Fleet owners today face many unknowns, like dealing with driver shortages, controlling rising fuel costs, and preparing for a future dominated by autonomous vehicles. Given all the unknowns on the road ahead, planning a budget for an entire fleet can be a challenge. It is hard to know what to budget for first. Yet one question always demands an immediate answer: Are my vehicles compliant and ready to roll? In this article, we will review how effective fleet managers avoid mistakes, stay safe, and remain ready by first budgeting for preventive fleet maintenance and DOT compliance. 


Knowing maintenance and compliance requirements is the starting point. 

Preventive fleet maintenance and DOT compliance are fundamental to effective fleet management. Do not underestimate the importance of these matters because mistakes can lead to unsafe situations, legal complications, and financial strain on the company. It is not enough to know what the maintenance and DOT requirements are—you must also know how you will pay for them. 

We sat down with Stacy Conner, co-owner of Equipment Experts Inc and recipient of Drive’s “Masters of Shop Management” award, to discuss how the industry’s best practitioners handle budgeting for preventive maintenance and DOT compliance. 

Strategy: What budgeting strategies lead to outstanding performance? 

Stacy Conner says, “It all starts with your federal and state compliance laws. You have to understand them and take them into consideration when you decide your DOT compliance and preventive maintenance schedule. Make sure you are up to date on the requirements and understand them well. Always check the U.S. Department of Transportation for updates.” 

Equipment Experts highlights the following federal compliance responsibilities: 

  • Have a preventive maintenance program in place,
  • Follow a preventive maintenance program, 
  • Keep 14 months of records, 
  • When doing DOT inspections, follow Appendix G of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. 

Budgeting: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. 

Once you have discovered relevant federal and state regulations and have a clear picture of your compliance requirements, address them—write down what you must do and when. Now is the time to start budgeting for preventive maintenance and repairs. Stacy advises, “You can pick a budgeting strategy according to the needs of your organization. Choose one and move forward with it. Always remember to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” 

Choose from the following budgeting strategies: 

  • Last year’s actual cost + a little 
    Consider using 
    price inflation as a guide for how much to factor-in above last year’s figure. 
  • Estimate costs of specific preventive maintenance (PM) 
    you think you'll need (i.e., brake jobs, transmissions, engines, etc.);
  • Cost per mile, according to age of the vehicle/fleet
    Based on your vehicles'/fleet's mileage and accumulated historical costs, you can estimate remaining useful life and costs. Or you can use averages. There are numerous free resources, such as this one;
  • Timing of the budget spend-down
    Some fleet managers will try to take care of all DOT requirements at one time, but that can be expensive, so most managers distribute it throughout the four quarters of the year. Still others like to schedule PM according to the seasonality of their business—they go to the shop when there is downtime.

Finances: How will I pay for this? 

Do not ignore necessary fleet maintenance and repairs just because you don’t have the cash to pay for them. This will lead to even bigger, more expensive problems. If cash flow is a concern, you can easily get bank financing for necessary repairs. “Do not stress if you can’t afford to finance the preventive maintenance and fleet repair out of your own pocket. Reach out to your bank about financing options. There are numerous non-bank lending options, such as title loans and equipment lines of credit, as well. This way you don’t have to risk available cash,” Stacy counsels.


Scheduling: How far apart should I space out my maintenance and compliance?

Once your budgeting strategy is in place, it is time to schedule your preventive maintenance and DOT inspections. For that, make sure all your fleet’s equipment is accounted for. Read about how to effectively track every piece of equipment here 

If you have a large fleet, Equipment Experts Inc recommends against performing all DOTs and preventive maintenance at one time because it can be expensive. “At Equipment Experts Inc, we recommend spreading repairs, DOTs, and even licensing, taking into consideration the size of the fleet. Ask yourself how often you should perform maintenance like inspecting equipment, changing oil and grease,” Stacy says. As a general rule of thumb, follow the preventive repair and maintenance schedule outlined below. Above all, always check your manufacturer's guidelines. 

Recommended equipment maintenance and compliance schedule

Cars/Vans other Equipment 

Every 90 days 

Heavy Equipment and Forklifts 

Every 200 - 250 hours 


City Driving (5,000 miles) 

Freeway Driving (12,000 miles) 


In addition to these guidelines, always check your owner’s manual for any extra services you might have to perform. “And remember,” adds Stacy, “if your fleet is used seasonally, you need to prioritize your ability to deliver for that season. So, focus on developing a repair and compliance schedule that makes sense for your unique business.” 

Stacy and the Equipment Experts are always ready to help fleet managers and owners resolve situations fast, offering superb fleet management services, 24/7 support, and reliable mobile repairs. Read more articles and tips on how to build and manage a successful fleet business on our blog here. 


Equipment Experts is here to help

Equipment Experts has been recognized by Drive as ‘Masters of Shop Management.’ We are dedicated to developing effective strategies for smooth fleet management. In this blog series, we want to share the best practices we find most useful for fleet managers and owners. Coming up next: How DOT Compliance Defines Your Repair Strategy and Budgeting.  

Let us hear from you! We’d love to know what best practices you use. Contact us to learn more about how Equipment Experts can help your fleet, we’re here to help. Call us (253) 527-7125 or Text us (253) 365-6591


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