A commercial fleet is a group of vehicles operated by a business in order to carry out vital business tasks. For a delivery company, this is all of their delivery trucks or vans. For a landscaping company, it’s the vehicles that haul their equipment from place to place. In some industries, it can also include ships or planes, but we’ll focus on vehicles like cars, trucks, and vans here.
Any business that includes commercial vehicles needs fleet management at some point. For those new to the fleet industry, this can be overwhelming at first. Even those who have been in this business for some time might need a refresher now and then. We'll explain the basics to help you optimize your fleet management.
One of the best options available for fleet managers today is GPS fleet tracking technology integrated with a fleet management dashboard. This technology lets you monitor where your vehicles are and what they are doing. But today’s technology does so much more than that. Here, we’ll also give you some tips for important features to consider when choosing a fleet management suite. This will help you find the provider that best fits your fleet’s needs. It will also make your job as a fleet manager a whole lot easier.
A Fleet Manager's Responsibilities
Fleet managers are the men and women charged with keeping a fleet running smoothly. To be effective, they typically wear several hats in their daily jobs. From HR to Compliance to Metrics, a fleet manager’s job spans a gamut of responsibilities. To be effective, a manager should be good with people, vehicles, and technology too.
Fleet managers have the power to make or break any fleet business. With proper management techniques and skills, they can save money, improve morale, and help the business run more efficiently. Here are some of the most common concerns a fleet manager must address:
Vehicle Purchasing or Leasing – To be a fleet manager, first, you have to have a fleet. That means purchasing. But the best option isn’t just to go out to your local dealer and buy a bunch of trucks. You’ll need to have a good grasp on the day-to-day needs of your business so you know what type of vehicles will work best. Then, you’ll need to do a good bit of research and negotiating to ensure you are getting the best price on your vehicles.
In addition to the initial purchase of commercial fleet vehicles, there are plenty of other times you’ll need to buy a truck or van. Vehicles will eventually wear out and become less efficient to repair. Or perhaps your fleet is growing or adapting with new types of vehicles. No matter the reason, vehicle purchasing is a large part of fleet management.
- Vehicle Maintenance – Commercial fleet vehicles spend a lot of time on the road. This means a lot of wear and tear. You’ll need to stay on top of normal tasks like oil changes and keeping your tires in good repair. But there are also less common maintenance tasks like roadside assistance and repairs after accidents. A good fleet manager will keep the fleet running well with predictive maintenance. This means fixing or replacing parts before they wear out. A great way to manage a fleet vehicle maintenance program is to install trackers in each vehicle. This way your fleet management software can alert you when maintenance should be done, or when things are beginning to show their age. Staying ahead of routine maintenance means less downtime for your fleet and more time on the road.
- Remarket Used Vehicles – Of course, even the best maintenance program won’t keep your vehicles on the road forever. Eventually, important parts will begin to degrade. Not only that, newer vehicles tend to have better fuel efficiency, leading to savings at the gas pump. Keeping track of the lifecycle of your fleet’s vehicles is an important part of a fleet manager’s job. When you need to upgrade to newer vehicles, you’ll likely sell off the old ones. But even before they are ready for sale, keeping your vehicles clean and in good working order can help with your remarketing efforts. After all, a stained and soiled cab or missing accessories will drop your price when it’s time to sell.
- Fleet Safety – Possibly the most important piece of the puzzle, fleet safety is the responsibility of the fleet manager. This means ensuring fleet vehicles are safe to drive, but also that drivers are properly trained. Today, it also means ensuring your drivers aren’t driving distracted while texting or using phone apps. You’ll want to keep track of your fleet’s safety score and address any problems before they get out of hand. And you’ll need to address accidents when they happen because no fleet manages a perfect driving record for long. The use of GPS fleet tracking technology allows managers to see which drivers are exhibiting dangerous behaviors like speeding or hard braking. This way they can be corrected before an accident occurs. In fact, a good program will allow you to coach drivers in real-time, using a buzzer or other in-cab communication when they are exhibiting risky behavior.
- Driver Retention – In addition to keeping your vehicles on the road, you’ll need to keep your drivers happy. After all, it’s much less expensive to keep good drivers than to constantly hire and train new ones. This means a good fleet manager should also have a bit of human resources focus. A great way of doing this is to implement a safety gamification program. This type of program rewards drivers for safety performance metrics, letting them compete to be the safest in the fleet. This allows you to keep your team happy with rewards they’ll appreciate while motivating them to improve as they go about their day.
- Fuel Management – One of the biggest costs of running a fleet is fuel expenditures. It’s easy to ignore this and let it take care of itself, but you’re wasting a lot of money if you do. Poor maintenance can degrade fuel efficiency, and driving behaviors like speeding have a similar effect. Instead, use a good fleet management program that allows you to maximize miles per gallon. You’ll want to know when trucks are speeding, idling, or driving aggressively. You’ll also want to stay ahead of maintenance to ensure you are getting the best mileage possible for each fill-up. You’re sure to see the difference in your fleet’s budget.
- Monitor Fleet Data and Metrics – Your fleet management software will give you a lot of data about how and where your vehicles are operating. It’s important to keep on top of these valuable metrics to ensure your fleet is performing at peak efficiency. In some cases, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by excessive reports that may or may not be beneficial to your fleet’s management. Big data and analytics are incredibly useful, but only to the extent that they’re understood and applied. Look for a fleet management program that allows you to customize your reports to see only the data you can actually use. And your provider should be available to help you translate all of those reports into actionable information. Then, be sure to continue to monitor your fleet’s metrics and make adjustments when they will benefit your operation.
- Keep up With Compliance Requirements – It seems like every year there are new compliance issues to address. The ELD Mandate and other laws monitored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are crucial to keeping your fleet on the road. You’ll also need to stay on top of state and local regulations for any locations your fleet services. Again, a good fleet management software system can help you stay on top of these important compliance requirements. Most programs can automate reporting and help you stay ahead of requirements. This means you’ll be able to meet standards with minimal fuss. Be sure to keep your fleet management program up to date though, or you may miss changes that are important.
Of course, there are other areas that can fall under a fleet manager’s responsibility. And plenty of fleet management tasks may be industry-specific. As your fleet grows and changes, you’ll also need to adjust to keep up. It’s a good idea to review your overall management program periodically to make sure it’s still meeting your needs. Get input from other key leaders in your business to make sure your fleet is performing well across the board.
Fleet managers have a lot on their plates. And anything that can help lighten the load is a good investment. As you can see, many of these responsibilities are made easier through technology. With today’s fleet management software and GPS tracking technology, fleet managers are more connected to drivers than ever before. This is why it’s crucial to choose the right technology partner to ensure your fleet management tasks run as smoothly as possible.