Regardless of the size of your fleet, truck fleet management is an enormous job with many tasks and subtasks to oversee. Fleet managers generally handle everything from hiring and training maintenance professionals to negotiate based on fuel costs. Learn ways to improve your fleet truck management while making it more efficient and consistent.
What Are the Challenges Truck Fleet Managers Face?
Fleet managers have a crucially important job. And because of that, they often face extreme pressure to get everything right and anticipate maintenance accurately. Cost containment is one of their most important tasks, yet the fluctuating economy is making that challenging.
- Rising fuel costs: Over the past two years, the price of gas has nearly doubled with little time for fleet managers to react and make adjustments. In 2020, the average per-gallon price of gas was $2.24. By 2021, the average price reached $3.13. In October 2022, the average price per gallon was $4.13. Companies are looking to fleet managers to optimize vehicle usage to reduce fuel use while still meeting commitments.
- Unexpected repairs: Fuel prices aren’t the only line items going up. Everything is becoming more expensive, including the cost of completing repairs. With rising inflation, truck parts are becoming more expensive. This leaves trucking companies deciding between upsetting cash flow to fix a truck and letting it sit and potentially missing out on loads because they lack the equipment necessary.
- Administrative tasks: Fleet managers could spend their entire day managing administrative tasks. These professionals are tasked with invoicing, quoting, dispatching, staffing and customer communication. But they also have to focus on long-term planning and ensuring they are cash-flow positive despite the challenges inflation has presented.
10 Ways to Improve Your Truck Fleet Management Operations
If it feels like managing fleet vehicles has become a more reactive than proactive task, it might be time to review your practices and optimize workflows. Take a look at 10 ways to improve how you manage a fleet to simplify and streamline the many tasks involved.
Keep Detailed Records
Data empowers fleet managers to make informed decisions and look for efficiency opportunities. Without good data, you can’t look for ways to optimize your fleet and expenses.
Fleet software compiles data and makes it easily accessible to managers when they need it. Yet, you might still face uncertainty about what you should be tracking and how often. Here’s a look at some crucial data points to collect and review monthly, quarterly and annually.
- Driver information: Store data on drivers starting with their licensing and certification dates. You’ll also want to have data on the driver’s performance, such as incidents, fuel efficiency and insurance claims.
- Fuel: Track how often drivers purchase fuel, what type, how many gallons and the price per gallon.
- Maintenance and repairs: Knowing how many miles you typically get from a truck before required maintenance or common repair timelines can help you get the most out of the truck while minimizing expenses.
- Truck use: Keep a log of who signs out a vehicle and when and where the truck is headed. This should include a log of odometer readings.
- Vehicle contract and warranty: You might have some trucks you own and others you lease. Know what your contract is for each truck and the associated warranty to ensure you file for maintenance or repair expenses when covered under warranty.
Put Purchasing Requirements into Place
Vehicles are your largest asset, but they’re also likely your largest expense. Hopping from one manufacturer to another might seem attractive at the moment because you’re getting today’s best price. But shopping around for every replacement part and new vehicle is time-consuming and tedious.
Setting purchasing requirements and approval processes for new fleet vehicles will ensure you’re getting the best equipment at an affordable rate.
Some top considerations include:
- Vehicle specs
- Affordable replacement parts
- Fuel efficiency
- Load capacity
- Ease of replacing the vehicle
- Load type
- Total cost of ownership
Purchasing new vehicles is one of the more advanced and challenging tasks that you must oversee. But it’s also one of the most important. If you purchase trucks that don’t meet your expectations and needs, you won’t be able to complete the loads you commit to. If you over-purchase, you’ll end up with cost-efficiency issues where the loads the truck carries don’t pay for the advanced features you purchased. It’s a careful balancing act and a fine line to walk.
Make Policies a Priority
Making time to set and communicate company policies is challenging when fleet managers have so much to do. But by putting policies in place, you can improve your efficiency and build in the opportunity to delegate some tasks while ensuring they get done properly.
Here’s a look at several policies you should have.
- Data collection: Make it clear what data you’ll be collecting and what each driver is responsible for so you can hold them accountable.
- Driver licensing: Outline the consequences a driver faces if they allow their license to expire to set expectations and protect your company from employment issues.
- Maintenance routines: By outlining maintenance schedules, you can ensure you service vehicles promptly and never send one out on the road when it is due for servicing.
- Vehicle purchasing: List the essential features vehicles must have to avoid over- or under-buying.
Implement Driver Checklists
To collect data about vehicles and drivers, you’ll need to first input that data into your fleet software. This means requiring your drivers to complete checklists when signing out a truck or bringing one back.
Effective pretrip inspection protocols will protect drivers, avoid roadside breakdowns and encourage drivers to be more accountable for what happens out on the road. Post-trip inspections and reports help fleet managers stay informed about ending vehicle mileage and condition.
Improve Driver Performance
Reward and incentivize your drivers for safe, efficient driving. Track which drivers could benefit from additional training and then log that training in their employment records.
Help drivers understand their stats compared to their peers without shaming anyone. Clear insights into fuel costs and risky driving habits like hard braking and excessive idling can guide drivers toward more efficient practices. The more feedback you can provide, either in-person or through automated programs, the better drivers will be able to adjust their practices on future trips.
Stay on Top of Fleet Usage
The larger your fleet is, the more challenging it will be for you to stay on top of where every vehicle is and what miles it is traveling. But if you don’t follow this data, you might end up with drivers using the vehicle for personal travel or a few extra miles to meet their needs or be more convenient for them.
Audit your driver logs frequently looking for unnecessary travel. By cracking down on this data you’ll eliminate unnecessary fuel expenses and reduce unnecessary miles on your trucks to improve performance.
Putting processes in place that reduce the likelihood of the driver using a truck for personal purposes, such as implementing driver checklists, will also aid in reducing personal miles on vehicles. Setting policies for personal miles and reminding drivers regularly will also reduce the likelihood of unnecessary fuel use and additional miles on trucks.
Rotate Fleet Vehicles
Many drivers will simply pick their favorite truck before going out on a load regardless of the vehicle that’s best for the job or its recent usage. As a fleet manager, your goal is to manage wear and tear on vehicles and balance vehicle warranties and lease agreements with budgets and timelines for purchasing new vehicles.
You want your vehicles to have even wear and tear to prevent having to replace a truck earlier than planned. A truck should get the most use while under warranty while another vehicle costs your company more to run because of higher mileage.
Rotating vehicles systematically can ensure even wear and be a crucial task when managing budgets and keeping costs low. Many software systems can handle this for you once you program the capabilities of each truck and their associated warranty data.
Create Set Maintenance Schedules
Preventative maintenance is a crucial cost-containment activity. But without the right processes in place, preventative maintenance is challenging because you might go to service a vehicle and find that it’s out on a long haul.
Put holds on vehicles that are due for servicing well in advance to reduce roadside issues and make vehicle maintenance less expensive. Review upcoming maintenance schedules for your fleet and schedule those vehicles accordingly.
Automate Route Planning
Automated route planning can provide incredible efficiency because it won’t take hours of your time, and you’ll end up with the most efficient and effective routes based on fuel use and delivery timelines.
When using route-planning tools, you’ll also get reports and insights on fleet performance to further improve route planning and other fleet management activities. Effective routes can reduce fuel use and extend the life of vehicles, which keeps costs low.
Take Advantage of Automated Fleet-Management Solutions
Automated fleet-management solutions can aid in efficiency while making the work of a fleet manager feasible. Technology can help fleet managers focus their time on the areas of cost containment and efficiency instead of the day-to-day administrative tasks. With automated solutions, you also have more time to focus on customer relationships and strategic planning to position yourself as a leading transportation company.
Streamlining the Work of a Fleet Manager
Policies, technology and clear workflows can all make the work of a fleet manager simpler and more attainable. If you feel like all you do is play catchup or every move you make is reactive, it’s time to review your policies and technology to streamline workflows and start being more strategic.
A good fleet-management system offers customizations based on each user and their needs. The system should be adaptable to the size and type of fleet you’re managing.
The most important aspect of fleet management is data collection and analysis. Using data can help fleet managers make better-informed decisions while improving efficiency and containing costs.
Most dispatchers handle 30 to 50 trucks at a time.