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Heavy Equipment Maintenance Manager-2
13 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Heavy Equipment Maintenance

Heavy equipment maintenance often gets overlooked in the pursuit of growth and efficiency. Dispatchers are hesitant to send equipment for maintenance when every truck in the shop means one fewer in the field to complete the job. 

Spending resources on maintenance tasks can also impact your bottom line, making the decision to pull equipment off a job more difficult. The problem is that most owners are confusing short-term efficiency with long-term success.

This guide discusses how designing a maintenance program lowers long-term costs and actually helps prevent disruptions and delays. Rather than wait until your equipment fails, understand how to take proactive steps to ensure it operates at its best.

Inside this guide:

  1. What is heavy equipment maintenance?
    1. Why is heavy equipment maintenance necessary?
    2. The true cost of poor heavy equipment maintenance
  2. Heavy Equipment Maintenance Best Practices
    1. Concrete Pump Maintenance Checklist
    2. Hydrovac Maintenance Checklist
    3. Crane Truck Maintenance Checklist
  3. How to Build a Heavy Equipment Maintenance Program
    1. Hiring a Heavy Equipment Maintenance Manager
  4. How to Improve Heavy Equipment Maintenance


What is heavy equipment maintenance?

Heavy equipment maintenance is all about keeping your machines in good condition to extend their lifespans and get the most out of them. They typically include everything from routine engine service to repairs on the specialized equipment you use on the job (like concrete pumps, hydrovac systems, cranes, etc.).

Why is heavy equipment maintenance necessary?

Machines have many moving parts that inevitably wear down over time. They need oil for smooth operation, air for combustion, and grease to keep everything moving.

Regular maintenance keeps heavy equipment running smoothly and helps prevent unexpected breakdowns. A machine breaking down on a job site can lead to costly delays and potential safety hazards.

Well-maintained machines work more efficiently and use less fuel, a net positive for your bottom line. Keeping equipment in top shape also means it lasts longer, so you don't have to replace it as often. Proper maintenance is key to maximizing fleet utilization

The true cost of poor heavy equipment maintenance

Ignoring maintenance schedules can lead to unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs, jeopardizing productivity and safety on job sites. 

When heavy equipment breaks down, you lose income from the time lost on the job and create a negative customer experience. Added to the labor costs involved in repairing the machinery and getting operations back on track, your bottom line takes a big hit when unexpected repairs crop up.

By staying on top of maintenance tasks, you avoid expensive repairs, minimize the risk of environmental damage, and maintain a smoother workflow.

A maintenance schedule, especially one that’s managed by fleet management software, lets you slow down your machines' aging process. In the long run, this practice saves money by reducing heavy equipment maintenance costs and keeps your fleet on the road and on the job.

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Heavy Equipment Maintenance Best Practices

Having a heavy equipment maintenance checklist cuts down on having to do hours of research and unnecessary spending. Use the tips below to keep your equipment running without wasting time.

Concrete Pump Maintenance Checklist

A concrete pump operates by using either a hydraulic or pneumatic mechanism to suck concrete from a hopper and then push it through pipes to its intended location. Concrete pump trucks have a lot of moving parts, so keeping your equipment in good shape is important for both productivity and safety. Follow this concrete pump maintenance checklist on a regular basis to keep your concrete pumping equipment ready for the jobs ahead:

  • Check hydraulic oil
  • Replace the hose, if damaged
  • Inspect electrical elements
  • Check pipe erosion
  • Inspect rubber seals
  • Replace faulty gaskets
  • Fix leaky hydraulic fittings
  • Fix malfunctioning electrical components

Hydrovac Maintenance Checklist

A hydrovac uses high-pressure water to loosen the soil, creating a slurry. This slurry is then vacuumed into a debris tank on the hydrovac truck, allowing for safe, non-destructive excavation. Hydrovac equipment failure can be frustrating for your crew, slowing down job completion and even creating safety hazards.  

Here are a few things to check on when maintaining hydrovac trucks:

  • Check the blower's oil levels
  • Grease the drive shaft
  • Replace the filter bags
  • Run restriction tests
  • Check the exhaust system
  • Inspect the vacuum hose regularly
  • Inspect the batteries
  • Test the hydraulic hoses
  • Drain the water system
  • Check the water pump

Crane Truck Maintenance Checklist

A crane truck has a large, powerful crane mounted on its chassis. When performing a maintenance check, make sure to look at the following areas:

  • Inspect the hydraulic system
  • Check the transmission fluid level
  • Inspect the electrical system
  • Check for the dashboard warning lights
  • Test the wipers
  • Check the wheel alignments
  • Inspect the tires for wear and tear


How to Build a Heavy Equipment Maintenance Program

The most effective maintenance programs aren't just about getting repairs done quickly. Daily preventative maintenance and routine checks are just as important. To keep up with all that you'll need more than just a good mechanic —heavy equipment maintenance is usually a team effort. That's why heavy equipment maintenance programs usually scale to match the size of your team and your fleet. Here are some of the key phases of building a heavy equipment maintenance program:  

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  • Operator-Driven: Small fleets may not be able to justify the expense of hiring a dedicated maintenance crew, but preventing issues is critical because cash flow can be tight. Most small teams have their operators do a majority of preventative maintenance, inspecting their vehicle every morning and carefully cleaning and inspecting it again after the day's work. When major repairs are required, the trucks are usually sent out to the manufacturer or a local partner for service.    
  • Yard Boys: Mid-sized fleets that have a bit more budget also typically carry more risk, so they might invest in some extra hands to make sure their trucks are in tip-top shape every morning. These crews are typically less experienced (and less expensive) than heavy equipment operators, which can help you save some money instead of paying your operators a higher hourly rate for lower-skill work. Sometimes called "yard boys," they're responsible for cleaning trucks when they come back from the job site and making sure they're ready for the next day's work, but major repairs still get contracted out to a local partner.  
  • Professional Team: Larger fleets are more likely to have trucks that require serious work, so there comes a point where it's cheaper to hire someone who can manage your fleet maintenance than continuing to contract out your repairs. Some teams start by hiring specialist mechanics who can handle basic engine maintenance and repairs to their heavy equipment, while contracting out serious engine issues to a local diesel mechanic. That way they have the skills in house to get their trucks back on the road when the most common issues pop up without taking on another mechanic on their payroll.

As your fleet grows, keeping track of all the maintenance requirements for every truck can be a challenge. Fleet management software can help by showing you exactly when each truck is due for maintenance. Systems like RapidWorks connect directly to your GPS system and even pull in data from your job tickets to show you exactly when each truck is going to need service.

How to Hire a Heavy Equipment Maintenance Manager

You may choose to bring a mechanic on board once you know it will reduce your costs and that you’ve definitely got enough work for a 40-hour workweek. Compare the costs of a full-time mechanic versus the cost of shop hours that may vary from $100 to $200 per hour. 

You can attract the best talent for your heavy equipment manager position by having a detailed and thorough job description. Here are some insights that will help you build a better job description:

  • Summary: Heavy equipment maintenance managers oversee vehicle inspection, service, and upkeep to guarantee optimal performance. They possess in-depth knowledge and experience with their specific fleet, enabling them to identify and address issues through direct repairs or by coordinating with on-site or off-site mechanics.
  • Responsibilities: Typical responsibilities for a heavy equipment manager include routine engine and vehicle maintenance, equipment-specific maintenance, preventative maintenance, safety inspections, diagnosing problems and tracking maintenance using software and testing equipment, repairing or replacing faulty or damaged parts, and keeping maintenance records.
  • Salary: The average salary nationwide for a heavy equipment manager is around $70,000 a year. This figure will vary depending on experience, certifications, education, and the size of your fleet.
  • Skills and Experience: Most companies seeking a heavy equipment maintenance manager do not mandate a formal college degree but do require at least a high school diploma or equivalent GED. Extensive hands-on experience and specific training related to the company's fleet of heavy vehicles are critical to the role.

    Heavy Equipment Manager Job Profile

Check out our heavy equipment maintenance manager hiring guide for a complete list of skills and requirements — and even a sample job description. 

How to Improve Heavy Equipment Maintenance

A heavy equipment maintenance program creates consistency and reliability to keep your machines running and performing at their best. A transparent, repeatable process makes it easy to scale your maintenance operations to cover the entire fleet.

1. One Piece of Equipment at a Time

When it comes to heavy equipment maintenance, the smart move is to start slowly. Choosing one piece of equipment allows you to examine its specific needs without becoming overwhelmed.

Learn what makes it tick, what it needs to stay in top shape, and how to prevent any issues that might slow it down.

As you develop this program for one machine, you create a blueprint. This blueprint can then be adapted and applied to the rest of your fleet.

Starting with one piece of equipment also lets you iron out any kinks in your maintenance processes. You'll discover which maintenance tasks are essential, which tools and techniques work best, and how often you should perform different types of maintenance. 

Pro Tip: Making mistakes is natural, but this way, you only make mistakes on one piece of equipment and can perfect your process before applying it to the rest of your fleet.

2. Assess Performance History

Without knowing your machine's performance history and establishing a baseline, you can't possibly track your progress or know how far you've come.

  1. Gather key metrics, such as equipment performance and diagnostics, operators' gripes, and maintainers' experiences.
  2. Talk with the operators behind the machinery and gather insights into any issues they've encountered. 
  3. Reach out to the maintenance crew who work on the machines to understand details on frequent problems, parts that wear out too quickly, or tasks that are more complicated and time-consuming than they should be.

This information gives you a comprehensive view of your equipment's current condition and performance. It helps you identify patterns or recurring issues that need addressing. This way, you're not just fixing problems as they arise but proactively managing your machinery based on accurate, historical data.

3. Research Requirements and Process

Creating a solid maintenance plan involves looking into two key sources: the original equipment manufacturer's (OEM) instructions and government regulatory standards.

The OEM's guidelines are your go-to for understanding exactly how to care for your machinery. These instructions give you the inside scoop on your equipment's needs to stay in peak condition. They cover everything from routine service schedules to the specific parts you should use.

Even more important to consider is any government regulations concerning heavy equipment maintenance. These rules are in place to ensure safety and environmental protection. They outline what you must do to keep your equipment up to code and running safely.

Ignoring these could put your team at risk and lead to hefty fines and legal problems. Here are a few issues you could face when ignoring this step in your maintenance program:

  • Damaged equipment
  • Voided warranties
  • Non-compliance with safety regulations
  • Work accidents

By thoroughly researching and following the OEM's instructions and government standards, you set a strong foundation for your maintenance plan to operate legally and safely.

4. Gather Supplies

Have a regular flow of maintenance supplies so you always have a well-stocked inventory for any problem that may arise.

 Essential items include:

  • Replacement parts specific to your equipment
  • Lubricants, coolants, and other fluids recommended by the OEM
  • Cleaners and degreasers for removing grime and buildup
  • Safety gear, such as gloves and goggles
  • Tools for basic maintenance tasks like oil changes and filter replacements

If you don't have the right supplies on hand, you may face unexpected equipment downtime. You lose time and money every minute that machine isn't working, so it's worth it to keep a solid supply of maintenance materials in stock.

5. Pick a Fleet Management System

Traditional, outdated methods of maintenance programs typically involve manual data entry and manual schedules. Humans make mistakes, though, which may lead to overlooked maintenance tasks and inaccurate scheduling.

A heavy equipment fleet management system acts as your digital assistant, organizing and collecting information. This means less time spent on paperwork and more on keeping your equipment running smoothly.

Software like RapidWorks automatically tracks the volume of concrete pumped on each job and shows you your threshold percentage for the pipes on each truck. You can quickly see which trucks will need maintenance. In turn, you can schedule pipe replacement well in advance or see which trucks need service quickly, avoiding accidents.

Here are our top three tips for selecting a heavy equipment maintenance software

  • Look for compatibility with your fleet's specifications. The software should be adaptable to different types of heavy machinery and capable of tracking maintenance needs for each unique piece of equipment.
  • Make sure you can set up customizable maintenance schedules, alerts for upcoming maintenance tasks, and a database that stores each vehicle's history of repairs and services.
  • You'll want an intuitive user interface with easy navigation and data entry. Maintenance managers and technicians should be able to access information quickly, update maintenance records, and receive notifications without extensive training on the software.

6. Establish Maintenance Schedules

Now that you've established the maintenance program's foundation, you can establish a heavy equipment preventative maintenance schedule. The trick is to organize the maintenance tasks efficiently and set realistic times for when they should be performed.

Here are some factors that affect maintenance schedules:

  • Cycles: How many cycles of operation has the equipment gone through?
  • Equipment Hours: How many hours has the equipment been in use?
  • Miles: For vehicles, how many miles have they traveled?
  • Calendar Time: Sometimes, maintenance is due based on the time since its last servicing.
  • A Mixture of All: Often, a combination of these factors determines the best maintenance schedule.

Considering these factors, you can create a schedule that keeps your equipment in top shape without unnecessary downtime. This extends the life of your machinery and keeps your fleet running smoothly.

7. Monitor Progress and Adjust

Like learning a new skill, developing a good maintenance plan requires patience, practice, and the willingness to adjust as you go. It's not about setting up a plan and sticking to it no matter what — it's about monitoring how well your equipment responds and making necessary changes to improve.

Sometimes, certain tasks need to happen more frequently than you initially thought. For example, if oil levels in a machine degrade faster than expected, consider altering your oil change schedule to match this new information.

Adjusting your maintenance schedule based on real-world data helps your heavy equipment stay in peak condition while getting the most from your maintenance efforts. 

The goal is to maintain your machinery's high performance and reliability, and sometimes, that means tweaking your plan to align with its actual needs.

The backbone of effective heavy equipment is the routine cleaning and maintenance that takes place on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This is how you will extend the lifespan of your machines and lower your overall operation costs. By drawing on these insights and leveraging the power of specialized software, companies can ensure their equipment works at peak efficiency. RapidWorks is a trusted equipment maintenance software expert, offering a reliable solution that helps you save money and time. Contact us to learn more today!


RapidWorks Team

RapidWorks is on a mission to help heavy equipment service teams maximize profit and utilization by simplifying everything from quote to cash.