5 Tips to help become a highly effective fleet manager
Managing an effective fleet can often be a challenge, but these five key areas can help you refresh your focus
As a Fleet Manager, being faced with fresh challenges on a regular basis is the nature of the job. But having the responsibility to manage a fleet in an ever-changing environment can often both demanding and tricky. So, what are the best work practices that can help a fleet manager become highly effective? Here are five tips that can help.
1. Only record the important information
Recording information provides you with the opportunity to measure and monitor the performance of your fleet. Record everything though and you will quickly become overwhelmed! Information is of course useful for benchmarking against past performance and as a tool to help when setting goals and objectives, leading to greater accountability, improved efficiency and a safer fleet operation. But the more information that you collect, the greater the need for administration resource to manage it. Only collect the information necessary to make informed decisions in the core areas of fleet management. This includes:
Procurement: The purchase or leasing contract details of each vehicle.
Utilisation: The time, date and distance vehicles have made, including odometer readings.
Fuel: The fuel transactions including costs, fuel type, quantity and date.
Maintenance: The service schedules, costs, parts, labour and work done.
Accidents: The driver, vehicle, damage, cost and liability
Compliance: Dates of compliance events, requirements and documentation.
It’s easy to forget to collect the basic information but just as easy to collect plenty of irrelevant information too. This in turn wastes valuable resource and creates unnecessary administration.
2. Update your driver policy
Safety of your drivers, employees, customers and other road users should be at the heart of what you do. With most accidents being due to driver distraction, this could be a good opportunity to monitor driving behaviour, update policies and review fleet driver training tools that are in place. 1 in 10 drivers still believe that the risks of using a mobile phone whilst driving are overstated.
It goes without saying, having appropriate health and safety measures in place is a necessity in terms of a legal and compliance perspective. These should be regularly reviewed and updated for auditing purposes should an incident occur. From the maintenance schedule and defect reporting processes of vehicles through to driver behaviour – the importance of safety through compliance should be present throughout the entire business.
Technological support is available to ensure that rules and regulations are adhered to. These include digital vehicle inspection forms that can record when and where they were created and submitted through to telematics to track driving habits. Fleet managers need to work closely with both human resources and health and safety departments to manage potential risk and develop suitable training plans. Company policies need to be made transparent so that employees are aware of their responsibilities to minimise the risk of accidents before they actually happen.
3. Keep a sharp focus on costs
It goes without saying, keeping on track of all fleet management costs by recording and monitoring (as per our first tip) will really help with controlling budgets. Vehicle, maintenance, fuel, staff and other business costs all add up and it is essential to look for possible savings and avoid unnecessary losses across the entire business. Be vigilant too – a saving in one department can easily be lost by another.
Always look for alternative ways of saving money such as encouraging better driving from your drivers, as an example. By avoiding sudden acceleration followed by hard braking, driving faster than necessary and removing unnecessary bulk from the trunk of a vehicle drivers can contribute towards fuel cost savings. Consider the vehicles in your fleet too. Is it time to downgrade to more economical models and switch to alternative fuel types? Vehicle maintenance can play its part too – an under inflated tyre can increase fuel consumption by up to 10%!
4. Join a Fleet Association or attend an annual event
Being actively involved in industry organisations can be highly beneficial. Association and industry events aimed at fleet operators can provide a wealth of information such as industry wide issues. These groups can also provide useful networking opportunities for sharing ideas and gaining support on areas of concern. A word of caution though – try and avoid ‘associations; that heavily push their own commercial interests or business partnerships.
The focus should be on developing a through understanding of the fleet industry and to keep up to date on news, ideas and development that could influence your own operation. Having a clear understanding of changes to legislation, for example, can help you prepare for changes before they actually happen. Similarly, keeping on track of your own fleets’ internal successes and failures can create opportunities to share best practice or highlight how things have gone wrong in order to prevent them from happening again.
5. Check your allocation of resources
Regularly review your fleet of vehicles and the tasks that they need to carry out to determine suitability for the job. Is an SUV with low fuel economy really the best choice for long distance journeys when a smaller vehicle could return better cost savings? Look at alternative fuel and vehicle types to see if by switching, your fleet could return greater efficiencies and cost savings.
Consider investing in technology such as fleet management software to save your operation both time and money. That initial investment can soon be recouped by reducing administration time and cost through automated processes and procedures. The data recorded can provide fleet managers, drivers, technicians, parts managers, supervisors and other personnel the reports needed to keep a modern fleet running efficiently.
Being a highly effective fleet manager can be a task in itself. But by taking the time to develop a good working knowledge of the industry, setting specific and measurable goals and having the tools in place to measure them, you can identify areas of your business that can be improved.