Equipped with features to improve driver and vehicle tracking, fuel management and vehicle maintenance, fleet management software aims to enhance your overall fleet operations.
Whether you’re a manager responsible for a small fleet of cars and vans, or a director in charge of a large HGV truck fleet, implementing a fleet management software can be essential for all types and sizes of businesses. In this buyers guide, we’ve highlighted four key points to help you enhance your fleet performance with an overall aim of reducing operational costs and risks.
Whether you’re implementing a fleet management software solution for the first time or replacing an outdated vehicle management tool, you’re here because you want to elevate and revolutionise your overall fleet operations.
Fleet management tools aren’t just designed for larger organisations with a vast amount of fleet vehicles and drivers. In fact, these tools can be incorporated into all different types of companies, such as small businesses with a pool of five vehicles, to enterprises with thousands of cars, vans and trucks.
No matter what the size of your business or your fleet operations, the benefits offered by installing a fleet management solution are still the same. These include:
Reduced vehicle downtime with proactive maintenance schedules
Fewer maintenance costs
Reduced running costs such as fuel
Improved safety of your vehicles and drivers
Managing a pool of five to ten vehicles is not difficult for an experienced fleet manager. But, when that fleet consists of thousands of vehicles, maintaining your business’ entire fleet operation can quickly become overwhelming. Coupled with the fear of not knowing if your investment in acquiring and monitoring your vehicles is actually paying off, gaps will start to appear in your operations.
Before you begin to highlight what you want to achieve with fleet management software, it’s first important to understand the gaps in your current processes. For example, may encounter challenges, such as:
Compliance with strict transport regulations
Poor fuel management
Downtime of business-critical vehicles due to unscheduled vehicle maintenance
An overload of vehicle and driver data
And that’s not to mention the running costs that your fleet will incur. Without a fleet management solution, you’ll begin to lose track of what you’re spending on your vehicles and fail to grasp a true Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
Luckily, that’s where a fleet management tool can help. In its simplest form, fleet management software is a solution designed to help fleet managers and business owners effectively track, maintain, analyse and manage all vehicle and driver data in one place; with a purpose to control vehicle life-cycles, reduce associated risks, enhance productivity, and increase efficiency.
The right fleet management tool will help you improve the management of:
Vehicles, drivers and assets
Fuel and other running costs
Legal and regulatory compliance
Maintenance, repairs and services
Driver behaviour to ensure safer driving among operators
As well as being available for all levels of business, a fleet management solution can also be implemented into various types of industries and market sectors. Such as local delivery services, public services, private shipping, public transport and taxi firms. These, and many more, can all benefit from effective management of their fleets.
The process of recognising the type of buyer you are is an important step in your journey to finding the right fleet management tool. Not only will it allow you to find a tool and vendor that best fits your industry, but it will also highlight the features needed to match your core requirements and achieve your management and maintenance goals.
Below are four examples of fleet management software buyers. You’ll notice that each buyer has a different set of goals for their fleet operations and thus require a solution that offers the right features to match their requirements.
Implementing fleet management software into logistics and delivery organisations can be beneficial in a number of ways, including:
The ability to track deliveries in real-time from the warehouse to final destination
Providing the most efficient and time-saving way to load cargo onto vehicles
Mapping out routes that determine the shortest and most efficient journey
Minimising operating expenses such as fuel costs
When choosing the right tool, you’ll also want to prioritise particular features that will appeal more to the operations of a logistics and delivery firm, such as:
Delivery scheduling and dispatch management
Being an instrumental link within a client’s supply chain, logistics and 3PL firms require a vast majority of features that can be provided by a fleet management tool. This especially applies for operating within industries such as retail and e-commerce, where you’re responsible for not only receiving the goods but shipping them directly to customers, too.
With a vast range of services, managing government fleet operations can require a tool packed full of different capabilities. Ideally, you’ll want to look for features that help to:
Particularly useful for bus and train services, being able to track and collect a vehicle’s maintenance and service data can lead to less downtime and help create a regular repair schedule.
Using GPS and telematics technology, not only are you able to track the location of your fleet but so can the public. Using mobile devices and apps, users can see precise schedule times and be made aware of any delays.
Being able to apply a GEO-fence restriction allows bus operators to stay on route and waste disposal vehicles to stick within their district. This lets operations run as smoothly and efficiently as possible while improving time-management.
This applies significantly to law enforcement and emergency services, as each fleet will want to avoid factors such as traffic. By knowing the route with the least amount of traffic lights and congestion, ambulances and police vehicles are able to arrive at their destination on time.
By collecting the right data, you’ll be able to know how much cargo each fleet vehicle can accommodate. In terms of police vehicles, load optimisation allows essential equipment such as speed guns, Tasers, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers to be efficiently allocated.
Fleet managers operating in a large-scale construction organisation will require some form of a management tool to improve and ease the overall workflow. A fleet management system can help to:
By tracking and collecting significant data, you’re able to ensure the right vehicle, driver, or operator is at the right site at the right time. This minimises idle time and improves the workflow of operations throughout the company.
By having a scheduled maintenance plan for an on-site crane or digger, managers can gain a better understanding of each vehicle. They are able to know how long each vehicle is unavailable and also understand the lifespan of a vehicle and its parts, such as when the hydraulics need replacing or repairing on a backhoe loader.
By using GPS and route planning features, you’re able to track delivery vehicles in real-time. For example, a delivery may be scheduled to move tools and equipment from one site to another. The manager of the receiving site will want to track the delivery fleet and make sure it arrives as scheduled.
With a fleet management tool, you’re able to collect data about each vehicle’s service checks and maintenance updates. This allows you to make sure each vehicle in your fleet adheres to health and safety regulations. You can also check important data, such as a vehicle’s load capacity, and make it accessible to your operators before they begin a job.
As a manager of a food and beverage company, effective management of your fleet can be critical for maintaining good customer satisfaction levels and reducing operational costs. These targets can be achieved in a number of ways:
With a delivery schedule system, you’re able to ensure that deliveries will arrive within the given time slot. This can apply to large organisations that have a strict hourly delivery schedule, such as food supermarkets, or even local pizza delivery chains that promise delivery within thirty minutes.
In terms of the food takeaway industry, providing the quickest delivery possible is a priority. This is to make sure that the food is kept at an optimal level for consumption, from the kitchen to the customer’s door. Using a GPS tracker and real-time location, not only can you map out the best route for your driver, but you can also identify any idle time during delivery and eliminate it for the next delivery. Idle time can be damaging to a fleet’s bottom line, but – in a 2014 truck fleet survey – reducing the time a vehicle sits idle by 25% can save $1,425 per vehicle each year.
In terms of a supermarket delivery, the first scheduled delivery on the route will need to be the most accessible. A fleet management tool will provide data that allows you to store cargo in the most efficient manner. This also means ensuring the entire cargo of the delivery route is able to be stored in the vehicle. Otherwise, the driver may have to make an unscheduled trip back to the warehouse, increasing fuel costs and incurring delays.
Coupled together with tools for vehicle maintenance and fuel management, a fleet management tool provides a number of key features for all types of organisations. But, as well as identifying the right fleet management solution for your industry, picking a solution with the right features is essential.
Not only do you need to recognise the features needed to close the gaps in your current processes, but you also need to highlight the core requirements that you expect from your chosen product.
An effective way to do this is to create two groups: Essential features and Non-essential features:
Having an understanding of essential features and non-essential allows for a more focused approach when it comes to shortlisting and evaluating your fleet management software options.
As you begin your search, you’ll notice that fleet software vendors offer tools with different variations of features. For example, some products may focus entirely on the real-time tracking of vehicles, whereas others focus more on correcting driver behaviour through telematics.
Although all features are designed with improving your entire fleet operations in mind, it’s important to know the features that are better suited to your own goals. For example, here’re seven of the most valuable fleet management software features that may match your essential requirements:
Here’re seven most valuable features that can be found in modern fleet solutions:
As an essential part of a fleet management tool, route planning is used to determine the shortest and most fuel-efficient route. Effective route planning can be used to plan a round-trip, such as a courier service’s delivery route or a one-way journey. Either way, its purpose is to help save on fuel costs and minimise vehicle wear and tear by reducing the number of miles a fleet needs to travel. There are many factors that determine a strategy for choosing the most efficient route, including:
Once the most efficient route has been planned, it can then be dispatched to a driver. If the driver attempts to alter this proposed route, you can override their decision and make sure they stick to the plan.
Among many other benefits, the use of GPS tracking and telematics is essential to help visually monitor where vehicles and drivers are in real-time.
Prior to this technology, most fleet operations would rely on word-of-mouth regarding a driver’s location and if a vehicle had arrived at its destination on time. With GPS, you’re able to:
Track and locate fleet vehicles
Optimise routes for deliveries
Reduce operational costs such as fuel
Understand if a vehicle is idle for an excessive amount of time
Track unauthorised movement and any derailing from a planned route
Highlight GEO-fences and get alerts when a vehicle has breached that area
Understand driver behaviour to apply safety measures
The creation of an efficient route plan is only possible once other factors have been considered, such as load optimisation. By collecting data on factors such as weight, volume and dimensions, you are able to create an effective loading plan for each vehicle. This also helps to improve time management by knowing the exact load time of cargo.
A good example of a business optimising its fleet’s load is a courier service. The cargo stored in a vehicle will need to be stacked in order of the planned route. An item that is being delivered at the first stop of a driver’s route will need to be stacked in the most accessible way, and so on.
Tracking and collecting essential data with a fleet management tool is a great way of knowing the exact expenditure of fleet operations. Not only can you see the depreciation of value for each vehicle, but you can also start to evaluate the difference in cost between owning and leasing fleet assets. For example, you may realise that it is cheaper for your business to own a fleet instead of leasing one.
As well as this, you can also track costs such as:
Parking violations and fines
Vehicle servicing and MOTs
Fuel costs and the use of fuel cards
Repairs and maintenance
Road tax and insurance fees
Whether you’re in charge of thousands of vehicles or a small fleet of vans and cars, making sure each vehicle is properly serviced is crucial for developing an effective maintenance schedule. Having a maintenance system in place can dramatically reduce vehicle downtime. It can be so effective, that in 2017, Royal Mail improved the downtime of their 50,000 vehicle fleet by 26%.
You are also able to collect service and maintenance data of all of your vehicles and store it in a centralised system. This allows stakeholders to see and be automatically notified when a vehicle’s insurance policy or warranty is about to expire.
By implementing a system that can effectively track vehicles, you’re also able to gather data regarding your drivers. This can be average speeds, harsh acceleration reports, idling periods, and speeding violations. By collecting this data, you can take the necessary precautions to eradicate risky driver habits and encourage safe driving through feedback and coaching tools. This reduces any risk of vehicle accidents that can be costly to business operations. With employee management in place, you can also:
Track and manage employee schedules, availability and performance
Generate reports on each fleet operator and drivers
Track and store driver fines such as parking and speeding tickets
Use Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled technology, such as NFC, to identify drivers using multi-driver vehicles
A useful feature for reducing costs from a fleets bottom line is fuel management. This is used to monitor excessive fuel burn and idling, while also highlighting the vehicles that are consuming more fuel than others.
An effective fuel management tool can send out instant alerts and notifications, too. This lets you see how much fuel is being used and when a company fuel card has been activated. You can also collect driver receipts and mileage data to cross-check any false claims that may be issued.
Once you’ve highlighted the need for a management system, it’s time to choose the right tool. But, before doing so, there are some things that you may want to consider. Here, we’ve listed the five most common considerations to make before purchasing a fleet management software solution:
As well as providing features to manage vehicles and drivers, you may also need to monitor other fleet assets. These can include trailers, boats, machinery and heavy equipment. You can also collect data on fleet accessories such as dash-cams and CB radios. With these capabilities, you’ll be able to create maintenance schedules for all of your fleet equipment as well as log services and track expenses.
Although the features of a fleet management tool match your operational needs, they may also require additional hardware. For example, specific vehicle and GPS trackers can collect data such as average speeds and idle times to plan the most efficient route. GPS tags can also monitor vehicles in real-time and provide stakeholders with an exact location and scheduled delivery times. Another example is a dashcam; these are installed to help with insurance claims and to be used as evidence in case of an accident.
In the coming years, fleet managers will be expected to swap their mechanical fleet for Autonomous Vehicles (AVs). This can be beneficial in areas such as lower fuel consumption, increased productivity, and fewer accidents. But AVs can also provide challenges, such as higher insurance premiums and maintenance costs.
Another problem that vendors may face with AVs is the amount of data storage needed. They will collect a lot more data such as locations, soundings, routes and systems. As a reference to this, Google’s self-driving cars will collect nearly 1GB of data every second. This amount of data collection could prove tough for some vendors to store. In this case, it’s important to know their costs and limits on future data storage.
Understanding a vendor’s experience and customer history is a good indication of how reliable their product is. You can also see what training and support they offer, either in the form of hands-on or video demonstrations. Another way to identify a vendor’s expertise is to ask about knowledge of fleet compliance certificates, such as:
DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) and FORS (Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme)
If they operate within UK and EU laws for cross-Europe travel
Experience in HGV operating licenses and the Van Excellence scheme
A great way to know if a system best suits your business is to ask for a demo or sign up to a free trial. You’re then able to gauge certain aspects of the tool and ask questions, such as:
By demoing the software, you are able to identify if it has a clean and functional user interface and if the workflow process is easy to understand and operate. You can then test and try all that the tool has to offer and begin to understand how compatible it will be with you and your team.
Having a sense of familiarity is very under-rated when choosing the right tool. For example, if you have always input fleet data into spreadsheets, a tool with a familiar spreadsheet-type layout may seem more functional and appealing.
At first glance, you may think a tool has the right features and capabilities to help run your fleet operations. But it’s worth checking that these features offer exactly what you require in terms of data collected and workflow.
This doesn’t just refer to the accessibility of the tool on mobile devices and desktops, but also to your workforce. You may need employees to access vehicle maintenance data or GEO-fence information, so make sure the tool offers both staff access and restrictions to your fleet’s data.