and front ends — along with standard preventive maintenance (PM) needs and the occasional major part breakdown.
It all started in 2007 when Kulp purchased two used tire balance-and-mounting machines for $6,000. The in-house maintenance initiative became a reality, however, when Kulp bought a brand-new vehicle lift two years later for $12,000.
A lift is the first component of maintenance, as it allows mechanics safe and easy access to a vehicle’s undercarriage. Kulp then added an alignment rack to the lift to perform wheel alignments.
Initially, Kulp allowed his shop manager and shop assistants to perform basic maintenance, such as oil and filter changes, tire rotations, tire rod replacements and other simple repairs.
These basic repairs led to more involved repairs, including front-end work and even complete transmission replacements. “It’s surprising how much you can learn online and through YouTube,” Kulp says. “It’s easy to do if you have a lift.”
Six months ago, Kulp determined he had enough work to hire a trained mechanic to come in once a week. The PM and repair work more than covered his mechanic’s wage, which is more than the national service center chains pay, Kulp says. One day a week quickly turned into three.
“The overhead of operating a business is so high that mechanics [in retail maintenance shops] now have to bill $100 per hour or more, and there’s a markup on parts,” says Kulp. “Now I just pay my mechanic’s salary and the parts, and the savings are enormous.”