Descartes UK

Change what you can control - don’t waste money for your business

There is wisdom in the advice that we should worry about what is in our control, make changes in those areas and, frankly, not waste time worrying about what is out of our control. Apply this to every aspect of our lives and we might be able to achieve Danish-style happiness levels. Apply this to how batteries are managed in commercial workshops and Truck and Track can see significant budget savings and increased preparedness for the elements that we know vehicles will be facing each day.

It has long-been reported that batteries are not top-of-mind in workshops and are not looked after routinely – it is surprising that we are still reporting this when battery failure is the leading cause of non-starts. This is definitely within workshops’ control. Our recent trip to Sweden with CTEK highlighted that they (and many other countries) are testing and charging routinely, they are taking costly non-starts into their control (and saving large sums) and UK workshops still have some way to go.

Truck and Track asked Ken Clark, from battery management experts Rotronics, to report back following a recent UK-wide tour, for a major national commercial vehicle customer, during which he conducted battery management training and induction sessions from as far afield as Thurso and Penzance.

Ken Clark says: “A surprising number of workshops still adopt the approach of waiting for the vehicle to have a second non-start before replacing the batteries. What is not apparent is that, whilst they feel they are saving money by not replacing the batteries, they do not consider the impact of a “roadside defect” and the significant cost of lost miles and customer dissatisfaction.”

A typical operator can have as many as 300 or more non-start defects in any year. If we apply a conservative £150 cost to each of these breakdowns, this equates to a cost of £45,000. Add this to the cost of a set of batteries, which can cost up to £300, we are then looking at an annualised maintenance cost of over £130,000.

Whilst workshops are never going to be able to prevent all breakdowns from occurring, changes can certainly be made to the battery testing and charging practices that are in a workshop’s control to minimise the risk of roadside non-starts and increase battery lifecycle performance through proactive battery maintenance.

Since large sums of money are being wasted due to a lack of battery maintenance, we wanted to know if workshops are maintaining vehicles’ batteries any better now compared to this time last year and two years ago? Are we doing any better and are businesses beginning to stop the needless waste of money?

Ken Clark says: “The answer, happily, is a resounding yes. It is brilliant to see that there is much more national awareness that testing and charging techniques are vital to keeping workshop battery budgets in check and reducing non-starts. In general, workshop owners, managers and technicians really want to crack this expensive issue.

“I love meeting workshop teams to help them develop easy, quick day-to-day strategies that will solve some of their costly battery issues. The last thing we want to do is add too much time to what already is along checklist that technicians must go through as part of routine maintenance.

“Non-starts can be significantly reduced – that is definitely within the control of workshops. Those with several chargers around the inspection/service pit areas, see excellent results. Vehicles are charged at every opportunity and batteries are tested every four to six weeks. These workshops see the most impressive improvements and have managed to cut non-starts by up to 75%. This activity becomes part of the routine service inspection and takes a few seconds to save considerable time and money.”

There are different vehicle issues to contend with in the UK due to geography; colder/warmer/wetter temperatures, varied roads and more urban/rural conditions. But battery performance can be controlled with good battery management and regular testing and charging.

Much worrying goes in to the fines caused by issues out of your workshop’s control; being stuck behind a tractor or caught at a standstill due to accidents and roadworks. Your workshop teams cannot control these factors but they can control the state of the batteries in the vehicles.

Rotronics has, for many years, been developing its proven Battery Management Programmes, working with fleet managers and their staff, to identify more efficient and pro-activeways to advance and maintain battery performance within their fleets. It is heartening to see that there are significant national improvements being made due to the success of these programmes.

A battery management programme ensures that:

Return-on-investment can be proved and each workshop will have the expertise and knowledge to maximise fault diagnosis, increase productivity and customer service

A full auditable record is available to monitor and track a fleet’s battery performance

Batteries are tested pro-actively, at the point of service and routine inspection

Imbalanced batteries are identified and charged accordingly

Batteries are maintained to optimum levels

Defective batteries are identified and replaced before they affect vehicle reliability

Please contact Rotronics now to discuss ROBIS. For more information on Rotronics and the battery management programmes, go to and call Ken Clark on 0121 526 8185. You can also email