Does your business operate mobile assets? Are you looking for ways to cut costs, streamline activities, and gain real-time control? A fleet management program might be the solution.
Whether your company owns 100 vehicles or just five, an administration program of some sort will keep those assets organized and performing longer than they would otherwise.
In this guide for small businesses, we discuss everything you need to know about fleet management as a manager or owner in order to add this type of program into your existing workflow.
Table of Contents
Fleet Management Defined
At its most basic, fleet management (or FM for short) is the process you use to coordinate, administer, and direct the vehicles, operators, and support staff that make the day-to-day operation of your business possible.
Even if your business only uses vehicles as an amenity and doesn’t necessarily rely on them to get the bulk of the work done, it can still benefit from a fleet management program.
With only one or two cars, for example, your program may not be as extensive as a program that keeps track of 100 cars. But it’s not the size of the fleet that matters; it’s the way you coordinate everything from acquisition and daily use to maintenance and eventual disposal.
That’s what a fleet management program is for — regardless of the size or number of vehicles and operators.
While most people think of fleet management involving semi-trucks and their cargo, it also applies to other vehicles, including:
- Pickup trucks
- Heavy equipment (e.g., tractors, bulldozers, backhoes, etc.)
- Golf carts
- Utility task vehicles (UTVs or side-by-sides)
- All-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
Any motorized, rolling, or moving stock that your company uses to conduct business will fall into the sphere of fleet management.
Regardless of whether your business uses bikes, trucks, or something else, successful administration of these assets is more than simply putting them into service and then forgetting about them until there’s a problem.
A lot goes into an efficient and successful fleet management program. Let’s take a look.
Fleet Management Responsibilities
If you’re only dealing with one or two vehicles, fleet management tracking may not be all that complicated. But, if you’re dealing with tens or even hundreds of vehicles, tracking all of their movements can be extremely time-consuming.
Unfortunately, many small- and medium-sized businesses still rely on outdated tracking methods such as spreadsheets, whiteboards, and paper records. These last-century tools are time-consuming, inefficient, and suffer from a lack of real-time data.
Modern tracking, however, relies on fleet management software, such as Fleetio and RTA, as well as telematics from the vehicles themselves. These tools are much easier to use, more efficient, and more accurate than the outdated methods many businesses still use.
Another modern tracking tool that businesses of all sizes can use is the fleet fuel card. Fuel cards give fleet managers another layer of insight into where drivers are and control over what they’re paying for while they’re on the road.
Any successful fleet management program puts compliance at the top of its priority list.
Compliance refers to everything involved in keeping the vehicle safe and legal while it’s on the road. It includes such necessities as:
- Tracking and logging hours
Compliance laws and regulations may differ from state to state and city to city, so be sure to research what’s necessary in your area for keeping business vehicles legal.
Another important component of compliance is safety.
Whether it’s implementing driver-training programs or installing tools such as dash cams in all vehicles, a fleet manager sets the tone for the safety and well-being of both the vehicles and the drivers.
The fleet management department is also responsible for preparing the vehicle for the journey ahead — however long or short it may be.
That means ensuring that the vehicle is in good repair to maximize uptime and handle whatever loads are necessary to get the job done.
A universal fleet card can help both drivers and managers pay for and track maintenance and repairs so that all parties involved are confident that the assets will perform as they should when the time comes.
4) Expense Management
The cost of maintaining a fleet — even just a few assets — can take a big bite out of your business’s bottom line.
Fleet managers are tasked with controlling costs so that expenses associated with fuel, maintenance, and repair don’t get out of control.
A fleet fuel card gives managers more complete control of the spending that goes on while drivers are in the field.
Add to that the refinements managers can make after analyzing reports from the trip and it’s easy to see how a fuel card can become a powerful tool in the quest to reduce the cost of maintaining a fleet.
5) Trip Preparation
The fleet management department is also responsible for preparing both the vehicle and the operator for the journey ahead — however long or short it may be.
As we mentioned earlier, that means ensuring the vehicle is in good repair and is ready to handle whatever loads are necessary to get the job done. But it also means making sure that drivers have the supplies they need to navigate from point A to point B and back again.
How are they going to pay for fuel? How are they going to pay for repairs should the need arise? How will they pay for food and lodging along the way?
A universal fleet card is the easy answer to those questions and is the best way to prepare fleet operators for their trip.
Most universal fleet cards can be used anywhere Visa is accepted, so your drivers won’t be without options. The best options even give you, the fleet manager, complete access to what your drivers are using the card to purchase.
This keeps everyone involved and prepared no matter what comes their way and makes it easier than ever to control expenses and keep your fleet running smoothly.
In many cases, fleet managers are responsible for — or, at least, extremely involved in — hiring drivers.
Whether it’s the fleet manager personally, or someone they appoint, the individuals in the fleet management department know exactly what knowledge, skills, and experience are necessary to handle the vehicles safely and successfully.
With that knowledge, they’ll be able to ask questions that those not trained in fleet management might not even think about. That makes them the ideal resource to help your business interview and hire the best drivers for the team.
Another important component of fleet management is safety.
Whether it’s implementing driver-training programs that are customized to your business or installing tools, such as dash cams and telematics in all vehicles, a fleet manager sets the tone for the safety and well-being of both the vehicles and the drivers.
A comprehensive safety program — and drivers who adhere to it — also helps reduce the operating cost of your fleet.
A safe driver will have fewer accidents and create less wear-and-tear on the vehicles they pilot. As a result, your business can redirect funds that would have been used to pay for repairs and maintenance to other company needs.
In addition, the care with which your drivers pilot their vehicles, and the good safety habits they exhibit, reflect on your business and can make a strong impression on those with whom they share the road.
If you view safety as an integral part of managing expenses and creating a good public image (think advertising), your drivers will understand the importance of doing everything they can to be as cautious as possible while on the road.
Fleet management is also responsible for training all drivers to adhere to the standards and protocols the business deems most important.
A big part of this will be the safety program mentioned in the previous section. But you’ll also need to train new drivers in their responsibilities towards the business and the customers with whom they interact.
Long-time drivers will also need ongoing training in the form of reminders about:
- Record keeping while on the road
- Local, state, and federal compliance
- Proper driving technique
- Risk management
- Loading and unloading
- Vehicle monitoring and maintenance while away from base
A training program for both new hires and long-time employees ensures that your business continues on the path to growth and success.
9) Vehicle Acquisition
The fleet management department takes the lead in conducting vehicle acquisition and replacement.
For example, if everyday tasks demand access to specific tools and supplies that can only fit in a cargo van or pickup truck, choosing one of those options is better for the business than sending technicians out in a car.
In other cases, a four-door sedan or a minivan might provide enough space to get the job done.
A thorough analysis will reveal which vehicles are best for your business and will directly affect your bottom line in the form of initial cost, fuel, registration, maintenance, and other variables.
But vehicle acquisition isn’t just about deciding between a Sprinter and a Transit. Fleet management is also responsible for getting the best possible price for the vehicles the business chooses to use.
Fleet Management Benefits
1) Decreased Fuel Costs
Fuel charges for any fleet — be it one vehicle or 100 — are the largest variable expense and can have a significant impact on your operating costs and your bottom line.
Effective fleet management programs, however, can help reduce the cost and consumption of vehicle fuel, whether it’s gasoline, diesel, electric, or something else entirely.
Fleet cards, for example, give managers controls to optimize how their fleet buys fuel and reduce misuse while providing robust reporting, connecting every transaction to vehicle, driver, and MPG.
Armed with that information, a fleet management program can then implement cost-saving programs, including vehicle maintenance and driver training, and help increase the productivity of the business vehicles.
2) Driver Satisfaction
With driver shortages becoming an issue lately, keeping your vehicle operators engaged is more important than ever. The more your employees enjoy their work, the more likely they’ll be to remain on the job, perform at a high level, and provide the service your customers need.
One way to ensure that your fleet staff feels good about their job is to make it easy to deal with expenses and emergencies on the road.
Providing a fuel card gives vehicle operators the ability to pay for fuel without having to remember pin numbers or collect receipts for reimbursement.
Plus, if drivers can use the card wherever Visa is accepted, they won’t have to hunt for a specific gas station or repair bay. That makes their life much easier and keeps their job satisfaction high.
3) Real-Time Control
Travel time is a very real concern for all fleet administrators. It’s a necessary part of getting the job done, but keeping it to a minimum will help save both money and wear-and-tear on the vehicles themselves.
With GPS tracking and instant communication, fleet management programs can now gain real-time control of where their vehicles are and where they will go in the future.
For example, let’s say a semi and its driver arrive at their destination and drop off the load. The normal procedure would be to return to base, but there just so happens to be another load nearby that the driver can bring with them.
With the right technology and systems in place, fleet managers can reroute the driver to the new load and save both time and money in the process.
A comprehensive fleet management program gives your business the ability to implement transparency in three key directions:
- From drivers to management
- From management to drivers
- From business to customers
Transparency from drivers to management involves monitoring what your employees are doing — e.g., how they’re driving, where they’re located, the condition of the vehicle, etc. — while they’re away from home base.
Transparency from management to drivers involves communicating with your team about what the business is doing (and why).
And transparency from business to customers involves making it easy for the latter to see where vehicles are at all times so arrivals and deliveries don’t conflict with other activities.
Some fleet-based businesses even provide a simplified tracking app through which their clients and customers can verify where a vehicle is, when it will arrive, and how they can plan their day accordingly.
These three components of transparency benefit your business by helping you increase your own productivity and the productivity of your customers.
5) Customer Satisfaction
A well-rounded fleet management program that includes transparency as one of its main components can also benefit your business by building and maintaining strong customer satisfaction.
When you can direct vehicles where they need to be and where they will be the most useful — and can do so quickly, efficiently, and on schedule — your customers won’t have to wait for service calls and deliveries any longer than is necessary.
You can improve customer satisfaction even further by providing notifications and real-time tracking (mentioned in the previous section) so that customers and clients can avoid delays in their workday.
In the process, your fleet will gain a reputation for dependability and reliability that will go a long way to improving both customer satisfaction and customer loyalty as well as the success of your business.
Efficiency is defined as:
Achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense
No doubt, your business has plenty of opportunities to improve efficiency. Many of those opportunities will fall into the fleet management category.
By setting up a robust fleet management program that extends beyond the bounds of the office — and includes all the tools your drivers need while they’re on the road — you can boost efficiency wherever your team is working.
A universal fleet card, for example, makes it easy for your drivers to stop for fuel where and when they need to without going out of their way and causing delays
Managing a team that works with you in the same office is hard enough. Fleet managers also have to contend with overseeing employees who may be hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from home base.
Fleet management gives your business the agility it needs to adapt to changing circumstances with ease.
For example, if a technician’s work van breaks down en route to an appointment, you can dispatch a nearby technician to cover the call with as little delay and inconvenience for the customer as possible.
Or, if a driver’s work truck or semi blows a tire during a run, you can grant them permission to use their fleet fuel card to pay for repairs with just a few taps or clicks in an online expense management portal.
Such agility gives you the power to manage the ups and downs that your fleet faces every day.
When your fleet is efficient and agile, your drivers — and, indeed, your whole business — will be better equipped to be as productive as possible throughout the day.
But this productivity isn’t just about the number of tasks your team can accomplish, it’s also about the quality with which they do so.
A good fleet management program benefits everyone involved by controlling the number of jobs your drivers have to contend with so that they can conduct the highest-quality work possible at all times.
As a result, they’ll be able to finish projects early, under budget, and at a level of quality that reflects well on your business.
Streamline Fleet Management With Coast
One of the best ways to support a fleet of any size is to provide operators with a simple and easy way to cover costs while they’re on the road.
Coast offers a simple card and smart online platform for fleets of all shapes and sizes. Whether you operate five vehicles or 500 — and whether those vehicles stay in town or travel across the country — Coast can help you track expenses, save time, and boost profits.