What is fleet management?

24 November 2021
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Fleet management is essential for any organisation that requires commercial vehicles to operate. Staying on top of the performance and maintenance of fleets allows them to continue optimising productivity. This increased awareness of how the fleet works ultimately helps the business run smoothly and would be nearly impossible without some form of fleet management.  

Fleet managers can have a variety of roles, but they all benefit the fleet in one way or another. Any aspect of driving commercial vehicles, whether that’s fuel consumption or driver management, can benefit from monitoring and, in the long run, prevent complications, often before they first arise.  

At one time, fleet management would revolve purely around buying and maintaining business vehicles, but with the advent of digital technology and companies wising up to how beneficial a well-managed fleet can be – this arm of fleet services has found a newly appreciated priority within the workplace. 

With the rise of fleet management software, the details of a fleet and its telematics are increasingly more visible, allowing a manager to keep up with the ever-changing demands. 

What does a fleet manager do? 

Being a fleet manager comes with a wide variety of responsibilities; all of them come together to ensure the fleet is operating as best it can. 

Vehicle purchasing: There’s no fleet manager without a fleet to manage, so a large part of the role involves vehicle acquisition. Managing a fleet’s vehicle acquisition goes beyond simply purchasing a new vehicle every time an old one breaks; instead, it’s forecasting how many will be needed and anticipating that need. Rather than just buying a new model every time it’s needed, a purchasing strategy is often required to ensure money and resources aren’t wasted. A purchasing process will usually consider an employee’s vehicle class eligibility, a vehicle’s lifecycle, and the best time of year to purchase a vehicle.   

Cost management: A core element of fleet management is tracking the costs of the fleet. Aside from the price of purchasing new vehicles, this includes everything from fuel card management to employee hours. A large part of managing a fleet is finding any superfluous spending and making the fleet as economically viable as possible. There are numerous schemes and ways of managing a fleet’s cost but building a strong working relationship with suppliers can be a large part of working towards cheaper rates. 

Driver retention: Similarly to vehicle purchasing, a fleet can’t effectively operate without its drivers, so a fleet manager’s role will often include retaining drivers. As driver shortages are a known issue across a number of industries, maintaining a stable number of drivers and predicting the fluctuation of workers has become something of a fine art. There are a number of methods that can encourage drivers to stay, more often than not, ensuring the drivers are happy at work, which can involve dealing with personnel conflicts and disputes.  

Driver safety: Driver safety is integral to a successful fleet, reflecting on the manager and the wider fleet operator if something happens. Naturally, driver safety and maintaining the correct behaviour can be difficult if drivers and their vehicles are on the other side of the country or even the world. Many fleet managers opt for dashcams or vehicle tracking devices to provide both a real-time view and a bank of data that allows them to see what’s happening regardless of how far their drivers travel. 

Fleet tracking: As previously mentioned, a core element of driver safety is being able to see where the fleet vehicles are at all times. Regardless of how many vehicles are in the fleet, it’s always good to be able to see where your assets are. It can be a complex task tracking several thousand vehicles, but with GPS tracking, it’s possible to pinpoint the fleet to the nearest 10 meters.    

What are the KPIs for a successful fleet? 

At any given time, individual fleet managers have a number of targets they have to strive for and maintain. Still, there are a number of indicators that show how effective a fleet is operating that most, if not all, try to track. Fleet management software can aid managers in keeping track of their KPIs, gathering the relevant data and facilitating effective operations. 

Distracted drivers: The number one cause of accidents in fleets is distracted drivers. More often than not this is due to drivers attempting to multitask e.g. being on the phone or eating while driving. As concentration on the road dips, the likelihood of an accident rises, though not all distractions are at the fault of the driver. One of the best ways to track this KPI is through dashcams and AI-enabled cameras that can show the viewpoint of drivers and the inside of cabs. 

Speeding events: Speeding is another factor that’s a leading cause of road accidents in fleets. As well as personal injury and the cost of vehicle repair, accidents can negatively impact the reputation of companies, resulting in speeding fines, increased insurance costs and costlier fuel bills. While a driver may be in a hurry to reach their destination, the risk is never worth speeding and is something fleet managers are keen to put an end to. Fleet telematics are a helpful way of keeping track of travel speeds, flagging any times a driver has driven over the speed limit. 

Idle engines: Idle engines in a vehicle directly impact a fleet’s CO2 emissions and cause the vehicle to use more fuel, which has a knock-on effect on cost management. With fleet tracking and telematics, it’s possible to monitor idling drivers and, with some systems, notify them with custom in-cab notifications. 

Average time on customers sites: One KPI fleet managers keep an eye on is the amount of time spent at another location when making deliveries or collections. With the goal of keeping the fleet as productive as possible, if a driver lingers at a site after the delivery has been made, it can affect the rest of the day or week’s operations. GPS and site reporting allows fleet managers to calculate the amount of time drivers spend at customer sites. 

Unscheduled maintenance: A fleet’s breakdowns or mechanical failures can be a massive headache for both management and clients. Vehicle downtime can cause backlogs and affect the wider business, but with fleet management software, it’s possible to track maintenance events and predict a working timeline for how often maintenance should be carried out.  

If you’re looking to save time and money as part of your fleet management, Right Fuel Card offers a practical and easily manageable solution to fuel cards. If you want to track the fuel outgoings in your fleet, contact us here to arrange a conversation with one of our team’s experts.