If you ask a group of fleet managers what their main business priority is, the answers would be varied. Driver safety, saving their company money and keeping their fleet vans on the road would probably top the list of responses. But it’s a delicate balance to constantly try to improve overall customer service while keeping the fleet operating efficiently.
A lot of the burden of operational efficiency falls on the driver. Even though the fleet manager is responsible for overall operations, it’s the driver who ultimately delivers on the manager’s goals. For example, 40% of commercial vehicle accidents are due to distracted driving. So, helping the driver reduce distractions in the field is a good place to start improving overall efficiency.
On the Road
If a driver is involved in an accident, both the driver and the vehicle are off the road. That can impact deliveries, workflow vehicle availability and profits. So, keeping the vans running safely and the drivers healthy is a top priority. So how can you help reduce accidents?
There are several new technological advances such as smartphone apps and other tools that help to identify driver behaviors that can prove to be risky. They monitor things like speed, braking and can even monitor smartphone use.
Accidents aren’t the only problem that can take your fleet vans off the road. Mechanical problems are another major issue affecting your vehicles. This is another area where you can put technology to work to help alleviate down time due to engine or other issues. Using data from the engine’s control module provides maintenance opportunities to prevent major repairs from occurring. These tools also help with fuel management, which can have a major impact on the company’s bottom line.
Technology has entered the fuel management arena as well. New tools help track and manage fuel purchases and repairs. It’s a new way to manage employee purchase by focusing on improved accountability and company managed purchase authorizations. By improving and tracking fuel purchases the company can get a better handle on their overall fuel costs.
One new tool even tracks your fleet in real time, letting you know where your drivers are at any given time. By knowing the status of every vehicle, you’ll have the opportunity to respond to your customers faster and provide better service. For example, when a call comes in to a dispatcher for service, they can immediately see which vehicle is closest to the customer. All of these new tools may require an investment, but in the long run they will help to optimize your fleet’s productivity.
Boosting Overall Efficiency
While technology will continue to help keep your fleet moving and your drivers safer, there are other things you can do to help boost efficiency. One is communicating with your drivers when they’re in the field. Using mobile communications to keep drivers aware of customer needs is a smart use of the existing tools you have.
Drivers can access all types of information from the main office and the office can communicate with drivers by email or text. Workers in the field can use their mobile devices to contact customers for answers to questions – and they can do that from any place, at any time. The same mobile devices can help collect data, like navigation locations using GPS, vehicle tracking and monitoring of driver behavior, which can help improve overall driver safety. One thing is certain: technology as a change agent is here to stay.
Another area to consider is deciding whether to offer reimbursement to drivers for use of their personal vehicle or provide a company vehicle. It appears that younger drivers prefer the reimbursement option, as they view reimbursement as “extra cash.” At first glance it seems appealing to reimburse drivers versus purchasing or leasing another vehicle, but there are many financial issues to consider.
There are many other changes coming, from new regulations to environmental requirements. But proactively looking at ways to boost operational efficiency is one clear path to minimizing costs and maximizing profitability.