Delivery services can make or break a small business. If they’re too slow, customer satisfaction plummets, no matter how great the service or product they offer really is. To stay competitive, a delivery fleet needs to closely examine its efficiency.
Efficiency can be measured in a variety of ways beyond how fast your drivers get to each stop on their route. For instance, better fuel efficiency can help your bottom line, and managers who cut down on their workload will free up more time to make the crucial decisions about how to operate a delivery fleet on a day-to-day basis, as well as five years down the road.
With that in mind, here are some ways you can increase your delivery fleet efficiency.
Benchmark your current efficiency.
You can’t track your progress until you know how efficient you were to begin with. Start combing through your data to figure out your current stats. Then, once you’ve worked towards increasing efficiency in a variety of ways, you can check back in with your stats to see if they have improved. While every delivery fleet needs to come up with the exact numbers that make sense for its coverage area and operating budget, here are a few significant areas to get data on:
Service time — How many stops can each driver make in a day? In an hour? Which drivers are fastest, and how does their process differ from others? Which geographic locations are fastest, and at what time of day?
Capacity utilization — How close to capacity are the vehicles? The KeepTruckin blog suggests dividing the delivery load by the vehicle’s total capacity to find the percentage that shows how much capacity is being used.
Cost per mile — How much do all your costs, fixed or variable, add up to on a per-mile basis? Add up your taxes, fuel, insurance, and repair costs, before dividing them by total miles driven over the length of time it takes to pay those costs in full.
Unless you’re tracking key data points like these ones, it’ll be easy to miss the hidden costs behind your day-to-day efforts. But once you’re armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to boost your efficiency.
Increase daily stops.
When drivers make more stops during their route, they’ll spend less time driving back to their operations hub while keeping more customers satisfied. Increasing daily stops can also cut down on vehicle idling times, in order to save money on fuel as well as make faster trips.
The right fleet management system (FMS) will let fleet managers see all their vehicles in real-time, and can let them easily assign drivers to the jobs nearest them. Many can automatically suggest the vehicle that’s the closest and can estimate driving times based on traffic or weather conditions. Drivers, meanwhile, can use the accompanying FMS app to quickly accept the new job and get GPS-based instructions to help them find the stop.
You’ll want to vet any fleet management vendors you’re considering in order to ensure they include the trip-optimizing features you need; look at reviews to learn more about how each FMS’s dispatch and routing functionality works. Some form of this feature is considered standard, and big names like Verizon Connect Reveal, Samsara, or Teletrac Navman all offer it with a granular functionality.
Stay ELD compliant.
The US government’s ELD mandate states that all commercial vehicles need to stay in compliance with electronic logging device regulations. A few exceptions apply: tow trucks and any short-haul exceptions aren’t affected. But without the right service, all other drivers will fail their next roadside inspection. Their vehicle will be out of service for 10 hours, or for 8 hours if it’s a passenger carrier.
You can opt for a service that just keeps your fleet compliant, or you can pick a more expensive fleet management service that bundles ELD compliance in with a host of additional features. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees this law, and their website offers a searchable list of the services that support ELD compliance.
Limit unauthorized use.
If you look beyond your delivery service’s daily operations, you’ll find another unexpected drain on your operation’s time: unauthorized use of company resources. Employees might take their delivery vehicles on personal errands in between jobs, taking up company time while adding wear and tear to the vehicle itself. Needless to say, this waste of time can easily go unnoticed but adds up to a far less efficient operation overall.
A vehicle tracking system can keep tabs on the vehicles in your fleet, and the same features are often included in a full FMS as well. And, if your operation has any high-value assets aside from delivery vehicles, you’ll likely be able to include them.
A manager’s work is never done, but it can certainly move a lot faster. A great starting point for streamlining your routine chores is to automate them when possible. You may want to look into a service that can collect data from your fleet and generate reports covering drivers, vehicles, revenue, repairs, fuel, and more. This is likely another reason to invest in an FMS.
In addition to saving time when reviewing the day’s work, going paperless will help managers better identify trends in the available data. Perhaps they’ll catch preventative maintenance needs or customer service concerns earlier.
Consider incentive programs.
Give drivers another reason to care about their efficiency with an incentive program. You can rank drivers by their timeliness and customer satisfaction. You might not want to include a leaderboard in the break room (as it might highlight the worst performers rather than the best and lower morale), but a weekly shout-out for the top performers is an easy way to stay positive.
Their reward could be anything from an employee of the month plaque to a pack of donuts to a cash bonus — just make sure it’s something your employees will value and appreciate. Software programs and paperless routines are all great ways to increase your fleet’s efficiency, but you can’t put a price on happy, enthusiastic delivery drivers.