Fleet management is a system of technologies and procedures designed to help an organisation and fleet managers run at the most efficiency capacity, and as companies face growing demand and other industry challenges, fleet management is important to differentiate themselves in a crowded market, improve productivity and safety and positively impact the bottom line.
A fleet’s success and profitability depends on a network of moving pieces. Businesses are tasked with the big job of both being on the front lines when it comes to everyday concerns and tasks while also balancing big-picture fleet responsibilities - everything from route planning and optimisation to monitoring and improving driver behaviour.
Why is fleet management important?
As companies and their fleets adopt technology to differentiate themselves in a crowded market and optimise operations, fleet managers are responsible for coordinating an increasing number of systems, technologies, third-party integrations and employees. Companies must handle growing demand and tightening capacity alongside other industry challenges like the driver shortage, rising fuel prices and industry regulations. Being able to manage a fleet in its entirety, from day-to-day tasks to the big picture, is important to keep companies running smoothly and profitably, while creating a safe, comfortable environment for drivers.
With second-by-second details from fleet management solutions about vehicle location and job progress, fleet managers have access to data and insights in one central place to improve processes. Multiple data points delivered to fleet managers from telematics allows them to leverage key metrics, like vehicle usage, driver behaviour and idle times, supplying answers to questions about productivity. Fleet managers are then able to make changes or improve processes during the workday and in real-time. A more efficient fleet is a more cost effective fleet; as managers identify and correct for inefficiencies like driver behaviour leading to excessive idling or above-average fuel usage, they can incur cost savings.
Safety is a priority for every organisation, and fleet management is an important part of building a safety-first culture. Telematics allows fleet and safety managers to effectively monitor for dangerous behaviours at the individual and fleet-wide level. Data can be used to develop driver safety programs, and by integrating dashboard camera and safety analytics technology, create personalised, relevant training to coach drivers on safe behaviour, creating a safer fleet.
What are the responsibilities of a fleet manager? What skills do they need?
The responsibilities of a fleet manager are wide-reaching, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Vehicle dispatch and route optimisation (to make dispatch management and routing more efficient)
- Fuel utilisation (including designing and managing programs to decrease fuel usage)
- Fulfilling orders (ensuring deliveries are on time, orders are met and customers are satisfied)
- Understanding, managing and communicating compliance
- Monitoring and improving driver behaviour and safety (including supporting corporate and fleet-wide safety initiatives)
- Setting and tracking against metrics (to keep the entire fleet on track and measure success against agreed upon metrics)
- Asset acquisition, utilisation and care (to ensure assets are in safe condition and save money by preventing unnecessary maintenance or replacement)
- Findings savings for the bottom line (to improve cost savings for the entire company)
- Interest in technology - staying on top of digital trends and how they’ll impact a company in all areas
- Ability to read and understand data - making inferences and building solutions around data insights from technologies like IoT and telematics
- Adaptability - the ability to multitask and manage deadlines
- Problem solving - managing drivers’ feedback and concerns and solving for inefficiencies
- Appetite for knowledge - the ability to stay on top of technology and policy trends, and a willingness to learn new things, in a rapidly changing industry
How is the fleet management role changing?
As companies and their fleets grow, bringing on vehicles and managing new regulations to forge ahead in the market, one central change to the role is the adaptation of technology. The successful fleets are those who will integrate technologies and make the most of innovations like IoT, telematics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and more. In-vehicle telematics are quickly becoming a must-have for commercial vehicles and heavy machinery, and fleet managers must be able to understand the technology, learn how to use it and determine how it fits into their role at a company. It may also require a whole new set of skills, both technical and personal, to manage the capture and analysis of data. It’s also the role of fleet managers to find efficiencies using this technology, meaning they’re more closely involved in finding, selecting and implementing technology, like fleet management software solutions.
How does fleet management technology work?
Fleet management at its most basic level is based on the principal of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT connects physical devices, including vehicles or equipment, embedded with electronics, software, sensors and actuators, which allows the connected devices to collect and exchange data. This data, once analysed, can provide insight into next-steps or actions. In the case of fleet management technology, a telematics device connects to an engine, either on a vehicle or piece of heavy equipment, via its on-board diagnostics (OBD) or CAN-BUS port. The sensors collect data, like engine and driver hours, speed, GPS position, time elapsed since the last maintenance service and mechanical parameters like engine temperature and tire pressure, which is then viewable in real-time through a software platform so managers have complete visibility into an asset’s location and conditions at all time. As fleets monitor and track against more metrics like safety, maintenance and fuel usage, the more data is available to them. To make data management simple, fleet management solutions providers aggregate data into one central system, making it easier to digest data and examine trends via analytics.
What capabilities does fleet management software provide?
A true fleet management solution gives fleet owners and managers full visibility into fleet performance and mobile resource activity to drive efficiency in one unified platform. This includes visibility at an individual level - from a driver to a single vehicle or piece of equipment - to a high-level view of the entire fleet, including those with thousands of vehicles. One important capability of fleet management software is tracking safety. Safety analytics solutions are systems that incorporate telematics, combining the GPS tracking data with driver scorecards and analytics measuring the safety of a fleet. At their most simple, safety analytics track unsafe events like speeding, harsh cornering or braking.
What types of fleet management software are available?
There are many a variety of fleet management software types. Solutions can be used for on-road fleets, including long-haul transport or vocational, and for off-road fleets, including heavy equipment for the construction industry. For over the road fleets, fleet management software ensures fleet compliance with regulations. Vehicle location data can be used to optimise route planning and improve customer service, identify patterns in driver behaviour and report on trackable metrics (fuel usage, idling, utilisation, vehicle use, etc.).
For off-road fleets, fleet management collects data from heavy equipment and other construction assets, measuring equipment location, utilisation and maintenance to help construction companies increase productivity, reduce costs and improve overall operations. Telematics can optimise asset utilisation (track equipment location, engine hours, distances travelled and position, idle time, etc.), improve preventative maintenance (create logs, track hours for scheduled maintenance, plan preventative repairs, etc.), enhance operational efficiency (monitor planned progress, payloads, cycle times, daily production targets, etc.), improve safety and driver performance (identify unsafe operations, score drivers and operators, reduce equipment wear and tear, etc.) and manage fuel usage (track idle time and fuel consumption and benchmark fleet-wide fuel usage).
What should fleets look for in fleet management software?
The most important aspect of a fleet management solution is a finding a customisable solution that offers a full, 360-degree view of fleet operations and displays the data in such a way that it helps managers make critical business decisions. When researching software vendors, fleet owners and managers, along with other decision makers, should look into a company’s capabilities in the following areas:
- Fleet visibility: The ability to monitor a fleet of vehicles from anywhere in real-time. Decision makers should look for a solution that makes tracking driver location, fuel usage and maintenance records easy.
- Vehicle and trailer tracking: Look for a platform that allows fleet managers to track vehicles and assets 24/7 to maintain security and monitor activity. These capabilities can allow fleet owners and managers to assess productivity and implementation procedures to optimise equipment and personnel.
- Compliance: A top fleet management solution streamline safety and compliance process, eliminate hours of paperwork and avoid costly fines and penalties for compliance with Workplace Health & Safety, the Chain of Responsibility or other compliance programs or regulations.
- Maintenance: Select a fleet management platform that enables a strong preventative maintenance program to properly take care of vehicles and assets and keep them on the road.
- Fleet Safety: Fleet owners and managers should look for a solution with a wide range of safety-specific solutions built into the platform to create a safe environment for drivers and save money on insurance premiums. Features to look for include driver scorecards, safety analytics, event viewers, and in-vehicle notifications.
- Reporting and analytics: Access information securely and electronically with customisable dashboards, reports and real-time alerts. Fleet managers should look for a solution that offers personalisation and functionality when building reports and tracking the most critical KPIs.