- Our Advantage
- Guyana Division
Managing fleet can be a challenge. Between a short supply of microchips, price increases at the pump, idle vehicles awaiting dedicated routes and constantly changing vehicle requirements from the client, it can be a bit of a Lego construction experience — with sets that don’t match or come with assembly instructions.
A typical day for a Fleet Manager consists of an early morning call that the snowstorm the night before has left one of our vans in a ditch on a remote unpaved road. This is soon followed by a report that a large 5-Ton truck is in the process of being towed from a no parking zone. Apparently, this just happened at a busy condominium complex where an on-break parking enforcement officer was blocked and unable to exit.
Following that smooth start to the day, a series of “stand-up” meetings being held remotely where nobody “stands” and the only thing “up” are heads staring at the ceiling trying to uncover the whereabouts of the accident report that was faxed (faxed!) from the scene at the site of the aforementioned van parked in a ditch.
It can be challenging to manage the constantly moving parts that are generally the responsibility of a small, nimble team of transportation professionals. These folks have somehow harnessed the ability to squeeze a square peg through a round hole week after week while managing to keep their wits about them.
The tools of the Fleet Management trade have typically been a spreadsheet and two-way device for constant contact with reps at various locations across the city/province/country. The focus of the Fleet Manager is to maximize owned and rented assets to full capacity. There is a strong emphasis placed on limiting vehicle "down-time" while ensuring availability for the inevitable flex up and down in demand from any number of e-commerce, manufacturing, 3PL, and retail clients that are served. The Fleet Manager must continually strive for at-capacity or near-capacity utilization of all vehicles under management. Finding this elusive balance is always an “end of day emergency phone call” away from being disrupted.
Enter Fleet Management Systems — not the mixed bag of unlinked spreadsheets that reside on multiple devices within a variety of operating stations, but a single, consolidated system that mines this intelligence in a central up-to-the-minute repository. This is precisely what we employ to manage the hundreds of vehicles across our final mile home delivery service operation. At the centre of the Fleet Management system is the conversion of processes that are typically paper-based and discordant into a single viewpoint. This is no simple task, but it can be the difference between profit and loss in any client service level agreement.
A good fleet management system is one that has checkpoints and clear requirements that ensure safety. Safety for staff and the general public with whom they interact. Adhering to municipal legislation (i.e. vehicle certification, seasonal equipment upgrades, etc.) is the bare minimum. A proper system must have automated alerts for maintenance, triggers that indicate excessive speed, resources to educate employees, and start/end of shift procedures that guarantee that each and every vehicle is fit for the road before keys change hands.
If it’s not easy to use, it won’t be used at all. Make the technology work for you rather than the other way around. Getting full opt-in from those that will implement the fleet management system before and during rollout, is essential. This requires a user experience (UX) design mentality that takes into account the typical workflow of the audience assigned to the system. By understanding what they are looking for and the context in which they are doing so, a system can be customized that minimizes the friction that is typically associated with barriers to use. Easy and varied data entry, mixed with optimized display screens both on desktop and mobile, is absolutely essential in this regard.
When operational and performance standards are set, the training and testing to ensure optimal transfer to staff must be supplemented with periodic monitoring. Such monitoring provides critical benchmarks to measure against. Only when such benchmarks are firmly in place, can the Fleet Manager track performance and improve outcomes.
Consider it this way, without consistent and accurate measurement of processes, Fleet Managers are operating blind, making best guess estimates about vehicle requirements. This puts the transportation business — a business typically fraught with slim margins, at risk daily. A risk that must be mitigated to ensure profitability.
Traditionally, documentation is a stumbling block. Here’s the thing. Drivers drive, they don’t write. When Fleet Management relies too heavily on the administrative processes of non-administrative personnel, it is a recipe for disaster.
The effective Fleet Manager minimizes this burden on associates who are "in the field", dealing with the pressures of safely operating a motor vehicle and adhering to timed delivery schedules. For reliable documentation to emerge amidst such an environment, it must be simple and intuitive. Minimize end-of-shift reports and replace them with simple quick-step questionnaires that can be easily completed on a mobile device. Introduce voice dictation and photo/video entry into the process and you will be much further along the way to full adoption and accuracy.
5. Clear Goals
Believe it or not — clear goals, the most important component to Fleet Management success, can often be a missing component in the process. In most cases, the lack of clear goals occurs when the Fleet Manager is simply trying to weather an unexpected storm of demand. Without goals however, the Fleet Manager can lose focus and become overwhelmed with the varied time-sensitive demands of the role. This can lead to apathy and turnover. Don’t be that team. Specify clearly what your Fleet Management team should be striving for, whether it be; maximum vehicle utilization, decreased accidents, 100% circle check accuracy, etc., then tie individual and departmental goals together to get your team invested.
By following this last step closely, in conjunction with the 4 that precede it, you will see a lot more "management" in your Fleet Management operation.