A woman stands outside, using an electronic tablet. Behind her is a row of parked 18-wheel trucks with blue cabins. The woman has blonde hair blowing in the wind and she wears a red puffed vest over a blue plaid shirt.
Fleet management software can simplify tasks like tracking fuel consumption and monitoring traffic and delays. — Getty Images/Smederevac

Fleet management can be a difficult task to cover as a business owner. Understanding how to operate a fleet of vehicles can mitigate risks and costs associated with mishandling.

One of the most important aspects of fleet management is staying on top of usage and maintenance. Here’s how you can effectively maintain and manage the usage of company vehicles.

[Read more: Have Company Vehicles? This Is What You Need to Know About Commercial Auto Insurance]

Implement policies and procedures for vehicle usage

When it comes to managing a fleet, understanding what goes into the standard policies and procedures is half the battle. For starters, written policies should be clear and concise, outlining the expectations of both the employer and employee. For example, clarify prerequisites, like having a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record to drive a company vehicle. Additionally, record company obligations, such as promising an insured vehicle to employees who are eligible to drive one and taking care of regular maintenance.

Create a vehicle maintenance schedule

Ensure safety and cut down on risk by keeping a maintenance schedule. This way, you can prevent issues before they even happen. Most vehicles need to be checked every six months for routine maintenance, such as tire inspection and rotation, brake checks, and oil changes.

Provide training and education for drivers

Employees with a company car should be educated on the vehicle and policies in place. You don’t want employees unaware of certain rules or unsure of how to respond in a situation, such as a fender bender.

A well-trained driver will know company safety guidelines by heart, reducing risk and cutting down on preventable mishaps.

Invest in fleet management software

Fleet management software automates processes like vehicle tracking and driver monitoring. Forbes has a list of several fleet management software companies with the highest ratings. Fleetio, for example, makes the list for its affordable monthly pricing, while Azuga takes the cake for its AI capabilities.

Keep an eye on the cost of ownership to make sure you aren’t paying a pretty penny for an aging vehicle.

The average annual cost for the management of 10 vehicles is $6,186. Here’s a breakdown of what you can get out of fleet management software:

  • Vehicle tracking: GPS devices can help optimize driver routes and collect data such as vehicle speed, distance traveled, and location.
  • Driving behavior analysis: Determine whether a driver has a habit of overusing their brakes, speeding, or idling in one place for too long. This information can be used to create actionable items to resolve reported issues.
  • Fuel management: Monitor fuel usage and costs so you are better equipped to make decisions for your fleet, such as reducing idling or examining current routes to see where shortcuts can be made.
  • Route monitoring: Track the progress of vehicles along specific routes and identify real-time delays to help keep the fleet running efficiently.

Recognize the demands of each vehicle

Make sure you’re not under-inspecting (or over-inspecting) a vehicle, as this can lead to increased costs and maintenance issues. Depending on the make and model, one car may need more maintenance than another in the same fleet. Through proper fleet analysis, you will know whether it’s time to dispose of a vehicle or if it just needs a tune-up.

[Read more: 5 Things to Know About Company-Owned Vehicles]

Monitor cost of ownership

Sometimes the cost of keeping a vehicle in operation eats up more money than its worth. Keep an eye on the cost of ownership to make sure you aren’t paying a pretty penny for an aging vehicle. Understanding market trends and where a vehicle is at in its lifespan is crucial in determining when to move on to a new one.

Evaluate the effectiveness of your vehicle program and make adjustments as needed

Data is nothing without action, which is why long-term analysis is necessary for growth. Referring back to data collected over time can help you make decisions that affect the future of your business, such as implementing route changes or improving maintenance protocols.

Look for recurring patterns, and avoid getting stuck on just one data set. In other words, keep your eyes on the bigger picture.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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