By Jay Palter | September 23, 2020
Your business depends on your vehicles and their drivers performing at a high level. But maintaining a high level of performance all day, every day, is easier said than done.
Fleet costs per driver continue to increase 5 percent year over year. You might be able to pay for a high-performing fleet right now, but how much longer will that be the case?
The good news is that, with just a few changes to your fleet management practices, you can see measurably better productivity, less downtime, and more cost-effective operations. It doesn’t matter whether you manage a handful of trucks or a nationwide fleet. We have 10 fleet management tips that will work for everyone.
Top Challenges Faced by Fleet Managers
Fleet managers need to tackle many different challenges, and usually, more than one at a time. Some of the greatest challenges include:
Excessive Administrative Tasks
The time spent on the manual administrative tasks that come with fleet management can add up quickly. Fleet managers can sometimes spend all day just trying to keep up with their quoting and invoicing, dispatching workers, and communicating with customers.
Before you know it, the sun is going down and you haven’t even touched your quarterly planning. You need to find a way to get ahead of all this tedious work.
Managing Rising Fuel Costs
Excessive fuel spending can eat into your budget. Even today’s efficient fuel spending might not be good enough in the future. Fuel prices are on a multi-year upward trend.
Fleet managers need a way to optimize vehicle usage so that they’re not sent on unnecessary or redundant trips. This usually boils down to instituting better oversight of vehicle sign-outs and trip logging. But doing that manually would be yet another administrative task to add to your already full plate.
Unexpected Repair Costs
Fuel costs are not the only expense trending upwards. Vehicle maintenance costs are going up too. This is largely due to price increases on commodity parts. If these increased costs are causing you to leave vehicles to sit idle out of service, you might inadvertently damage customer trust if work is canceled due to vehicle shortages.
10 Tips to Solve Your Fleet Management Challenges
You’re not alone. Those are just some of the day-to-day headaches every fleet manager faces. Fortunately, we have some tried-and-true fleet management tips you can follow to make your work simpler and easier:
1. Set Purchasing Requirements
You might be able to find some good deals hopping from one sale to another, but standardizing your vehicle purchases is more cost-effective in the long run. This is easier to do if all purchasing is done by the fleet manager, but many companies allow department heads or different offices to do their own vehicle purchasing.
If possible, require all purchasing to go through one fleet manager. Whether that is possible or not, be sure to publish a checklist of required features for all vehicle purchases that authorized purchasing agents must follow. Those key features likely need to include:
- Available and affordable replacement parts
- Easy vehicle replaceability
- Fuel efficiency below a certain rate
- Load carrying capacity
- A low total cost of ownership (TCO)
- Industry-specific features relevant for your company
Either over- or under-matching a vehicle to your key feature specs can cost your business. Under-matched vehicles may not be able to perform all the work you need them to do and will sit idle in your lot. Over-matcheded vehicles may be able to complete every job, but not cost-effectively.
2. Track Everything
You need to collect good data about how your vehicles, drivers, and mechanics are performing if you want to optimize fleet utilization or make those good, informed purchases in the future. Although there will be metrics specific to your company that you’ll want to keep, there are a few universal metrics every fleet manager should care about:
- Fuel usage: Including fueling dates and locations, fuel type, quantity, and cost.
- Maintenance: Scheduled maintenance and unscheduled repairs. Include data on the work required, maintenance dates, the parts required, the parts’ costs, and labor costs.
- Purchasing and leasing: The contract and warranty details for each vehicle purchased.
- Utilization: Who is signing out vehicles, as well as the time, date, and mileage of their trips. Make sure you record odometer readings.
- Driver licensing: Licensing and certification dates.
- Driver performance: The dates, times, locations, and nature of all accidents. Record which personnel were present and any insurance claim information.
3. Use Driver Checklists
Tip #2 suggests you collect a large amount of data, so for your sanity, look to delegate or automate that data collection as much as possible. You don’t necessarily need to track every vehicle as it comes and goes from your lot. You can instead track key transactions and present required logging checklists to drivers when they sign out and return keys.
You can require drivers to complete an inspection checklist before keys are released or before they can be deposited for return. This not only improves your tracking, but it encourages better accountability. Drivers are responsible for logging their mileage and any damage vehicles receive.
4. Rotate Vehicle Usage
Vehicle distribution shouldn’t be a free-for-all. Some employees will just pick their favorite vehicle. Others will always pick the newest vehicle.
In either case, wear and tear won’t be evenly distributed across your fleet. Some trucks might sit idle, running down their warranties, while others rack up the miles and take up your entire repair budget.
Develop a system to rotate which vehicles are sent out on jobs. Or choose a management technology that can automate rotation for you.
5. Optimize Your Schedules
If vehicle distribution is a free-for-all, your work may not get completed efficiently either. Institute a scheduling system so that staff can reserve essential vehicles for upcoming jobs. You can also use the scheduling system to reserve vehicles for servicing.
6. Do More Preventative Maintenance
Don’t wait until vehicles require major repairs before seeking servicing. Take a proactive approach and spend upfront on preventative maintenance. It is less expensive in the long run to pay for preventative maintenance across an entire fleet than it is to pay for major repairs.
7. Optimize Your Fleet Size
Buying too many vehicles will strain your budget, but having too few prevents your business from performing at its best. Have just enough capacity in your fleet to accommodate unexpected vehicle downtime or increased workloads.
To accomplish this, you could keep a small number of older vehicles on standby, or you could establish a short-notice rental contract with a local rental agency.
8. Optimize Fleet Usage
The larger a fleet gets, the more likely inefficiencies will creep in simply because of how much more activity occurs. Drivers will make unnecessary trips. Employees will try to sneak personal travel into the mix.
Perform periodic audits of your logs looking for unnecessary travel. Communicate any concerns to drivers so they’re aware that you’re monitoring performance.
Also, see if you can make any modifications to your driver checklists or logging that might prevent unnecessary trips from happening in the first place. For example, did two different departments not know they were dispatching an employee for the same job? Have them verify staff assignments before keys are signed out.
9. Have Strong Policies
Documenting clear policies can accomplish much of the communication and enforcement that comes with good fleet management for you. Your policies set clear expectations for drivers and other people in your organization.
Most of the practices explained here can become part of your fleet policy suite. For example, you should document your:
- Vehicle purchasing policy: Essential vehicle features
- Data collection policy: What vehicle data you need collected and how drivers will be held accountable for recording it
- Driver licensing policy: The consequences for drivers allowing a license to expire
- Maintenance schedules: How often drivers should expect you to take vehicles out of circulation for servicing
10. Consider an Automated Fleet Management Solution
An electronic fleet management solution can automate many of the time-consuming manual tasks that take up your day. Using a technology platform for fleet management allows you to refocus your time on more productive tasks, like planning future vehicle purchases, building customer relationships, and developing your strategic plans.
A Little Effort Goes a Long Way
Choosing the right tools can make fleet management simple. Try combining some of the fleet management tips we’ve discussed here with reliable technology to improve how you manage your business’s fleet.
Want to learn more? Check out our fleet management case study today.
Vice President of Marketing