Running a fleet of vehicles is no easy task. With customers to keep happy, drivers to send to the right locations and money to be made, it can all get particularly stressful especially when factors beyond your control play havoc with your seemingly watertight system. Accidents on the main roads, road closures and delays at the depot can throw even the best-made plans right out of the window like a discarded drinks cup, but there are forms of technology that can be utilized to help the managers get a few hours worth of sleep each night.
GPS tracking devices have been used in satellite navigation systems for a while now, and many drivers rely on them (often too heavily) to get from A to B. Other forms of in-car tech, such as fleet systems have been incorporated to monitor not only the location of the specific vehicle, but also its overall performance.
As the manager of, for example, a haulage firm, you want to make sure that you are quoting your customers the right amount and a fee that is going to make money for the company. To reach this figure, there are various expenses that need to be taken into account such as fuel costs, the mileage involved and the salary of the drivers and any of their expenses. If it’s costing a company an excessive amount in fuel – and with the cost of fuel rising all the time, this is a possibility – it might be that they need to find a solution other than charging the customer more (which is the immediate response, but not always the most effective as some customers may already be at breaking point in relation to their budget and decide to take their business elsewhere).
To try and cut fuel costs, it may be down to the fleet manager to monitor the data presented by the fleet systems and tracking devices in an attempt to find out what they can do better. One such example might be to analyse the route taken by the driver to establish whether it was the quickest, shortest or most effective. It may be that the specific route was the shortest in terms of mileage, but it took longer to get to the destination because the driver was sent through the middle of a city and forced to sit in traffic – costing the haulage company in terms of both time and money with the fuel being used and the driver going nowhere.
The manager of the fleet can then take this information, speak to the driver, and encourage them to take an alternative, more time and fuel efficient route next time in an attempt to reach a solution. However, if it turns out that this route is no better, another solution will need to be sought which may involve taking the risk and increasing your quote for that customer.
There may be another reason behind the time taken or the amount of fuel consumed, and that could be the behaviour of the driver. Many are ‘heavy footed’ and accelerate harshly which uses up more fuel, spending longer in lower gears before changing up through the box. By analyzing this kind of data, the fleet manager is able to establish whether it’s the performance of the vehicle at fault – with the driver having to adapt their driving style, in which case the vehicle may need repairs – or just the driver, in which case the situation will need explaining to them to try and cut the fuel bill.
Ella Mason, an experienced freelance writer, wrote this article. Ella specialises in providing useful and engaging advice to small businesses. Follow her on Twitter @ellatmason