Many businesses operate under the guidance of a strategic plan and companies in the trucking and transportation industries are no exception. After all, without having fleet management strategies in place, it can be pretty hard to be successful – or to even fully know where you stand year over year. This is where skilled fleet managers come in.
Armed with industry knowledge and the power of ever-advancing fleet management software, fleet managers can come up with a series of strategies aimed at increasing productivity and profitability while helping their fleet operate efficiently.
What is fleet management?
Let’s begin by defining fleet management. Essentially, fleet management is a function that allows companies in transportation-related industries to improve efficiency, promote safety and productivity, lower costs and minimize investment risks – among other tasks – under the oversight of a fleet manager or fleet management company.
Fleet management vs. fleet maintenance: what’s the difference?
The terms “fleet management” and “fleet maintenance” are used almost interchangeably in the transportation industry, but it’s important to understand the difference. Fleet management refers to overseeing all aspects of the fleet from driver performance to customer service to vehicle acquisition.
Fleet maintenance also falls under the umbrella of fleet management and it’s a huge part of a fleet manager’s job. In fleet maintenance, fleet managers create thorough and detailed processes to ensure that all vehicles in the fleet are fully operational, safe and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
When done correctly, a proper fleet maintenance program can reduce repair and operating costs, insure compliance and, most of all, improve safety.
Developing a fleet management strategy
When developing a fleet management strategy, fleet managers should keep a few things in mind. How do your strategies align with the company’s objectives? Are your strategies relevant? And have you established benchmarks to measure whether your strategies are helping you achieve your desired outcomes?
Technology can help you track the data you need to understand whether your strategies are working and which areas could use a little tweaking.
So what are some good strategies to put into practice as a fleet manager? Here are six suggestions:
Strategy 1: Invest in the right fleet management software
Fleet management software is one of the most valuable tools in a fleet manager’s arsenal. Depending on which one you choose, your software can do just about everything under the sun. Running reports? Check! Scheduling deliveries? Easy! Tracking your vehicles when they’re on the road? Yep, they can do that, too.
However, with so many types of software on the market, it can be challenging to find the one that’s right for you. This is where it’s important to think about the questions we mentioned above and what role your software will play in helping you execute your strategies. If, for example, one of your company’s objectives is to improve the efficiency of your drivers, you’ll want to make sure you purchase software that has GPS functionality so you can monitor how long it takes them to make a delivery along with how many stops they make along the way. This information can help you tackle efficiency issues head-on.
Strategy 2: Create a lifecycle strategy for your vehicles
One of the biggest headaches fleet managers face is making sure they’re getting the most out of their vehicles. That’s why it’s critical to create a strategy for ensuring you can do just that. Your strategy should begin with your procurement plan. Will you buy or lease? Do you need something new, or will something used work for your needs? It should then follow through the management of the vehicle’s day-to-day use in the field as well as how it will be maintained.
Keeping tabs on fleet metrics such as service history, odometer readings and cost of ownership can help you create a solid strategy to ensure that you always know the status of your vehicles. Plus, it can help you make an informed decision about when it’s time to sell a vehicle and move on or if you need to start planning for another purchase.
Strategy 3: Develop a solid maintenance plan and schedule
When you’re reliant on the health of your vehicles to earn a living, the importance of fleet maintenance becomes crystal clear. That’s because when even one of your vehicles is sidelined, you could find yourself missing out on revenue-producing activities that will help take your company to the next level.
Plus, if you’re dispatching vehicles that haven’t been well maintained, you could be putting drivers and other motorists in danger and leaving yourself open to liability. For these reasons – and many more – it’s critical to create a regimented maintenance strategy that includes a strict schedule of which maintenance tasks need to be completed and when the work should take place. This is another area where fleet management software can come in handy.
In addition to having the capability to alert you when service needs to be performed, the software can also help with licensing and registration tracking and insurance claims management. Plus, it can generate automated reports that can help you see how well your maintenance strategies are working and where there might be room for improvement.
Strategy 4: Monitor your spending and the state of the economy
As we’ve seen with the pandemic, even the best-laid plans can quickly go awry, especially when they involve your finances. That’s why it’s crucial to establish a strategy for regularly tracking how much money is coming and how much is going out, and it’s especially true when you’re talking about the price of fuel.
By using your software to monitor this ever-changing expense, you can make modifications in other areas to ensure you can afford to keep your fleet on the road.
Strategy 5: Always keep safety top of mind
Unfortunately, when it comes to accidents, the truth of the matter is that it’s impossible to prevent all of them. However, putting safety strategies in place with the goal of eliminating as many crashes as possible should be the top priority for every fleet manager.
A good place to start is by reviewing your fleet’s accident data and looking for patterns. If your software has telematics, which combines GPS navigation with onboard diagnostic sensors, you can identify if your drivers are operating vehicles aggressively by tailgating or sudden braking. You can also determine if there’s a spike in accidents on days when the weather conditions are less than ideal.
Equipped with this information, you’ll be able to create a strategic training plan that will help your drivers learn more efficient – and safer – driving techniques.
Strategy 6: Listen and collaborate
As a fleet manager, it can be tempting to make all the decisions because you probably know the data better than anyone else at the company. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a full understanding of the customer service issues your front office staff handles every day or what your drivers are experiencing when they’re out on the road.
Whether it’s at monthly meetings or during one-on-one conversations, encourage your team to come to you with both problems and solutions. By working together, you can create strategies that will make a positive difference and will give everyone a sense of ownership. That can go a long way toward keeping your company operating like a well-oiled machine.
Partner with fleet management experts
Looking for fleet management expertise you can count on for the long haul? You’ve come to the right place. As one of the most trusted names in the trucking and transportation industry in the upper midwest, the team of experts at Blaine Brothers understands your needs and we’re here to support you on every mile of your journey.
With more than 40 years in the business, we’re proud to offer expert service at competitive prices because to us, it’s never about the money. It’s about having the opportunity to help businesses like yours thrive and grow.
No matter what your goals are, everyone at Blaine Brothers is eager to help you achieve them. Contact us now – we’re looking forward to getting to know you.