The role of fleet manager is one of the most challenging and important in a fleet company. But for something so important, there isn’t exactly a set way to manage a fleet of vehicles. For some fleet companies, there might not even be a manual to reference or tools to leverage. And for most, being a good fleet manager is dependent on training and experience. If those around you and those before you didn’t know how to effectively manage a fleet, how will you? Reading this article is a great way to start learning how to improve fleet management.
Below, we’ll cover several challenges and solutions in fleet management. Whether you’ve had years of experience or are new to managing a fleet, you’re sure to find useful tips here.
Challenges Faced by Fleet Managers
One of the largest challenges of the role of fleet manager is also the most obvious. That is the enormity of the job. Not only are you in charge of reducing costs, but you also must:
- Reduce liability to the fleet
- Acquire and retire fleet vehicles
- Ensure proper maintenance of all vehicles
- Ensure the safety of fleet drivers
- Plan driver routes
- Ensure deliveries are timely
- Lower fuel consumption
- Decrease idle time
- Track assets
- Prevent thefts
- Ensure the fleet maintains compliance with federal, state, and local regulations
It’s a large job, and because of that, it’s hard to ensure all functions of the fleet are running optimally. But the complexity of this job isn’t the only challenge you face. Let’s cover these challenges before we can get into the solutions.
Unlike managers in most industries, you’re not able to keep an eye on your employees all day. You’re not able to ensure they’re meeting their obligations or that they aren’t abusing their tools. Fleet drivers are on the road all day, possibly even across the country for days or weeks at a time. For years, your only insight was to call them to ensure they were on time for delivery. If there was an accident or a vehicle breakdown, you relied on their phone call to let you know. If there was an asset stolen from storage, you may not have known for months. If your fleet company isn’t updated with the latest tools and technologies, you may still be blind.
Inefficient Route Planning
For many fleets, planning a route is as complex as plugging the address into your phone’s GPS. This may work for long-haul drivers with the advancements in GPS today. However, this isn’t the most efficient way to route, especially for local drivers. For fleet drivers that deliver within a local area, such as Amazon drivers, you need a better solution. We’ll cover the reasons why you should consider route optimization below.
Driver Safety & Risk Mitigation
Reducing liability in any company is a challenge. But for fleets, it’s particularly important. Thousands of drivers die on the road each year. There were over 37,100 fatalities in 2017, according to the Department of Transportation. Speeding, distracted driving, and drugs and alcohol were leading causes of these accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were 4,440 fleet trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2016. A single fleet vehicle accident costs a fleet company an average of $74,000. These costs are much higher if there is an injury or fatality. You may also risk your CSA score, reputation, and customer satisfaction. This also ties into visibility. You can’t always know what your drivers are doing on the road. Their driving behavior could cost your company thousands of dollars and damage the company’s reputation.
There are a lot of ways fleets lose money. In addition to the cost of accidents, fleet managers must contend with expenses from:
- Fuel consumption
- Repairs and maintenance
- Compliance penalties
- Customer loss and acquisition
- Driver loss, acquisition, and training
It may be shocking, but 60% of a fleet's budget goes to fueling fleet vehicles. Thefts can cost you thousands, and you’ll likely never see those assets again. Only 20% of fleet assets are ever recovered by authorities. Repairs are always going to be a costly issue for fleets. However, there are certain behaviors that raise these costs and frequency of service. These risky behaviors include excessive idling, speeding and aggressive maneuvers, and underutilization.
How to Improve Fleet Management with Telematics
Telematics is the solution to nearly every problem your fleet faces. Telematics rose in the 70s as a way to create vehicle reports for manufacturing. Since then, advancements to the technology have made it widely appealing to fleets. There is even growth in the private sector with insurance telematics. As technology improves, there are more options for fleets. The solutions and benefits they receive are more comprehensive. But telematics today solves many fleet management issues. Take a look below to see how.
We previously discussed that the leading challenge is the enormity of the job. Fleet management is, indeed, a truly difficult and complex field. Fortunately, there are tools and software today that alleviate some of the burdens.Don’t get caught in the web of using too many systems. While there are plenty of tools, using multiple systems makes things more complicated. You may also run into the issue of system confusion. When systems are separate, they likely don’t talk to each other. In other words, even with many high tech tools, you still may not be optimizing your fleet management.
Telematics offers systems for most tasks of fleet management, including:
- Route optimization
- Driver behavior tracking and trending
- Vehicle diagnostics
- Maintenance scheduling and alerts
- Theft prevention and recovery with GPS and geofencing
- Idle time reports
- Fuel consumption monitoring
- Fuel card integration
- Delivery alerts
- Emergency/ accident alerts
- Hours of Service logging
Visibility is an enormous challenge for fleets. As mentioned, you cannot keep an eye on your drivers the same way managers in other industries can. Fleet telematics aims to solve this with its many systems. GPS tracking gives you insight into where your vehicles and assets are at all times. Geofencing allows you to see how long a vehicle idles in one area. It also alerts you of incoming deliveries and outgoing assets. This may even help with theft prevention. You’re able to set alerts for specific locations with a geofence. This way, if an asset isn’t where it belongs, you’ll be alerted to the potential theft.
Telematics also provides real-time reports on vehicle diagnostics and driver behavior. If a driver is speeding, braking hard, or swerving, you’ll know. This can help you devise better training tailored to each driver. It’s a vital measure for reducing liability and costs to your fleet, as well as ensuring driver safety.
Inefficient routes increase your fuel consumption and cause possible delivery or service delays. Drivers may get stuck in traffic or be forced to detour due to construction. Local fleet drivers may bounce back and forth to fulfill deliveries or service requests. A service company may try to plan appointments ahead of time, along with routes. However, you may get cancelations or new requests for same-day service which can’t be accounted for in advance.
Telematics allows you to ensure drivers take the shortest, safest route. They’ll use less fuel and arrive on time, if not earlier. It also helps your fleet tackle more in a day, which means you can provide service to more customers. In other words, route optimization helps you grow your fleet business.
Telematics increase safety for your drivers and your fleet in several ways. The first is with driver behavior reports. As mentioned, the behaviors most contributing to road accidents are speeding and distractions. Telematics allows you to see when drivers are speeding, braking and cornering hard. With this insight, you can adjust training and reprimand noncompliant drivers. You’re also able to incentivize drivers to improve or maintain good driving records.
In addition to behavior reports, you also get alerts for accidents and breakdowns. If your driver is stuck on the side of the road in a snowstorm, GPS will tell you exactly where they are. Instead of leaving them to their own devices, you can send help to their exact location. If they are in an accident, you’ll receive an alert. You can check on your driver, send emergency crews, and inform your customer of a delay.
One of the greatest pressures on a fleet manager is to stay on budget. It’s no easy task. However, telematics can help with nearly every function it provides.
With vehicle diagnostics and behavior tracking, you can reduce accidents and repair costs. With maintenance scheduling, you can focus on preventative maintenance and reduce costly repairs and vehicle downtime. Route optimization lowers fuel consumption and helps you grow your business. Hours of service logging helps you avoid penalties for ELD mandate noncompliance. Geofencing helps alert you to thefts and unauthorized use, then GPS helps you recover missing assets. On it goes, until you see that the entire telematics systems work to save you money.
Telematics is one of the greatest tools for any fleet manager. Learn more about fleet telematics and how it can benefit your company, at Azuga.