Small Business Insights: Q & A on Fleet Management

Best practices in fleet management.

By on July 4, 2012

For many industries, such as transportation, healthcare and legal, fleet management is a concern of many small business owners looking to streamline vehicle and driver operations. Volatile fuel prices as well as prevailing legislation affecting safety measures make it imperative for fleet managers to streamline and improve their vehicle and driver operations, while delivering value and service to customers and remaining profitable.

Recently, I had an opportunity to sit down with Abdul Abdullah, director of transportation solutions at Verizon Enterprise Solutions. He shared his thoughts on transforming fleet management and the challenges many managers face today.

In what areas can fleet management systems help transform a small business?

Efficiency, accountability and visibility are most significant areas of opportunity. With a smarter system for cars, trucks or vans, SMB owners can reduce costs while also optimizing the fleet’s operations. Effective fleet management systems that focus on these areas give small business owners ample resources and methods for tracking, monitoring and routing their vehicles.

Why is it essential for a small business to implement a plan and best practices in these areas?

A fleet manager is responsible for ensuring that the business’ assets are being used to their best advantage. In this position, fleet managers and drivers must be accountable to each other, staying in constant communication so that vehicles are sent out on time and with the necessary details of the appointment to operate effectively.

With advanced technology solutions like Field Force Manager, drivers can more easily map the quickest or shortest route before and during their trip, while also being able to plan ahead for detours, rest and refueling stops, preventing costly losses in time. Additionally, at a moment’s notice, fleet managers can dispatch the driver closest to a location, further improving operations.

One commonly overlooked inefficiency is idling. A single truck can waste over $6,000 each year in fuel and maintenance costs when an engine is left running. That loss can be greatly reduced by using routes that cut down on time and avoid traffic jams or sending a simple reminder to turn off the engine while at a rest stop.

Additionally, compliance with safety regulations, including those related to maximum driving hours, is of paramount importance. A fleet management system can allow a manager to measure compliance with such regulations, and reduce the risk of accidents. 

Lastly, an equally important area is the visibility of the fleet and its operations to consumers. When customers are able to trust that deliveries and off-site appointments will be handled in a timely and professional manner, a company earns their respect. This encourages clients to provide valuable feedback to the small business owner on the effectiveness of the fleet and the quality of service they received, building a valuable relationship with customers.

What are some non-traditional industries with fleets that could benefit from fleet management systems?

First thing that comes to most people’s mind is trucking, but in reality any small business that uses multiple vehicles can benefit from a fleet management solution. For example, when visiting nurses collect blood from a patient and deliver it to a lab or are responsible for providing medication and other medical supplies, this technology can monitor transportation and scan barcodes to confirm delivery, making certain that materials are handled with the appropriate care to meet regulations.

We also see non-traditional fleets in the legal industry. When a law firm needs to deliver time-sensitive documents from one location to another, they often use a legal courier service. With fleet management, the service manager can deploy his personnel as needed while also ensuring that packages are being delivered to the intended recipient on time. The same holds true for your favorite pizza shop or the local taxi company.

In cities and towns across the country, we have seen an increase in government agencies deploying fleet management technology as a means of tracking their vehicles in any situation. For example, during a blizzard, dispatching and tracking the city’s snow plows allows local government to use taxpayers’ dollars wisely, addressing any concerns about timeliness and quality of work.

What is the biggest challenge for a small business owner managing a fleet today?

As I mentioned earlier, fleets of all sizes are facing the same hurdle: fuel costs and consumption. Companies and fleet managers are continually struggling to control fuel expenses.

In wrestling with this challenge, fleet managers have begun encouraging their drivers to take advantage of their mobility and technology to find the best priced gas along their route. With useful tools like Gas Buddy on their smartphones, drivers can find nearby gas stations and see their current prices.

Coming up: In my next post, I’ll talk with Abdul about some of his expectations for fleet management in the near future and what advice he has to offer to small business owners maintaining fleets of their own.