It does not matter if your small-to-medium business owns a single company car or if you are taking care of a dozen vehicles of different kinds – you need to know at least the basic stuff about fleet management. Today, we have compiled a list of tips that will help you do exactly that – manage a reliable and efficient fleet that does not hemorrhage money.
Safety above everything
Some people will say that this is being idealistic and that cost-effectiveness is the only thing that matters, but they are simply not right. Safety is of paramount importance and nothing should stand in its way.
This means that all of your drivers need to be carefully vetted before you hire them, as well as trained in absolutely everything that they could ever need on the road. This also means that you will be checking up on your drivers every now and then, making sure they are rested when driving and that nothing is happening to them that might interfere with their driving.
Staying safe also means using only regularly serviced vehicles and parts that come from reputable manufacturers. Regular servicing and maintenance is so important that we will mention it again. In addition to this, you would do well to ensure your drivers also take good care of the vehicles, for both your sakes.
Staying safe is not just about the well-being of your drivers. It is also about reducing unnecessary expenses and legal fees should something go wrong.
Reassess your needs
SMB fleets often get assembled in a hurry and once they are set, they become an afterthought. They become just another line in quarterly financials and owners and managers start seeing it as set in stone. They are not. In fact, they are the complete opposite.
The needs for a fleet in a small-to-medium company can fluctuate dramatically within a single year, or even a single quarter. A sudden drop in business volume might mean that the fleet needs downsizing or that outsourcing suddenly becomes the most viable option.
Conversely, you might find out that your fleet needs an upgrade and that you are losing customers because of the fact that your fleet is undermanned or doesn’t have enough vehicles.
The important thing is to reassess it from time to time.
Consider fleet management systems
There is a reason why so many companies use fleet management systems. Depending on how comprehensive these solutions are, they can provide the company in question with so much information on their fleet that it removes all guesswork from the equation.
Fleet managers know exactly who is doing what, which drivers are doing their job and which are winging it, which vehicles are due for maintenance, which routes need revising and much, much more.
Fleet management systems can be somewhat costly, but if you have a feeling that they might improve your bottom line by streamlining your operation, you should definitely consider giving one a test drive, so to say.
Many SMB owners and fleet managers get so obsessed with the vehicles and the routes that they forget about the most important element of every fleet – the people. It is even worse when they do remember the people but decide to treat them as interchangeable parts.
This is the safest way to an abysmally-managed business fleet.
You need to keep in mind that your drivers and warehouse people are just as important as your salespeople, your accountants, your marketing people and everyone else in the company. They will also give you their best if you know how to manage them and how to help them do their jobs.
Perhaps the most important part of managing your fleet-related employees is to listen to them. The chances are you know very little about the vehicles, the routes and everything else that has to do with your fleet. Open your eyes and ears and hear out your employees.
Managing any aspect of any business involves a lot of surprises but when we are talking business fleets, surprises come at such a fast rate that it becomes almost pointless to call them surprises.
Still, you need to be prepared and to expect all kinds of problems.
Despite all of your efforts, your vehicles will break down and you might need to call up mobile mechanics to get them moving as quickly as possible. Your drivers will sometimes be stopped for speeding. Your usual route will be disrupted by roadworks. Your favorite urban route will suffer from time to time due to congestion.
You name it; you can expect it.
The important thing is to actually expect it and to approach it in a Zen way. Bad things happen. You need to survey your situation and calmly start working towards resolving it.
That’s the only way.