In many lines of business, fleets grow along with the business itself. If you started out with one vehicle, things were pretty easy, but the more vehicles you have, the more important smart fleet management becomes. Vehicles maintenance costs multiply along with the number of vehicles you run as does the cost of fuel and insurance.
With every broken-down vehicle costing you time, effort, and potential damage to your business’s reputation, it pays to be proactive. A few fleet management basics can go a long way towards saving you money, so let’s cut to the chase!
Let’s begin with one of the more stressful areas a fleet owner has to deal with: breakdowns. While fleet breakdown cover is essential for peace of mind, it pays to do everything in your power to prevent breakdowns altogether. While it’s relatively easy to monitor one vehicle, monitoring a fleet the old-fashioned way is much trickier.
At this point in your business’s growth, it’s time to consider whether you’ll appoint a reliable fleet manager to track vehicle-related data or whether you’ll automate the process with fleet management software. Although breakdowns sometimes come as a surprise, they can often be prevented through regular maintenance and by looking out for warning signs like higher-than-usual oil use, for example.
2. Driver Skills.
Most of us know that a professional driver needs good driving skills, but there are many personal qualities that are important for the job and that will help you in the management of your fleet. A professional driver needs to be honest, reliable, responsible, and a good communicator, letting you know if there’s anything amiss with the vehicle he or she drives and well-able to represent your business to its customers. When drivers report issues, do take them seriously and take action. If you fail to do so, you could be responsible for costly breakdowns at best, and road accidents at worst.
Things go a lot more smoothly when people know what they should be doing and have checklists to follow and report on. Inspecting vehicles before they leave the yard, and on their return, is a fleet management basic that can’t be overlooked. Compile checklists to be completed before vehicles set out and when they return. The driver should not be responsible for completing post-trip checklists, since any faults picked up after the fact could turn into a “my word against yours” situation.
Likewise you may want to track fuel expenses. Fuel cards allow you to track fuel consumption patterns, although you may want to check a site on fuel card comparison to find one that best meets your fleet’s needs.
Drivers should also work under a clearly-defined code of conduct that ensures professionalism and that leaves no doubt as to what they are required, permitted (and not permitted) to do. Job descriptions should outline their duties in detail, and regular performance reviews should include an evaluation of measurables related to their driving performance even if this is not their primary duty (for example, in the case of reps.)
4. Careful Tracking of Vehicle-Related Data.
A company vehicle being involved in an accident is bad enough – it’s worse if you discover that insurance policies have lapsed. Traffic fines are unnecessary too, and if licenses are expired or vehicles aren’t properly roadworthy, your company is squarely to blame. It’s one more aspect that a good fleet management software package will do for you, and although this article isn’t intended to “sell” such a package, its use is recommended.
Weigh the Costs and Benefits of Outsourcing.
A fleet of heavy vehicles is extremely expensive to run, and unless you’re in the transport business, looking into outsourcing possibilities could be profitable. Apart from contracting professional transport companies, businesses with longer-haul routes to travel could also look at partnering with businesses that have “empty” runs – provided they’re willing to take the responsibility seriously.
Other factors to weigh include buying versus leasing or hiring vehicles, although the latter is usually a costly option that is only viable when vehicles are only occasionally needed. Meanwhile, this brief introduction to an intricate management field will provide food for thought for beginner fleet owners.