U.K. fleet managers face many challenges. From rising fuel costs to shrinking budgets to new emissions standards complicating how you deploy older vehicles, some new challenge is always cropping up.
As U.K. fleets have grown larger in the past decade—growing 42 percent by some recent estimates—the type of control fleet managers seek has gotten much smaller and more refined. They are looking for customized management and tracking capabilities for individual drivers and vehicles.
Whether you’re running a nationwide fleet or a regional business that happens to have a small motor pool, every fleet manager is looking for new ways to streamline how they handle these problems. Vehicle asset tracking can help.
What is a vehicle asset tracking system?
Vehicle tracking systems—sometimes called fleet management systems—automate many management and security tasks that take up a fleet manager’s day. They can oversee vehicle transactions and scheduling. They can gather useful data for budget planning and standards compliance reporting.
Vehicle asset tracking systems are not just for cars and trucks. They help you track any motor vehicle pool, such as buses for public transit authorities or motorized equipment for construction companies. You can even track the usage of warehouse forklifts.
How does vehicle asset tracking work?
These systems operate by tagging and tracking a particular asset. Depending on specific business needs, that asset might be the vehicle itself, the ignition keys, or both.
Telematics units track vehicles themselves. These units provide live information from the field by collecting GPS and usage data about the vehicle that is transmitted over mobile networks back to the office.
Telematics units typically transmit GPS coordinates, mileage, driver behavior, and maintenance codes. These systems provide a wealth of information but usually carry high up-front and ongoing costs.
Key tracking is a cost-effective alternative to telematics for fleet management. These systems log transaction, driver, and vehicle data when the driver transacts keys from a secure key cabinet. Asset tracking tags are attached to key rings to verify the correct keys are taken or returned.
Access controls verify user identity during key transactions. The integrated computer system can present drivers with checklists you customize. You can prompt drivers to record vehicle damage and maintenance issues. You can have them log planned destinations in advance for added accountability of company vehicles.
For organizations looking for comprehensive fleet data, key tracking systems can also work alongside telematics systems to generate an even more detailed understanding of how your vehicles are used.
How does smart fleet management improve vehicle and driver performance?
No matter which method you use for vehicle asset tracking, a fleet management system will make your fleet operations more efficient and effective.
An automated fleet management system can handle many time-consuming tasks. A key tracking system can securely handle key sign-outs and returns. Fleet managers don’t need to be present to confirm that drivers take the correct keys and fully document their vehicle use.
Since tracking is entirely computerized, human error can’t bog down your process. The system can send fleet managers alerts if keys are overdue. It can send mechanics text or email notifications every time drivers report an issue. If a driver reports a severe issue, the key cabinet can lock down that vehicle’s key so another driver doesn’t accidentally sign it out.
Effective Fleet Usage
Data a fleet management system collects will reveal how effectively your drivers use your motor pool day-to-day. Analyzing this data can provide answers to many questions you’ve only been able to guess at.
For example, do drivers prefer to pick just a handful of the newest vehicles? Is one particular model always out for maintenance at an increased rate? Understanding how vehicles accumulate wear and tear will inform how you set vehicle rotation schedules and future purchasing decisions.
Optimized Fleet Budgets
That collected data also offers insights on fleet usage that can support longer-term planning. Data collected over time reveals how fleets are under- or overutilized. These types of insights can inform future vehicle and maintenance budgets.
You will be able to see whether your fleet can be downsized without impacting performance. Rightsizing your vehicle fleet can lead to considerable savings. Some businesses who’ve used data from vehicle asset tracking systems in this way have been able to reduce costs by 28 percent.
What should you look for in a vehicle asset tracking solution?
There are some main features you will want to evaluate in every vehicle asset tracking system you consider for your organization. Investigate whether each is implemented in a way that meets your organization’s specific needs.
Real-Time Vehicle Transaction Monitoring
Look for a tracking system capable of managing vehicle transactions in real time. Tracking systems capable of delivering live business intelligence the instant drivers sign out keys help you make smarter decisions about your fleet.
Vehicle Reservation Management
Live scheduling tools allow drivers to make self-serve reservations for specific vehicles that they need for critical jobs. A dashboard view that is updated in real time gives the fleet manager up-to-the-second insight into how their fleet will be used in the coming weeks. They can strategically reorganize how vehicles are assigned without needing to waste time micromanaging individual driver reservation requests.
Automated fleet management systems are designed to operate mostly unattended. They can manage routine tasks, such as key transactions, on their own, but they need a way to notify someone when staff must take action.
Compare the notification options each system offers for:
- License and certification expirations
- Irregular key and vehicle transactions
- Late key returns
- Maintenance and damage alerts
Reporting tools help you track fleet performance over time. They are also useful for demonstrating compliance with the latest fuel usage and emissions standards.
While you’ll want to find a fleet management system that allows you to customize reports to track key metrics specific to your organization, there are some universal metrics every organization will care about:
- Financials - Information on and critical dates for the contract and warranty of each vehicle
- Fuel Usage - Logged fueling dates, quantities, fuel types, and costs
- Maintenance Records - Scheduled maintenance and unscheduled repair dates, costs, and the labor involved
- Driver Information - Licensing and certification expiration dates, logged accidents, and insurance claim information
- Transaction Records - The staff members signing vehicles in and out, late key returns, logged destinations, and odometer readings
The fleet management system you choose should include these tools and all of the custom reporting tools you need to monitor your internal metrics. Tracking vehicles this way over their entire lifecycle with your company will help keep their total cost of ownership low.
Look for fleet management systems that can trigger workflows associated with vehicle care. For example, you can require drivers to complete a vehicle inspection before the system releases vehicle keys or allows them to be returned. If a driver logs a maintenance problem at return, the system can trigger a maintenance request to mechanics that includes vehicle information, driver notes, and vehicle key location.
Vehicle asset tracking systems are powerful on their own but are much more useful if you can integrate them with other management and security platforms. Most businesses already use something called directory services in their IT user management systems. Keep user management centralized, and look for a vehicle tracking system that can integrate with directory services to manage drivers, mechanics, and other users who work with your vehicles.
Integrating with key and asset management systems can also streamline how your business operates. Using one unified key management system for fleet keys and all other business keys will make access control for your entire organization much more straightforward.
No two fleets need precisely the same management features. Don’t look for a fleet management vendor that will sell you a prebuilt system. It would be best to find an actual business partner that will tailor a fleet management solution to the unique way your organization runs.
That will likely entail both hardware and software customization and include customized reports and workflow checklists to support some of the processes outlined above. Facility space can be tight, so look for systems with modular key control cabinets that can fit the footprint you have to work with.
Customer Service and Support
Again, you want to find an actual business partner. Fleet management systems are complex technology. Everything from emissions standards to corporate workflows to vehicle types will change in the future. You need a partner that will be able to help update your customized hardware and software as your business grows and those standards evolve.
Want to learn more about how vehicle asset tracking makes life easier?
Fleet management is a complicated job that can be simplified using an effective vehicle asset tracking solution. The right technology can streamline all aspects of fleet management. It can handle day-to-day tasks so you can focus on higher-level planning to help your business grow.
Ready to learn more about fleet and key management? Check out our Best Practices for Physical Key Management guide.
About the Author
Shannon Arnold is the VP of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Real Time Networks.