Learning Zone

How to save money on your construction fleet

By Ross Jephson
26 January 2021

The construction industry had a really rough ride throughout the recession and fleet operations suffered as a result…

There are, however, trusted methods that with the help of software can cut costs and save money on your construction fleet.

a digger and construction fleet on a construction site

Although construction activity seems to have picked up pace during 2017, it was valued at 1.23 trillion US dollars,  a far cry to 2011 when it fell to 788 million US dollars. The construction industry had been at its lowest in over a decade.

There is good news – forecasters predict hat this trend is set to continue and a predicted value of 1.5 trillion US dollars by 2020 may be seen. But fleet managers shouldn’t rest on their laurels. Now is a good time to review current practices to look for areas that can be made more efficient to make those all important cost savings.

Important areas that should be given the most attention including vehicle replacement cycles, steps to reduce the CO2 emissions, compliance with legislation and various schemes. There is a growing recognition in the sector about the need for better management of fleet risk, both in terms of reducing the likelihood of incidents, driver safety and getting vehicles back on the road faster when accidents do occur.

When you consider how to improve your construction fleet, the first thing to do is understand the makeup of your fleet, including:

  • Your asset register – what do you own, lease or rent?
  • Who’s using the equipment and how often?
  • How much does it cost to run these assets?
  • Are you running it legally and safely?

Your assets register might cover a wide range of expensive specialist vehicles and equipment, that’s anything from cement mixers; forklifts; excavators; bulldozers; crawler loaders and dump trucks.

These complex assets usually require regular servicing and complex upkeep, so managing a construction fleet of any size can often be one of the most challenging fleet management roles. Acquiring construction vehicles, planning their maintenance, ensuring regulatory compliance for both equipment and drivers – all while trying to control costs – can be a daunting task, particularly if you are trying to do it via spreadsheets, whiteboards or on paper.

Keeping on top of all that information and making sense of what equipment you own, who’s using it and how much its costings isn’t easy, even for a small fleet.

1. Software, and why you should consider it…

Dedicated construction fleet management software can help to automate most of the administrative processes and organization of responsibilities, but you will need to carefully consider the vendor you pick to ensure you to get the right system for your needs.

Some fleet software suppliers will be specialists in certain areas, such as leasing, with a focus on finance and customer management, or logistics focusing on trailers and commercial vehicle compliance.

For construction fleets, it’s best to find a supplier that focuses on asset, equipment and maintenance management as this will likely be the core fleet management responsibilities. Review a vendor’s existing clients to see who they currently work with, and the type of vehicles they typically manage.

If you find the right vendor, fleet software can really improve the visibility of how much your assets cost to own and run, while streamlining your support staff’s workload too. This also allows you to concentrate on fleet improvements, making the best use of the equipment while staying legally compliant.

2. Monitor Fuel Usage

By monitoring your fleet’s fuel usage, you can identify the daily mileage, tacho and possible alternative fuels that could be used.

Bad driving habits can waste fuel, and behaviors such as idling is particularly prevalent in the construction industry. Workers can often turn up at a site and become delayed in starting their tasks whilst leaving vehicle engines running for a couple of hours. Likewise, sitting in the vehicle for an hour at lunch with the engine running wastes fuel.

The introduction of fuel cards can provide real saving opportunities. Many fleet management systems have the ability to fully integrate with fuel cards and fuel systems, enabling real time fuel transaction data to be recorded and converted into fuel consumption and fuel economy reports.

You’ll soon see which operators are using the most fuel and, once highlighted, it empowers you to take corrective action such as eco driver training, so you can hopefully see the fuel costs reduce inline.

There may be two vehicles that have covered similar mileage but consumed a different amount of fuel. This is a tell-tale sign that something is amiss – it could be the fieldworker’s driving style or possibly an issue with the vehicle. Either way, once highlighted, you will be able to address the issue and cut unnecessary costs.

You will also be able to report on overall fuel usage across your fleet, at the same time drilling down on individual makes and models to assess whether the fuel usage is justified and whether improvements in both planning, allocation and vehicle selection can be improved.

3. Regular Maintenance

When you have expense assets such as construction vehicles, ensuring the fleet vehicles remain fully utilized and maintained is extremely important.

Adhering to a regular fleet maintenance program will undoubtedly help reduce its downtime. There’s no question that a fully functional vehicle will run better than a poorly maintained one, but regular maintenance can also help to avoid large bills should something go wrong.

Regular upkeep – whether it’s by a workshop or your own fieldworker – will ensure that defects are identified before accidents happen or issues escalate. Fleet maintenance software can help track your fleets maintenance record and flag up when something is due. Such a program can be based on calendar time, engine on-time, or mileage depending on your requirements.

A proactive vehicle maintenance program will not only keep your vehicles on the road but keep your fieldworkers safe too. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they are sent to work with the correct equipment. If a vehicle is off the road for an extended period of time, work completion is going to suffer, hire costs will likely be involved – not to mention the salary you’ll still be paying whilst no work can be done.

Maintenance can take many forms, and whether it is a daily start up inspection by the driver or a monthly check up by the fleet manager, it’ll all help to keep the vehicle on the road and running as it should. By utilizing fleet management software, you will be able to schedule a fleet maintenance program and have complete visibility over a particular vehicle’s service history. By setting periodic maintenance reminders, you can proactively manage all of your assets and make contingency plans as necessary.

construction fleet managers overlooking a project

4. Legal Compliance

Legal compliance is of the utmost importance to employers; those with a fleet of any size have a legal responsibility to maintain it. By implementing construction fleet management software, you will be able to simplify a lot of the processes that you are likely to already be doing to remain compliant.

By automating alerts, reminders, reports and creating custom fields, you and your staff will have complete visibility over your fleet expenses. Things such as  periodic services can be flagged up well in advance meaning no excuse for missed appointments or lost time!

5. Improve Efficiency and Customer Service

Mobile workforces, particularly in the construction industry, have to respond to customer requests as and when they come in. By ensuring that your fleet is in optimum condition at any given time, you will be able to respond to a customer enquiry at a moment’s notice, both increasing your productivity and your customer satisfaction.

Last minute issues can be costly, a team breaking down on the way to a job doesn’t just incur the cost of repair, it may well lose you the earnings from that particular job. This can all be avoided by planning ahead, scheduling reminders and getting vehicles booked in well ahead of time.

6. Streamline Your Fleet

Underutilized assets can be a real drain on your finances. You’ll still be paying tax, insurance and for regular maintenance for your assets but just won’t be using them to their full capability. If you have vehicles in your fleet that are currently not being used or are likely to become redundant in the future, sell them! There is no point in holding on to an asset just for the sake of it.

Likewise, through detailed reporting on different vehicle conditions, you can calculate the best time to sell your vehicle when it nears the end of its lifespan. There will come a point where it is costing more to maintain than it is worth, and by using the data gathered over previous periods it makes sense to decommission an asset in plenty of time before this becomes an issue.

Money saved can then be reinvested into a new asset, as appropriate, enabling you to reduce your overall fleet costs.

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