What is Reactive Maintenance in Fleet: Pros and Cons

In the world of fleet maintenance, there are three approaches that fleet managers and owners can take: preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, and reactive maintenance.

While both go hand in hand with a set of advantages and disadvantages, studies reveal that predictive and preventive maintenance methods are much more efficient when compared to reactive maintenance.

For instance, research shows that predictive maintenance is 40% more cost-effective than reactive maintenance.

In the following sections, we explain in detail what reactive maintenance means, how it can be useful for your fleet, but also how it can negatively influence your performance.

What is reactive maintenance?

Let’s start with a reactive maintenance definition and lay out the basics.

As the name suggests, reactive maintenance represents the most basic type of maintenance – one where fleet managers and owners simply react to issues after they’ve appeared.

In other words, if you have a reactive approach to fleet maintenance, all of your maintenance activities will be inspired by vehicle malfunctions, downtime, and failure.

Instead of pre-scheduled maintenance based on mileage or PM intervals, repairs are carried out as needed when a problem occurs or is detected during vehicle operation.

This approach often involves addressing immediate concerns to get vehicles back on the road quickly, but it can lead to higher costs, increased downtime, and potential safety risks if issues are not addressed promptly.

Reactive maintenance workflow

While reactive maintenance may not require the extensive planning of proactive approaches, a touch of organization can still make a world of difference.

Managing timely repairs in response to breakdowns or work requests is no small feat. Establishing a structured plan for assigning, resolving, and monitoring maintenance tasks is crucial.

Implementing a streamlined work order process can be a game-changer in this case.

It helps clarify responsibilities and streamlines communication when breakdowns occur. By swiftly addressing repairs, you minimize downtime and mitigate potential losses to your business’s bottom line.

Advantages and disadvantages of reactive maintenance

While most associate reactive maintenance with a plethora of negative effects, there are both pros and cons related to this approach.

Here are the factors you need to consider.


Reactive fleet maintenance, despite its inherent challenges, does offer certain advantages in specific scenarios:

Immediate response to issues

Reactive maintenance allows fleet managers to address problems as they arise, providing an immediate response to vehicle breakdowns or malfunctions.

When a vehicle unexpectedly requires maintenance, fleet managers can quickly dispatch repair teams or schedule service appointments to resolve the issue promptly.

This rapid response can help minimize downtime and keep vehicles operational, preventing disruptions to business operations.

Flexibility and adaptability

Reactive maintenance offers flexibility in resource allocation, allowing you to allocate resources based on real-time needs rather than predetermined schedules.

This adaptability is particularly beneficial in dynamic environments where maintenance requirements may vary unpredictably due to factors such as vehicle usage, operating conditions, and environmental factors.

Lower initial costs

For fleets with low vehicle utilization or limited resources, reactive maintenance can be a cost-effective option.

It requires fewer upfront investments in infrastructure, technology, and personnel compared to proactive maintenance programs.

Instead of investing in proactive maintenance programs that may not be fully utilized, fleet managers can prioritize reactive maintenance to address critical issues as they occur, optimize resource allocation, and minimize unnecessary expenses.


The simplicity of reactive maintenance makes it more accessible and manageable, especially for small fleets with limited resources or expertise in maintenance management.

Small fleet operators can focus on addressing immediate maintenance needs without the complexity of implementing proactive maintenance strategies.

While reactive fleet maintenance offers these benefits, it’s important to recognize its limitations and potential drawbacks.


There are serious disadvantages of reactive maintenance that must be addressed before implementing this strategy for fleet maintenance.

Increased downtime

One of the most significant drawbacks of reactive maintenance is increased downtime.

When a vehicle breaks down unexpectedly, it may take time to diagnose the problem, order necessary parts, and schedule repairs.

During this downtime, the vehicle is out of service, impacting productivity, delaying deliveries, and potentially leading to customer dissatisfaction.

Additionally, extended downtime can result in lost revenue opportunities for the fleet.

Higher long-term expenditure

Reactive maintenance often leads to higher repair costs compared to proactive maintenance.

Emergency repairs can be more expensive due to rush orders for parts, overtime labor costs, and the need for immediate response services.

Without the ability to plan and schedule maintenance tasks in advance, fleet managers may also miss opportunities to negotiate better pricing for parts and services.

Unplanned budgetary impact

In addition, reactive fleet maintenance can result in unpredictable budgetary impacts.

Since repairs are performed on an ad hoc basis, management may struggle to anticipate and allocate sufficient funds for maintenance expenses.

This can ultimately strain the fleet budget, leading to financial uncertainty and potentially affecting other operational priorities.

Reduced vehicle reliability

Vehicles that undergo reactive maintenance may experience reduced reliability over time.

Without regular preventive maintenance, minor issues can escalate into major problems, leading to more frequent breakdowns and service disruptions.

This can erode customer confidence, tarnish the fleet’s reputation, and increase operational risks.

Safety challenges

This approach to maintenance may compromise vehicle safety if critical issues are not addressed promptly.

Failure to address maintenance issues in a timely manner can increase the risk of accidents, breakdowns, and vehicle malfunctions, posing safety hazards to drivers, passengers, and other road users.

Neglecting proactive maintenance tasks such as brake inspections, tire rotations, and fluid checks can lead to safety-related failures on the road.

Missed opportunities

Finally, reactive maintenance limits the ability of fleet managers to optimize vehicle performance and operational efficiency.

Without proactive monitoring and preventive maintenance, you may miss opportunities to identify trends, address underlying problems, and implement performance improvements.

This can result in suboptimal fleet performance, increased operating costs, and missed opportunities for optimization.

Reactive maintenance types

Different types of reactive maintenance can be selected based on the situation.

Emergency maintenance

When equipment failure poses an immediate threat to safety or operational continuity, emergency maintenance springs into action.

This rapid-response approach prioritizes personnel safety, minimizes downtime, and prevents further asset damage.

Think of it as the first responder of maintenance strategies, swooping in to save the day when urgency is paramount.

Corrective maintenance

When performance issues arise, but immediate action isn’t required, corrective maintenance steps in.

This proactive approach allows for the planning and scheduling of repairs to mitigate disruptions and prevent total equipment failure.

It’s akin to catching a problem before it escalates into a full-blown crisis, keeping operations running smoothly.

Failure maintenance

Not all equipment breakdowns demand instant attention.

Failure maintenance steps in to address malfunctions, whether urgent or not, ensuring that equipment is swiftly brought back into working order.

Sometimes, you might even plan for failure maintenance in advance, using data to anticipate potential issues based on an asset’s performance and lifecycle.

It’s like having a contingency plan in place for when things don’t go according to plan.

Fault maintenance

Fault maintenance entails pinpointing the root cause of equipment faults or malfunctions and implementing the required repairs or replacements.

It’s considered reactive because it responds to faults after they occur, rather than proactively preventing them.

Deferred corrective maintenance

Sometimes, acknowledging a problem doesn’t necessarily mean immediate action is needed.

Deferred corrective maintenance involves recognizing an issue and scheduling maintenance for a later date.

This approach might be employed for non-critical components or due to resource limitations.

It’s all about prioritizing and allocating resources effectively, ensuring that critical needs are addressed without overextending resources on less urgent matters.

Reactive maintenance vs proactive maintenance

Now that you’re familiar with the basics of reactive maintenance, you may be wondering: How do reactive and proactive maintenance programs differ, and is one preferable to the other?

Reactive maintenance kicks in only after an issue or breakdown arises. It’s a no-frills approach, dealing with problems as they come without much planning or scheduling. While it keeps things simple and inexpensive in the short term, it doesn’t do much to prevent breakdowns or lost productivity that occurs during repairs.

On the contrary, proactive maintenance strategies (like preventive and predictive maintenance) take a more anticipatory approach. These methods use various cues to trigger maintenance activities aimed at keeping equipment healthy and productive while also preventing issues and breakdowns. Teams employing proactive maintenance rely on data, manufacturer recommendations, and other resources to plan and schedule routine inspections and equipment servicing.

The best strategy for your fleet will ultimately depend on your maintenance practices, available resources, and other key factors.

Examples of reactive fleet maintenance

To help you understand reactive fleet maintenance even better, we offer a few basic examples of what this approach looks like in a real-life setting:

  • Emergency repair – A vehicle in the fleet experiences a sudden breakdown while on the road, requiring immediate attention to diagnose and fix the issue to get the vehicle back in operation swiftly.
  • Tire replacement – One of the fleet vehicles suffers a blowout while driving, necessitating an urgent tire replacement to ensure the safety of the driver and passengers.
  • Brake repair – A driver reports hearing unusual noises when braking, indicating potential brake system issues. Reactive maintenance involves inspecting and repairing the brakes to prevent further damage and ensure safe operation of the vehicle.
  • Engine overhaul – A fleet vehicle experiences engine failure unexpectedly, requiring extensive repairs or even engine replacement to restore functionality and reliability.
  • Electrical system troubleshooting – A vehicle’s electrical system malfunctions, causing issues with lighting, ignition, or other electrical components. Reactive maintenance involves diagnosing the problem and performing repairs to restore electrical functionality.’


These are only a few scenarios of how reactive maintenance works in fleet maintenance.

Wrap up

If you’ve been focusing on reactive maintenance services and are ready to take your fleet to the next level with proactive or predictive maintenance, Fleetpal can help.

Our advanced fleet maintenance solution is designed to equip fleet managers with all essential data and insights for strategic decision making and preventive actions.

Plan instead of reacting and watch your fleet performance skyrocket.

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Mike Valnev