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.
Although construction activity seems to have picked up pace in the early months of 2018, Britain’s third largest economic sector still faces a challenging road ahead and construction fleet operations continue to feel the strain. Vehicle lives were frequently extended on a short-term basis, for example, and there were few opportunities to examine policies covering key areas such as environmental impact.
This pattern, however, appeared to finally change and there is now sufficient funding and breathing space available to take a ground-upwards look at construction fleet operations.
There is a lot of interesting thinking going around such as the increasing use of mobile technology to meet regulatory compliance and report defects.
Additionally, 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 organisation 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 someone who 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 will also allow 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 behaviours such as idling is particularly prevalent in the construction industry. Workers can often turn up at a site, get delayed starting their task, it’s then very easy for vehicle engines to be left running for a couple of hours; likewise sitting in the vehicle for an hour at lunch with the engine running can waste a huge amount of 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 the same mileage but have used a different amount of fuel. This is a tell-tale sign that something is amiss – it could be the fieldworker’s driving style or perhaps there could be 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 vehicles remain fully utilised is extremely important.
Adhering to a regular maintenance plan 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 when something does eventually 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 management software will be able to track your fleets maintenance record and flag up when something is due, and this plan 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, it will keep your fieldworkers safe. As an employer, it is 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 utilising fleet management software, you will be able to schedule a maintenance plan 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.
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 congestion charges, MOTs and periodic services can all be flagged up well in advance. There will be no excuse for missed appointments or lost time, as periodic reminders will have flagged the issue up well in advance.
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
Underutilised assets can be a real drain on your finances, you’ll still be paying tax, insurance and for regular maintenance you 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 then it is worth, and by using the data gathered over previous periods you can get rid of the asset well 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.