Every fleet has room for improvement, and we’ve compiled a tried-and-true list of basic principles that are pretty much guaranteed to improve your fleet operations – and make you a better fleet manager in the process.
Stephen R. Covey, the author of the best selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, says “ineffective people live day after day with unused potential.” The same is true for fleet managers overseeing complex fleet operations on a daily basis. The potential to manage your fleet effectively while growing your bottom line is huge.
In fact, there are a number of habits that can make for highly effective fleet managers. These best practices, when applied appropriately, can really make a difference in your company’s bottom line and the overall safety of your workforce.
1. Act, don’t react when it comes to the safety of your fleet
With the numerous distractions and safety hazards for your drivers, it is always a good idea to get ahead of any potential problems. If you wait until an accident or near miss, then your company and employees could pay dearly.
The cost of a hands-free device, driver behavior monitoring app or in-cab camera may seem unnecessary, but the alternative is always going to be more expensive. You can also integrate the data you get on driver behavior from your telematics devices into a cloud-based fleet management software, and more closely analyze the effect those behaviors are having on both your drivers and your vehicles.
Be proactive by understanding what your drivers are doing when you’re not looking.
2. Make fleet vehicle maintenance management easy and accessible
People are more apt to take the path of least resistance. If you want your drivers to keep up with routine vehicle service and maintenance, you need to make inspections, scheduling and reporting as effortless as possible.
We’ve seen whiteboards, handwritten notes and file folders used to keep fleets on schedule. Cloud-based fleet management software with mobile accessibility and automated features like service reminders and electronic driver vehicle inspection reports (eDVIRs) are the key to a successful vehicle maintenance program.
Simplify fleet maintenance management by making it mobile, automated and accessible by anyone you want on your team.
3. Set guidelines for fleet vehicle purchasing and disposal
Consistency is key. Without purchasing guidelines, personnel from varying departments and locations may buy vehicles as needed and keep them for as long as they see fit. Without bulk purchasing and insight into the right time/mileage for selling vehicles, your company could be hemorrhaging money.
Take the time to spec out vehicle options to meet the requirements of your fleet and put a purchasing plan in place. You should aim to optimize vehicle replacement.
4. Set goals and expectations for driver performance
Some of our customers incentivize drivers for doing a good job—whether this be for achieving high fuel efficiency, performing vehicle inspections regularly or exhibiting high driving performance. While this may not work for everyone, you should always hold your drivers to a performance standard.
The potential fuel savings for better driving habits and a well running vehicle can really add up across an entire fleet. With driver behavior monitoring, it’s even easier to promote safe driving habits.
Create actionable goals for your drivers to inspire safer, more responsible driving habits.
5. Measure everything that matters
Metrics are important—they can help monitor progress, but they can also become a bunch of numbers if they aren’t measuring anything useful. In order to be on top of your fleet operations, you need to make sure you’re measuring well. After all, how can you improve upon something when you don’t know the starting point?
A few metrics that give solid insight into vehicle performance and fleet performance overall include cost per mile, total cost trend and operating cost summary. You can make tracking that data a lot simpler with a centralized fleet management platform, or even by simply upgrading to a smarter spreadsheet that does the calculation for you.
In other words, monitor and measure specific data that directly impacts your fleet.
6. Document everything digitally
Ditch your file folders. In the world of cheap online storage, there are no excuses for not knowing where your fleet information is stored. Invoices, work orders, receipts, photos, employee records, product manuals and more can be kept in one central digital location and accessed from any internet-connected device.
It’s time to join the modern era of fleet vehicle management. Move your fleet documents to the cloud and find your fleet information instantly.
7. Constantly educate yourself about industry advances and consider adoption
The fleet industry is constantly changing—it’s important to keep up! Join an industry association, read trade publications and blogs (like this one) and keep up with what is happening in vehicle technology.
As you read up on new technology, don’t be afraid to adopt it. Alternative fuels, for example, were once seen as a long shot, but may actually be within reach and cost-effective for your fleet.
The same goes for vehicle technology where if you have accurate data for your vehicles, you can make educated decisions about payback on investments. Investing in cloud-based fleet management software can be a great way to advance your fleet into the future and give you greater visibility into your fleet’s data, as well as give you more actionable insight than you have on paper.
When it comes to embracing new tech, any step forward is a good one, no matter how small. If a full software switch seems like too much, transitioning to a well-designed spreadsheet to track your vehicles’ maintenance can be a safer move that will still set you up for success – and we even have a free downloadable resource you can use to get started!
In this age of technology and information, everything you need to be a fleet management expert is right at your fingertips.
Editor’s note: This blog post was originally posted in March 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and relevancy.