The need for fleet vehicles among companies, especially in recent years, has grown more and more. Consequently, so too has the necessity for proper methods of how to manage those fleets.
If it’s the case that your business has newly developed a small fleet in order to expand activity then it’s worth informing yourself on the essentials of fleet management. The benefits of doing so and putting it all into practice will work to improve your venture in a number of ways. Likewise, fleet management done poorly can result in large-scale adverse effects. It’s for this reason we’ve put together our guide for small fleet management, comprising all the important details to get you started.
The Concept of Small Fleet Management
Expanding a small business can get overwhelming very quickly, especially when you take on a whole new set of responsibilities such as those that come with a small fleet. Whether your vehicles are for trucking, delivery, commercial, or transport purposes, the managerial principles remain the same.
From a business standpoint, small fleet management encompasses overseeing and handling the people, costs, and assets which embody the service you provide so that your business and its stakeholders are secure. As it isn’t feasible to put these duties onto business owners, what’s known as a fleet manager supervises the tasks to create organisational integrity.
What can Fleet Managers do for Small Businesses?
Having someone to manage your small fleet doesn’t just relieve you from a number of responsibilities, it can actually promote certain beneficial changes within your business. Fundamentally, fleet managers aim to reduce operating costs while improving overall revenue. In turn, this further manifests itself as lucrative business opportunities that help stimulate your expansion and strengthen your position in the industry. Any initial cost becomes severely outweighed in this perspective and is achieved through several actions.
If your company currently has a small fleet then there’s a good chance you’ll want to see it grow in the future. The only way to do this is to increase the amount of vehicles within it. One of the fleet managers’ primary jobs is to make these purchases while keeping in mind what vehicle type is suited to the fleet alongside the necessary quantity.
Followingly, a fleet manager must likewise decide on how best to fund vehicle acquisitions. There are two options, a company can either buy vehicles outright or choose to lease them. If vehicles are being leased then it’s natural to consider if the rates are good, relative to other market offers. For outright purchases, vehicle depreciation should be taken into account so as to avoid future financial losses.
Vehicle and Cargo Tracking
It’s vital to fleet managers that they know where their vehicles are at all times. This means being able to see ETAs for destinations, when they’ve arrived, and when they’ve departed. Such information is useful because it allows the manager to adjust delivery schedules and coordinate drivers in real-time for maximised fleet efficiency. Tracking also provides salient feedback on driver behaviour regarding speed and fuel usage.
In addition, a concern for businesses that hold cargo is that there’s the possibility of being targeted for theft. It may be a surprise that trailers on their own are often valued by thieves, and this is even more so when cargo is attached to them. Tracking implemented as a security measure eliminates the worry of not knowing the whereabouts of your trailers and cargo if they are stolen, giving you the ability to alert the police and have them returned as soon as possible.
It’s an essential practice that all the vehicles within a fleet are well maintained. This includes both carrying out preventive maintenance as well as repairs when they are needed. Maintenance may involve tire and brake checks, oil changes, and regular servicing.
If the fleet manager is informed on vehicle issues early on then it can significantly reduce the chances of more costly problems, such as breakdowns and failures. Routine inspections are a great way of averting downtime caused by this. In the case that these instances occur, however, then it’s the duty of the fleet manager to see that the vehicle gets the roadside assistance it requires.
As much as the fleet manager is responsible for the vehicles, so too are they for the drivers. It’s obviously paramount that accidents on the road are avoided. Increased driver safety will not only ensure that drivers are at no risk, it will also reduce company liability costs and insurance premiums.
Managers of small fleets can enhance the safety of their drivers by introducing training geared towards teaching safe driving behaviours. They can enforce these behaviours by monitoring acceleration rates and dangerous braking speeds, subsequently informing drivers to adjust themselves accordingly. This point is likewise tied in with proper vehicle maintenance, i.e., making sure that the fleet vehicles are safe to drive.
Aside from the fleet itself, keeping accurate records pertaining to it is a highly important part of administration. This regards the maintenance history of each vehicle, its mileage, routes taken, and any damage that it has sustained in the past.
Not only is this data needed for tax and insurance reasons, it is needed to inform certain actions that might have to be taken. For instance, if the fleet manager has a backlog of tasks that are to be completed then a database will serve to remind them to schedule services and repairs etc.
Fleet Analysis & Optimisation
On the back of record keeping, it’s essential that fleet managers analyse such records and data. Route optimisation is key to having an efficient fleet. Being able to see the fuel usage of specific routes, as compared with others, will allow the fleet manager to prospectively plan the best courses to take.
It may be that there are areas with usually heavy traffic along the way of a certain route. Knowing this ahead of time and adjusting the route appropriately will lower fleet idle times and, as a result, decrease fuel consumption as well as improve completion times.
Benefits for Small Fleets
Allocating a substantial deal of attention to fleet management will heighten the quality of your company in the long-run. If the fleet manager justly addresses all of their inherent responsibilities then there are a series of benefits that will directly follow.
It’s easy to see that if your fleet functions well and always delivers on-time with minimal delay then your customers will be satisfied with your service. This is perhaps the most significant, business-wise, benefit that will come from proper fleet management.
Customers that are happy with your service are, naturally, very likely to return to you. In this way, fleet management is actually very useful for establishing and maintaining long-term business relations with other companies. The health of your fleet plays a key role in determining the success of your business against competitors.
Ensuring that your fleet is compliant with on-road regulations is a practice that helps to avoid any fines being issued. This benefit comes from record keeping and the organisation of those records. If you have all the relevant information for your vehicles then it expedites the process of filling in necessary paperwork relating to them and their suitability for driving. Compliance is integral because it affects the functionality of the whole fleet. Lack of compliance will noticeably halt business activity.
Efficiency in the context of fleet management for small fleets concerns both the time it takes for drivers to get to their destination and how much fuel is used in the process. Fleet efficiency is a factor that is affected by every aspect of fleet management.
For instance, if your fleet experiences delays either because of breakdowns due to vehicle maintenance neglect or poor driving behaviour, or meets with avoidable traffic down to a lack of route planning, then it isn’t optimised. Likewise, an unnecessary amount of fuel expenditure and idling clearly indicates that best fleet management practices are not in place.
If such practices that maximise productivity and profitability are in place then this will have a direct influence on how well the company itself is doing in these areas. Proper fleet management will save money while simultaneously generating more revenue by way of stronger business relations and the reduction of fines.
As we’ve already glossed over, it’s part of the fleet manager’s job to make sure that each vehicle is safe to be on the road and that the drivers are handling them correspondingly. The way in which all of the above improves safety is because it is intrinsic that all vehicles are evaluated regularly and that any problems are taken care of before new journeys are started.
Driver safety is further increased as a result of suitable route planning and tracking. That is, by how fleet managers can see for how long drivers have been on the road. Evidently, driving for too long can cause drowsiness and lead to accidents, it’s therefore important to prevent these occurrences by notifying drivers of if they are exceeding uptime.
Thank you for taking the time to read our guide. We hope that it has fully informed you on how to best manage your small fleet, alongside the benefits of doing so. Fleet management isn’t easy, nor is growing your fleet. That’s why over at MICHELIN Connected Fleet we are dedicated to helping fleet managers with everything they require to succeed. If you’d like to see how we could make your company’s life easier today then feel free to make an enquiry.