The Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards (VMRS) have been around since the 1970s. With the emergence of Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) in the 1990s, VMRS came to serve as a “universal language” that allowed different parts of the trucking industry to simplify, clarify, and unify the way they shared information.
What can VMRS do for you? VMRS was created to serve the entire industry—from maintenance technicians on the shop floor and drivers on the road to fleet managers, executives, accountants, OEMs, and industry suppliers. The system has something to offer at each level. The question, then, is what do you need it to do for you?
VMRS has become an essential part of how large fleets, OEMs, and industry suppliers conduct business. Because it plays such a central role in how the industry tracks results and makes decisions and plans—the chances are good that you’re benefitting from it in ways that you don’t even realize. The more you know about VMRS, the more you can make it do for you.
VMRS – The Universal Language of the Trucking Industry
Think about everything that goes into a simple tire change on a commercial vehicle. A driver makes a repair order. A technician performs the work. A maintenance manager tracks the job, and a parts manager updates the inventory. Then there are accounting and purchasing departments, fleet management, and executives. Don’t forget tire manufacturers and the wholesalers and retailers that got the tire to the shop floor.
Think about how many times that happens every day? How many parts a single tractor and trailer have? How many trucks and trailers are on the road. That’s a lot of work to do and a lot of decisions. It all generates a lot of information that has to be tracked, recorded, and reported.
VMRS is a coding system to make sure that the information that comes from the shop floor or a roadside repair gets reported in a language that can be understood by maintenance managers, fleet managers—all the way to the top of the organization. It also means that companies can share information with original equipment manufacturers and industry suppliers, to help get a better idea of the big picture in the industry.
When you put your information into VMRS, you get great business insights back in return. That helps your company make better decisions about repairing or replacing units, preventative maintenance, inventory control, shop productivity, and warranties. Useful insights mean better decisions, and better decisions go straight to your bottom line.
A (Very) Brief History of VMRS
In the late 1960s, the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Association (ATA) realized that the industry needed an efficient way to track and share information that would get everybody on the same page. The solution would need to work for everyone in the industry.
In 1970, the TMC introduced VMRS as a way to simplify, clarify, and unify the information that the industry needed to know to make better decisions. The system used primary categories to organize information about specific systems, assemblies, and components in an alpha-numeric code that would serve as a universal language for the industry.
The VMRS proved its worth in the 70s and 80s, going global and growing to include more and more of the information that the industry needed. Still, it wasn’t until the 1990s, when computers became a part of daily life, that the system’s true potential became evident. Now the system includes more than 65 primary category code keys that encompass more than 32,000 unique systems, assemblies, and components.
Because the system provides a common language, it gives everybody a voice. Because the information is simple and uniform, it is easy to enter into the system, easy to share within and between organizations, and easy to use in building insightful reports. It helps the industry get better and do better even as it helps the manufacturers and suppliers who serve the industry understand our needs.
Today, the TMC continues to serve as the steward for the VMRS system. It solicits feedback from the industry that it uses to update the standard and keep it current. It also issues licenses to users that range from trucking fleets to Software as a Service (SaaS) providers. If your organization uses a fleet maintenance software program, you’ve probably already got VMRS working for you.
Who Should Be Using VMRS and What Should They Be Using It For?
Up to this point, we’ve been talking about how VMRS tackled the challenge of becoming a solution that could be everything for everyone across a vast and complex industry. While VRMS is pretty impressive on that level, you’re probably still wondering how it can benefit you directly and what you can do to take advantage of it.
As we said earlier—it all depends on what role you play in the industry and what you need VMRS to do for you.
As a driver, what you need VMRS to do for you depends a lot on whether you’re an independent Owner-Operator, driving for a large corporate fleet, or somewhere in between. For everybody, staying on the road means making sure parts are available, maintenance gets scheduled, and performed, and somebody keeps track of it all.
Owner-Operators have to deal with the challenge of putting in the miles that make money and wearing all of the other hats: maintenance manager, fleet manager, accounting department. That’s an awful lot to manage, but it gets easier when everything you do stays organized and available to you so that you’re not starting every task from square one.
Fleet drivers often feel like they’re shut-out of the conversation when it comes to maintaining the units that make them their living. Requests for maintenance that use VMRS codes help management get a picture of the challenges that drivers face. When your maintenance shop runs more efficiently, you’re less likely to lose money waiting on a repair.
Every driver will have to make decisions when they’re out on the road. Sometimes it’s just a matter of making sure that a roadside repair or third-party maintenance shop does what your fleet manager wants. Sometimes the call is going to be on you and you alone. With VMRS, it’s easier to make sure everyone gets on the same page and stays there.
Fleet Maintenance Staff
Fleet maintenance can be a thankless job. Every driver thinks that their request is the most urgent and that mechanics can perform the repair with a snap of your fingers. Your boss just wants to know that every unit is on the road making money while maintenance and repair costs are at a minimum.
When your maintenance shop uses VMRS, work orders come to you in a language that you can understand. Any technician that works on a unit can report their activity in a way that makes sense without having to spend a lot of time writing. That information becomes useful in your decision-making process and operation.
VMRS tracks both the parts and the labor that goes into keeping a unit running. That helps you keep a handle on shop productivity and project your future needs for parts inventory and working hours. The system also ties all of that work to individual units to help you know when to schedule maintenance and help you make choices between repairing and replacing equipment.
VMRS doesn’t just help you manage the shop and the work that gets performed. It also cuts down on the time that you spend translating everything that you do into a language that executives, accountants, purchasing agents, and suppliers can understand. VMRS makes it easy to work smarter instead of working harder.
Everybody knows that Fleet Managers get to make crucial decisions that will impact the work of drivers and maintenance technicians. What a lot of people don’t realize is that a Fleet Manager also has to justify the decisions that they make. To make the right decisions, you’ve got to make vast amounts of information easy to access, understand, and use.
Whether you own a fleet and answer only to yourself or report to a management team, you need information that will allow you to look over the shoulder of a technician on the shop floor in a format that you can sort into reports or pass onto to your superiors. VMRS helps you know you’re making the right decision and helps you show others why you made the choices you did.
If you work with a third-party repair shop, wouldn’t it be nice if all of their work orders and billing came into your system in a common language? If you’re comparison shopping a high-volume maintenance consumable, wouldn’t you like to know how your options compare to one another and how they compare to your current standards?
It’s not like the decisions you make are the final word on the subject; everything comes back around again. It’s great to be able to make decisions based on quality data, but it’s even better to be able to see how the decisions you make play out over time. With VMRS, you can see whether the choices you made lived up to your expectations. You’ll know whether to stick with your plan or look for better options the next time around.
Inventory and Accounting
If you’re involved in the process that keeps the parts room stocked, then you’re responsible for making sure that maintenance has what they need to keep trucks rolling, drivers working, and customers happy. Without the components to do the work, maintenance, and repairs don’t happen. Without maintenance and repairs, fleets break down and sit still.
If you work on purchasing, inventory, or accounting for a small fleet, then you know how important it is to get the most out of every maintenance dollar. If you work for a more significant fleet, then you know how big a small difference in price or performance can be when it’s multiplied across an entire fleet.
If you don’t get useful information from drivers and maintenance staff, then you’re left to guess whether the decisions you’ve made are working or not and whether things are getting better or worse. If you don’t know where you’re at currently, you’re left to decide whether you believe suppliers’ and manufacturers’ claims that their parts are better than what you’re now using.
Quality parts and supplies cost more but last longer while budget-priced parts and supplies are cheaper to replace. That’s the assumption we all carry into our purchasing decisions, right? With VMRS, you’ll be able to track the data on those decisions to know whether that’s how things play out.
Warranties, Insurance Claims, and Government Reporting
There is more the VMRS system encompasses than the everyday tasks that we associate with operating, maintaining, and managing a trucking fleet. Unless you work for one of the largest fleets in the industry, there may not be a job title or office in your company dedicated to managing these tasks.
When it comes to tracking warranties on your equipment, providing records to support an insurance claim, or responding to information requests from government agencies, the streamlined information that you get from VMRS can make an uncommon but cumbersome process a lot easier to manage.
OEMs, industry suppliers, insurance carriers, and state and federal agencies are already using VMRS—so you’ll have easy access to data that is already speaking their language.
What Does It Take to Implement VMRS?
You have some options to choose from if your fleet isn’t currently using VMRS, and you’d like to take advantage of what it can offer. You can purchase a license directly from the TMC that will allow you to install it on either a single computer or your organization’s network. You could also purchase SaaS that is tailored to Fleet Maintenance Management needs.
When it comes to deciding what to purchase and whether to implement the system yourself or work with a consultant, knowing the basic requirements of the system and how to get the most out of it will help you make the right decision for your organization.
There are nine implementation requirements for your system to be able to share and compare data with VRMS databases and other users.
- Your system must use the VMRS Vehicle Master Record
- Your system must identify the Equipment Vocation
- Your system must segregate costs by Reason for Repair
- Your system must identify work performed using VMRS Coding
- Your software must identify systems using the 3-digit VMRS System Code
- Your system must identify assemblies using the 3-digit VMRS Assembly Code
- Your system must identify individual parts using the 3-digit VMRS Component Code
- Your system must identify part/vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, or brands using their DUNS #
- Your system must have the capability to record VMRS Technician Part Failure Codes
If you’re going to implement VMRS into your business, you want to make sure that you can take advantage of information from outside of your organization to get all of the benefits that the system can provide. If your system meets all nine points outlined above, you’ll be able to do so—but there’s still more to consider if you want to make sure you’re getting the best that VMRS has to offer.
There are some additional elements to consider when implementing VMRS:
- Start on the right foot: Any benefits that your organization will receive from implementing VMRS will be threatened if your initial set-up of the system doesn’t use correct codes to build a structure that meets your fleet’s actual needs.
- The devil is in the details: If you have two units in your fleet that are impossible to tell apart from across the lot without checking their unit numbers, they’re the same truck-right? Not if they have different transmissions, gear ratios, or other aspects that you want to track in the VMRS system. Entering detailed data is necessary if you want to get clarity from the information in your reports.
- Embrace the system: When you code all of your assets down to the component level, you’ll be able to do more than just identify a cost spike, you’ll be able to pin-point a cause and determine the best solution from a range of options.
- Monitor the monitor: It’s essential to audit your fleet’s VMRS data regularly to identify errors and make corrections. Any system that has multiple users is going to take in some bad data from time to time, but letting it add up will lead to inaccurate reporting and bad decision making.
Adding It All Up
If your fleet has been getting by just fine without a VMRS system, you’re probably wondering why you should bother implementing one. In response to that, we would ask – Could your fleet be doing better? Without a VMRS system, are you sure you could answer that question? Are you sure you trust the information you use to come up with that answer?
If you are using a VMRS system but haven’t taken the time to explore everything that it can do for you and how to make it do what you need most – Why Not? With everything that the system has to offer, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take full advantage of it. It can help you increase efficiency and maximize profits. It lets you use the information from the past to make decisions in the present that will improve your bottom line in the future.
At FleetPal, we’ve been studying the challenges that the trucking industry faces for a while. We’ve spent time thinking about what fleet maintenance software does well and where it needs to get better. We know how vital the VMRS system is to the industry, and we’re looking for ways to bring it into even more of the day-to-day operations of the industry.
Our cloud-based App helps move information between drivers, repair shops, hubs, and headquarters. With VMRS as the universal language of the industry, all of the information that runs through FleetPal is ready to be put to work on today’s decisions about tomorrow’s successes.