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It's hard to identify opportunities for improvement when you're in the trenches. There are so many responsibilities involved with managing a fleet, that you can often feel like you’re doing well by just staying afloat. In this episode, we explore some of the steps that fleet managers can take in order to step back, analyze their current systems and make a measurable difference in their fleet operations.
The Fleet Code

Identifying Inefficiencies in Your Fleet Operation

Jun 25, 2024

It's hard to identify opportunities for improvement when you're in the trenches. There are so many responsibilities involved with managing a fleet, that you can often feel like you’re doing well by just staying afloat. In this episode, we explore some of the steps that fleet managers can take in order to step back, analyze their current systems and make a measurable difference in their fleet operations.

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Welcome to The Fleet Code, a podcast brought to you by Fleetio where we dive into the latest fleet industry trends, technologies and best practices.
My name is Zach Searcy and today I'm going to keep this intro brief, because today's topic is about identifying inefficiencies in your fleet operations…

and my podcast producer told me the most inefficient part of this podcast was my ramblings at the beginning.

So instead of attempting to prove him wrong, we're trimming the fat and getting right into our conversation with Bill Spare, the fleet manager for the Town of Apex in North Carolina.

Let's dive in.

About Our Guest: Bill Spare

Bill hasn't always been a fleet manager, he was a child first.

And after that, he worked as a technician for a dealership and then went on to open his own auto parts store selling late-model BMW parts.

And then, as we all do, he got the itch, and has been in municipal fleet management since. Most recently, he took over as fleet manager for the Town of Apex.

[Bill] My background being a technician was, it's been a huge benefit in my career. I really never saw myself entering the fleet industry to be completely honest with you. I just never really considered it.

Getting Your Bearings: Finding the Dead Bodies

I recently read an article – which is just a fancy way of saying that I watched a TikTok – around the idea of "finding the dead bodies" when you start a new job. The concept being that, before you start making big recommendations in an organization, you should first ask questions that allow you to discover what others have already done and found to be, both, successful and unsuccessful.

When trying to boost the operations within a fleet organization, it's easy to want to make a big splash quickly, but if you take the time to hear what has already been tried, you can be more tactical in the recommendations you make moving forward.

[Bill] When I first started my position, like everybody, they're really excited to come in and make a difference. I was in a newly created position. The town has been growing rapidly, so there's now a need for a fleet manager. But luckily, I kind of had the wherewithal to step back, kind of take a breather, and properly assess the fleet. One of the first things I did was I conducted one-on-one interviews with my staff and some of the end users of our vehicles.

[Bill] When talking with the internal employees, my big drive was to really just figure out some of the concerns and problems that they were facing on a daily basis. You know, many of the existing employees have been here for quite a long time, so they're familiar with some of the issues the fleet has faced in the past, some of the things that they've tried to remedy those issues.

Maybe you can find a fresh way to try the same things, or enough time has passed that their test is worth revisiting, but you should always listen to your team first to learn about their experiences – uncover what excites them and what frustrates them.

The best plan quickly becomes ineffective if you're unable to get buy-in from your team, so include them in the conversations as early as possible.

Measuring Success: What Are Your KPIs?

Okay, now that you've started building out a plan and you have the buy-in of your team, you need a way to measure success.

As much as we'd all love to measure success based on "vibes," we've found that actionable data is more accepted by the higher ups when it comes to proving the value of a solution. What is going to be your key performance indicator (or KPI) with which you measure success?

For Bill, he realized that one of the gaps in the Town of Apex was finding the right time to retire or replace an asset in the fleet.

[Bill] Another important thing that I kind of dived into was the asset replacement scheduling. How often are vehicles being replaced? Are there set replacement schedules? Has the fleet been following those replacement schedules? And if not, how much money is it going to take us to catch us back up to it?

And here's how he relied on data to make that decision:

[Bill] One of the big things that I started looking into was the operating costs of these vehicles to determine the cost per mile. You have to have a good understanding of the vehicle service history, how much parts, how much labor, some of the additional costs such as vehicle registration, insurance, all that stuff goes into that calculation.

As you can see, it's not just about finding ways to make a difference. Once you identify the inefficient processes or opportunities for improvement, you also need a way to prove yourself.

Here are some KPIs that you could tie into more high-level goals for your fleet.

  • Controlling Fleet Costs - If you're wanting to control costs and do a better job of sticking to your budget, you can measure that by tracking the total costs of operating each fleet asset (or TCO if you're looking for another acronym to share at the dinner table). Tracking the TCO of each asset allows you to see which ones are cost outliers and you can use that to hone in on the source of the budgeting problems – be it unplanned breakdowns, poor driving practices, or something else.
  • Improving Maintenance Adherence - If you realize that your fleet could do a better job of sticking to maintenance schedules, start tracking your on-time maintenance compliance. You're not alone, Bill is also trying to improve maintenance in order to reduce the amount of unscheduled breakdowns that happen in his fleet.

[Bill] We use the work orders created in Fleetio so everything is determined either to be scheduled or unscheduled. So it's really easy to come up with what our ratio is. Our ultimate goal is to have a ratio of 80% scheduled to 20% unscheduled because in my experience I've seen that some of the unscheduled repairs can be almost double the price of a scheduled repair.

The key takeaway is that you need a system in place to measure your progress or you'll never truly be able to show the impact of your efforts.

If you're looking for some other ways to improve your fleet operations, I'll include a link in the episode description to a blog around 6 different KPIs that many of our customers have set.

Importance of Conferences and Networking

If you're struggling with figuring out where to make an impact in your fleet, or you're too deep in the trenches to step back and audit your fleet, we've found that it's especially helpful to rely on the experiences of others.

I actually got connected to Bill through a fleet industry conference and he said that these events have really allowed him to see how others are dealing with the same things as himself.

[Bill] I've attended numerous fleet conferences and trade shows. I highly recommend anybody in the fleet industry to try to attend as many as possible. They're great places to see the latest trends in the fleet industry. Technology improves so fast that that's really where they can demonstrate the new technology that's out. It's also a great place to meet and talk with your vendors, some of the vehicle manufacturers.

It can be impossible to see where your fleet is lagging if you're living in isolation. Schedule time for conferences or download industry benchmarking reports to see what other fleets are doing and to see how yours stacks up.

Download: Fleet Benchmarking Report

I'm going to take a moment to shamelessly plug our fleet industry benchmarking report. We recently released the 2024 version of the report and it includes industry average metrics like the cost per mile of operating vehicles, the average time it takes to resolve issues, and the average vehicle lifecycle for fleets. These benchmarks can help you see how your fleet aligns and identify places to improve your operations.

2024 Fleet Benchmarking Report

See how your fleet stacks up. Compare your fleet's metrics to others in order to identify opportunities for improvement.

Download for free


Before you dive head first into making big changes for your fleet, here's a parting word from Bill.

[Bill] Definitely take it slow. Like I said, when I first started I was really eager to make a difference, but it's important that you step back. Although you may be able to see the issues on the first day, correcting those issues, it's definitely going to take quite a bit longer. Another piece of advice I would have is to record your fleet's baseline data. This will allow you to show the improvements you've accomplished. It also may be good to use for justifications for any of those decisions you made.

That's all I have for today's episode of The Fleet Code. I hope you've found this conversation helpful and I look forward to learning ways that you've improved your fleet.

I'll leave you with a parting question: what would you say is your number one responsibility as a fleet manager? Leave a comment on our YouTube channel or send us an email. Your answer could be featured in a future episode.

As a reminder, The Fleet Code is brought to you by Fleetio. If you're looking for the best way to run reports and track the success of your fleet operation, Fleetio's fleet management system brings all of your fleet data into one system so you can set goals and surface any gaps immediately. You can learn more about Fleetio at - that's

All resources from today's episode can be found in the episode description.

Make sure you subscribe to The Fleet Code on your podcast platform of choice to keep up with the latest tips and tricks for fleet managers. Leave a review or rating if you're into that kind of thing. If you have a topic that you'd like us to cover, send us an email to and let us know. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow at-fleetio on social media for even more fleet management best practices.

Key Takeaways

  • Before implementing changes, take the time to assess the current state of your fleet by conducting one-on-one interviews with staff and understanding their experiences and concerns.
  • Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the effectiveness of your strategies, such as controlling fleet costs and improving maintenance adherence, to ensure your efforts are making a tangible impact.
  • Attend conferences and network with industry peers to stay informed about the latest trends and technologies, helping you to continuously improve your fleet management practices.

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