Finding out how to improve your fleet management is one of the most important aspects of operating a transport, haulage or road-based business.
What can smaller companies learn from the tried and tested methods of major logistics operations, hauliers or other large fleet management operations?
Taking the time to review some of the key ways they run efficient operations can help make your small business more profitable and hassle-free.
To help, we’ve highlighted seven tips that will help you to manage your fleet more efficiently, listing them and then explaining them in detail.
Next, we’ll run through them all in detail.
There are four primary vehicle ownership models for fleet businesses — full ownership, rental, grey (drivers who use their own vehicles for work) and a combination of all three.
Each of these approaches has pros and cons. For example, if you rent your fleet then maintenance costs are dealt with by the rental company but you have to pay an ongoing fee for your vehicles. Alternatively, if you own your vehicles there’s no ongoing rental fee but you do have to pay a larger upfront cost and pay for the maintenance.
One of the best ways for you to improve how you manage your fleet is to assess which of these options is right for your business. For instance, it might be that you can partially move to a grey fleet, allowing you to sell some of your vehicles and then pass on the cost of maintenance to your employees.
Route planning is essential to successful fleet management. Every wrong turn your drivers make costs you money and if you don’t have a defined way of managing this then your business could be leaking cash unnecessarily.
A great way of improving your strategy for travel and planning is to install digital route planners in all of your vehicles. This reduces the risk of human error and increases the likelihood of each journey being made in the most efficient way possible.
Fuel economy is one of the biggest headaches for any fleet manager. It’s a delicate balancing act between picking the high-quality fuel and the most cost-efficient brand.
The reason for this is that higher-quality fuel can boost the performance of your vehicles but costs more, while cheaper fuel does less to maintain the vehicle and could mean that your long-term costs (such as engine repairs) are higher.
One of the methods you can use to see if you’re using the right fuel is to trial different options. You could select test vehicles, use different fuel in them, and then assess over a period of time what the best option is for your business.
All your vehicles have an MOT every year, so you know if they’re roadworthy. But this test doesn’t pick up plenty of issues that could affect your vehicle performance, or catch lots of issues before they become a more expensive problem than if they were dealt with earlier.
Scheduling regular services for all of your vehicles does add an extra cost to your business but it’s a sensible long-term investment strategy.
And if you use finance, then regular servicing isn’t simply a strategy, it’s a requirement of the deal you sign up to. This is due to the deeper checks they involve and the desire of your vehicle supplier to ensure your cars, vans and HGVs are well maintained.
Because of these things, it’s not uncommon for people to get their vehicles serviced at the same time as when they take them for an MOT. So, it might be sensible to schedule the two checks to happen at the same time.
You may also consider setting up a vehicle replacement cycle that works in tandem with your services and MOTs. That way your business can prepare for the possibility of having to get new vehicles and have funds accessible to do so.
Accounts and admin tasks are part of every business. But while they’re unavoidable you can always minimise spending more time on them than is necessary. One of the obvious ways of doing this is to digitise your accounts and admin work as much as possible.
Fuel spending is an important area that can benefit from digitisation. Every time your drivers buy diesel or petrol there needs to be a record of this transaction. It’s a business cost your admin team needs to record and that your accounts team needs to submit to HMRC.
If these transactions are recorded initially by a paper receipt then that’s more work for your admin team. It can also be more work for your account team, as human error could lead to incorrect totals being added by administrators and then submitted to HMRC to reclaim VAT — something that could get you in trouble.
You can avoid this scenario by introducing fuel cards to your business. These cards create a digital record of your fuel transactions and produce an HMRC-compliant invoice for your travel expenses. This reduces the task load for your admin and accounts teams, improving your fleet operations and saving money for your business.
Driver performance is perhaps the most important part of fleet management. They’re the people who are delivering your goods, putting them in charge of getting jobs completed on time and on budget. It’s your responsibility as a fleet manager to make sure this happens and monitoring how they perform is how you can fulfil this.
Vehicle tracking systems with driver monitoring, or telematics software, are a great way of tracking the performance of your fleet drivers. It uses GPS tracking technology to track, record and monitor the behaviour of your drivers in real-time. These behaviours include driving speed, brake intensity, miles travelled and many other things.
You can use the data you get from your telematics fleet management software to assess if your drivers are driving efficiently and safely.
For instance, you might spot that a driver is consistently braking too hard. Not only does this damage your vehicles but it also suggests that they aren’t driving safely. Of course, driver safety is a top priority for your business but it’s not just your drivers who could be harmed by excessive braking. If they have an accident which they’re liable for then your company could be involved in an expensive and damaging legal case.
Having spotted this by using your telematics device, you can then enforce behavioural changes to tackle these issues.
One of the keys to good management is speaking to your employees and getting their suggestions for how operations are running. They’re the ones putting your processes into practice day-to-day and they can offer valuable advice on where improvements can be made. This is just as true of fleet businesses as it is of other companies.
You could set up an open forum with your drivers to give them an opportunity to voice their opinions. Not only will this give you some valuable ideas on how to improve your fleet management on an operational level but it’ll make your drivers feel more involved in the decision making process.
We’ve outlined seven ways that you can improve the way you manage your fleet. Each of these tips can help any transport business and can be implemented with minimal hassle.
iCompario can help you to introduce two of the key suggestions we’ve made. We can help you to add fuel cards and telematics software to your fleet.
Telematics software gives you data on how your drivers are performing when they’re behind the wheel. It highlights if they’re driving inefficiently (such as breaking too hard) and gives you the data you need to introduce positive changes to how they drive, helping to reduce the amount of wear and tear on your vehicles. Fuel cards give you greater control of your company expenses, make monitoring fuel expenditure easier and can save you money on your fuel.