Executives in the transportation and distribution sectors are looking ahead to 2013. Now is the time for mid-year fiscal and operational reviews. Fleet managers are examining safety policies against actual safety records—identifying what is working and what needs adjustment. This year presents a particularly challenging set of parameters for distribution managers. With new CSA regulations set to take effect in 2013 and the potential for burdensome tax increases if Congress doesn’t act, fleet managers must prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Fleet tracking and telematics solutions are already providing thousands of large and small enterprises with tools to monitor vehicle location. Leveraging fleet management applications can help managers fine tune safety programs, improve route planning and protect their assets—both human and material. Exploring technological capabilities and applications during a mid-year review is worth considering.
Some managers delay adding tracking devices to their fleet due to concerns about employee response—they fear good drivers will feel insulted, maybe resign. Experts disagree. Good drivers typically embrace programs that open the door for rewards and improvement. You may lose some drivers. By monitoring driving patterns, fleet managers can identify drivers that regularly exceed the speed limit, drive irresponsibly (changing lanes too frequently), and ignore HOS guidelines. Losing a few of these drivers should improve the fleet safety record and boost morale among the team as unit, though.
Managing vehicle retirement schedules demands ongoing examination in order to remain efficient and cost effective. Determining whether to retire a vehicle or remediate one often depends on the vehicle age, performance history and current fiscal health of an enterprise. Adjustments to the tax code will undoubtedly lead some fleet managers to evaluate their current timetables. On-board recording systems and fleet management solutions assist operators maintain optimal mechanical performance during the life of the vehicle.
Data-driven scheduling for routine maintenance and repair, reduced fuel efficiency and potential mechanical failure alerts, and detailed reports assist managers to keep their trucks on the road longer—and control operating costs more efficiently. Replacing service vehicles consumes a large portion of the operating budget. Combining proper driving techniques with routine maintenance extends the life of your fleet.
A 2011 Fleet Management survey of 105 managers revealed that fuel costs dominate other concerns for trucking and distribution enterprises. Deployed GPS tracking to monitor road conditions, driver efficiency and vehicle performance helps managers make adjustments to offset the severe impact of fluctuating fuel prices. Changing routes to avoid construction and heavy traffic eliminates stop and go situations that consume fuel needlessly. By examining the topography of current routes, drivers and managers can take a proactive approach to delivery planning—again, improving fuel consumption rates and increasing revenue. Data for driving habits reveal both exceptional driving patterns and driving patterns that slowly drain your operating budget.
Integrating fleet tracking with fleet management systems improves safety for drivers and transported goods. Managers often take defensive action to mitigate threats, like lawsuits. With an automated and fully integrated system, managers have the ability to take an offensive strategy.
Electronic driver log data makes it easier to defend the company against false insurance claims generated by accidents. E-log assists with HOS compliance and roadside inspections. Fewer possibilities for legal challenges relieves unnecessary stress for fleet managers and drivers. Improved driving reduces the potential for freight damaged in accidents. In short, automated systems provide a layer of legal protection for fleet operations that manual records cannot provide.
Speech to text hands-free technology built into fleet management systems makes driving safer for your drivers and people sharing the road. Many states strictly enforce no texting and no cell phone use while driving laws. Speech recognition in GPS mapping applications eliminates distractions for drivers that normally use printed maps or handwritten notes. Communications with drivers delivered with driver-safety as the focus reduces distractions behind the wheel. Even a few seconds to check a street name can result in tragic accidents.
Investing in fleet tracking is not for every operation; however, cost savings is worth exploring. Considering tracking programs have resulted in the recovery of stolen vehicles, reduced insurance premiums and fewer accidents, potential return on investment is noteworthy. Managing a fleet today requires fortitude and flexibility to stay ahead of the competition. Embracing change is often the most challenging and rewarding road to take.
Grady Winston is an avid internet entrepreneur and guest blogger from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.