Fleet management is a process, often backed up by a system of technologies and procedures designed to make fleet management easier, of managing a collection of commercial vehicles. In an ideal scenario, the process of fleet management and individuals tasked with conducting it will run at optimum efficiency.
With businesses now facing higher demand than ever before from customers alongside other industry challenges, effective fleet management is now crucial for the long-term growth and success of any business, big or small, that operates a fleet.
Whether you have two fleet vehicles or 200 is irrelevant; a fleet is still a fleet and all of them must be efficiently managed.
Businesses are now adopting technology on a wider scale than ever before in a bid to differentiate themselves and remain competitive and, fleet management is one area where major savings in time and cost can be made. With the right fleet management technology, tools, and solutions, businesses that are dependent on their fleets can majorly optimise their operations in order to extract maximum benefit.
Unfortunately, fleet management is an area that many business operators find problematic and confusing — but it doesn’t have to be.
Although it is true that companies are now having to handle growing demand alongside industry challenges such as rising fuel prices, stringent regulations, and driver-related problems such as inefficiencies and shortages, a well-managed fleet can help to alleviate these and many other pressures.
This is why fleet management matters to you as a business operator. Being able to manage a fleet in its entirety, from the typical day-to-day tasks to the big picture matters, is core to keeping today’s businesses running efficiently and profitably while simultaneously saving your business money and creating a safer working environment for your drivers.
Fleet management incorporates many different things, all of which are typically overseen by a single fleet manager or a team of fleet management specialists. Here are five key areas where fleet managers are involved as part of their day-to-day.
To help improve driver safety, fleet managers must know where their vehicles are at all times. Although this may seem quite big brother-esque, being able to pinpoint vehicle locations can help make sure drivers avoid dangerous routes, are on suitable routes designed for their vehicles, and locate them in case of an emergency. Fleet tracking can be challenging, however, and fleet managers often rely on technology such as GPS and online dashboards which work together to map vehicle locations in real-time.
Keeping drivers safe is a big challenge for fleet managers. We’re not just talking about knowing where drivers are in case of an emergency, either. Good fleet management will help identify bad driving habits so that they can be rectified, avoiding accidents and helping keep vehicles in pristine condition which in itself is a safety bonus. Again, technology comes into play here — GPS can track drivers in real-time and telematics systems paint a picture of drivers’ habits, both good and bad.
After the initial capital expense of buying vehicles themselves, fuel is the biggest ongoing fleet expense by far. Naturally, therefore, fuel procurement plays a big role in fleet management. Fleet managers are often tasked with keeping their fleet vehicles running by ensuring fuel is readily available to drivers at the lowest possible cost to the company. Fleet managers rely on solutions like fuel cards for procurement and telematics systems to monitor and improve fuel efficiency.
Ill-maintained vehicles are bad news for fleets. They run less efficiently, cost you more money to operate, burn through fuel more quickly (thus making your business less “green”), and can present a hazard for your drivers, to whom you owe a duty of care. Another big role for fleet managers, therefore, is ensuring that all fleet vehicles are well-maintained to prevent these issues from occurring.
Operational, administrative, fuel, and maintenance fleet costs quickly add up to eye-wateringly high figures. So, whether it is maintaining fleet vehicles to make them more fuel efficient or finding the best fuel cars for direct fuel cost savings, the fleet manager’s biggest and most important role is finding out where operational costs can be reduced.
Modern fleet management processes are completely tech-orientated, largely based on the Internet of Things (IoT) that connect a multitude of physical devices, embedded electronics, sensors, platforms, and software solutions that collect, exchange, interpret, and present data.
This data can be used to provide fleet managers with a top-down, insightful views of their fleets so that problems, inefficiencies, and shortfalls can be identified and plans of action put in place for their rectification.
The best fleet management technology gives fleet managers full visibility into performance, efficiency, and resource activity and presents everything in a unified platform — a fleet management ‘platform’ or ‘dashboard’.
In the world of fleet management, there are two tools that dominate: fuel cards and telematics.
You may already be aware of what a fuel card is. In short, they are credit card-like cards that are used to purchase fuel at designated fuelling stations.
There are many different fuel cards available in the UK and beyond, and they are used by businesses worldwide to enable fleet drivers to easily refill their vehicles and fleet managers to easily manage fuel expenses. They also provide lots of fringe benefits such as discount pump pricing, bulk purchase discounts, inherent security enhancements, and more.
Click here to read more about fuel cards in the UK.
Telematics is a method of monitoring a vehicle. They typically combine GPS technology with onboard diagnostic and monitoring tools but can also incorporate other hardware elements such as dashcams.
With telematics deployed in your fleet, your vehicles can be tracked in real-time, usually from a cloud-based fleet management platform, and information such as fuel usage, driving habits (acceleration, braking, gear changes, speed…), location history, fuel efficiency, and more is collected and disseminated into charts and reports for use in decision making. Sometimes, telematics systems and fuel cards can be integrated into one dashboard for improved monitoring and reporting.
Click here to read more about telematics.
The benefits of effective fleet management are vast. There is a reason why the worldwide telematics and fleet tracking market is constantly growing. Today, it is rare to see a company operating a fleet — especially larger companies — without some form of tracking solution in place. Here are some of the most noteworthy benefits:
Fuel management is one of the most lucrative fleet management benefits. With fuel cards and telematics, you have plenty of ways to reduce your fuel costs through access to competitive pricing, tools to plan efficient routes, and data that you can use to identify drivers with bad driving habits and promote fuel efficient driving.
Furthermore, because fleet managers can see in real time where their fleet vehicles are located, they can plan a driver’s most efficient route to their closest filling station. Drivers can also use these systems to find their nearest filling station or read about up-to-date traffic information which can be used to avoid wasting fuel in bad traffic.
In the long term, telematics and fleet management systems improve road safety by promoting safer driving and reduce accident rates, something which will reduce your fleet’s insurance premiums — safer drivers are far less likely to be involved in a road traffic accident.
In addition to this, because your vehicles can be tracked, they are far less likely to become a target for thieves, and other theft prevention options — such as the engine not starting unless an employee swipes their ID or work pass — decrease premiums further.
It is far cheaper to fix vehicle issues as soon as they pop up rather than when they have had time to manifest into more serious problems or cause damage (or worse, an accident!)
Optimized vehicle usage, safer driving, and notifications based on metrics such as vehicle mileage milestones or time since last service all help to keep your fleet’s maintenance costs down.
Properly managed fleets are always more reliable and efficient, allowing drivers to meet or exceed delivery timeframes and create happier customers. This improves overall customer satisfaction and can lead to repeat customers and more long-term revenue.
Integrated tracking systems can also be used as part of your fleet management efforts so that customers can access real-time information about the location of their deliveries.
Fleet management systems produce lots of data and can be highly customised to deliver only what you want to see, when you want to see it. If you want to understand the habits of your drivers, or even a specific driver, and make adjustments based on the system’s analysis and data, a robust fleet management system will let you do that.
Fleet admin becomes a lot simpler too, especially if you use fuel cards as part of the process. When your drivers purchase fuel with a fuel card, transaction data is captured and, periodically, this is used and collated with all other fuel purchase data to generate automatic, HMRC-friendly invoicing. This massively simplifies the fleet admin workload and eliminates the need for drivers to submit expense claims.
Taking your fleet management seriously and incorporating the right processes, technology, and tools makes your fleet safer and your business more efficient and profitable. They all have a knock-on effect on:
Vehicles, assets, and equipment
Maintenance, repair, and servicing
Fuel procurement and efficiency
Driver performance and safety
Parts and inventory
Risk management and accident mitigation
Regulatory and legal compliance
Budget and forecasting
If you are interested in learning more about the fuel card and telematics solutions available to you but don’t know where to start, we recommend using iCompario.
iCompario is an online comparison website with an easy-to-use online interface that lets you search for and compare the best fuel card and telematics providers. Operated by fleet industry experts, iCompario’s comparison service regularly matches businesses like yours up with solutions that are best-suited to save it money.