Keeping a fleet of vehicles on the road takes an awful lot of organisation.  Once upon a time, fleet management was largely about handling practical tasks as they arose in order to keep vehicles legal and drivers productive.  Data was minimal; technology basic.

Modern fleet management is a very different story – every day your business is bombarded with information from all directions – information about where the vehicles are, how much they’re costing, how they’re being driven, the contracts they’re on, the fuel they’re using, the upcoming to-do list…and the list goes on.

This information is gold dust for fleet managers – it tells you all you need to know about fleet performance, efficiency and economy – but the sheer quantity of data and delivery formats can create confusion for even the most switched-on of fleet managers.

Do you have it covered?

Another consequence of an increasingly complex fleet management culture is emerging; one that is perhaps even more concerning.  With a growing number of parties and suppliers having input into the fleet, roles are becoming blurred, creating uncertainty of who is ultimately responsible.  We frequently hear the following statements during conversations with companies running fleets:

“My vehicles are leased, so it’s not a problem – the leasing company manages my fleet for me.”

Many businesses choose to lease their cars and vans with an inclusive maintenance package. It’s a good idea, helping to spread the cost of maintenance and removing managerial issues of having to look for suppliers.  However, just because you have chosen ‘with maintenance’, you should not assume that your vehicles are actually being maintained.

In smaller businesses especially, there is often a circle of assumptions – employers assume that the driver and leasing company are carrying out maintenance; drivers that it is the responsibility of their employers and the leasing company; and the leasing company that the issue is being tracked by employers and drivers.  (Leasing companies know that the legal responsibility for ensuring that the vehicle is maintained lies with the employer and so their systems are often set up to be reactive rather than proactive).  It’s an issue of confused responsibility, and a potentially dangerous mistake to make.

“Vehicle tracking is fleet management, isn’t it?”

Another example of commonly misguided responsibility is telematics.  The sheer level of data delivered by today’s highly intelligent systems has eclipsed fleet operators’ initial expectations of what telematics could do for them. No longer is it simply about knowing where your vehicles are, and how fast they’re travelling.  The data is extraordinarily valuable, but it’s important to remember that telematics alone cannot be mistaken for fleet management – it has to be supported by a robust system that uses the data captured by telematics to underpin key tasks and routines.

Robust systems are crucial.

Clearly all of these problems are further compounded if companies entrust their management to inadequate systems such as spreadsheets or manual diary systems.  These methods simply aren’t designed to manage something as complex and high-risk as the fleet, and companies who insist on sticking with manual systems are extremely exposed, both legally and from a cost point of view.

Happily, smart data can make it easy to achieve all of these responsibilities.  Smart data means having access to information about every part of the fleet operation, plus the means to (a) collate the information easily, (b) view the information in a way that’s appropriate for your business and your role, and (c) to act upon findings.

It’s not just about data accessibility.  How you use that data that is just as important.

Today’s business leaders know only too well that a completely robust, efficient fleet operation is reliant on two key factors: (a) smart data and (b) ownership of responsibility.  You may be lucky enough to have a network of the most trusted, proactive suppliers, but the responsibility of fleet management lies ultimately with you, the company.

Making the jump to fleet management software will address the issues and give you peace of mind that your fleet is safe, legal, cost effective and that your policies are robust…if used properly.  And that’s the critical ‘if’.  Using fleet software will give you the capability to run your fleet in a way that you never even imagined, resulting in cost savings, total administration efficiency and complete confidence in your legal compliance.  But achieving all of these things means embracing the change and taking advantage of the data and functionality at your disposal.

Learn to use your data and reap the rewards.

In today’s technology-driven industry, data has never been more accessible.  Collating and viewing that data is, however, more challenging, and many businesses fail completely when it comes to acting in response to the findings.

However, in failing to use data effectively, businesses are missing a trick.  Actually, a multitude of tricks. First, your business may be missing out on valuable opportunities to save money.  There’s data out there that will instantly highlight high cost vehicles, excessive fuel consumption, lease contract penalties, fuel theft, unauthorised vehicle use and a range of other avoidable costs.

Secondly, failing to have an effective overview of vehicle and driver activity could leave your company vulnerable to prosecution, should an incident occur that resulted in an investigation by the authorities.  And finally, a lack of effective processes in place to handle data efficiently will almost certainly mean unnecessary resource and costs are being spent to processing the information manually.

Summary.

To summarise what we’ve covered here, successful fleet management could be described as joining dots.  And as availability of data continues to grow and there are more and more dots to connect, it’s more important than ever to have a reliable system in place that automates the integration of this valuable data and makes it easy to manage a truly safe, compliant and cost-efficient fleet.