Life as a fleet manager isn't easy, regardless of how many trucks a company owns. Solutions such as fleet management software and GPS fleet tracking technology can assist managers as they work to communicate and direct drivers for maximum productivity. Software coupled with GPS tracking can help verify that employees remain on task and on schedule when they are supposed to be on their routes, reported a recent article for Pest Control Technology magazine.
GPS Fleet Management gives insight to driver productivity
GPS tracking and back office integration have long been features in commercial, long-haul trucking operations, but the proliferation of inexpensive new devices and cloud-based routing and scheduling software has let more service and distribution fleets benefit from the technologies. Light and medium-duty fleet managers often had little visibility into drivers' activities while on the road, but now a few clicks can provide the exact location of a driver and data on vehicle movement and performance.
Routing and scheduling solutions develop the most efficient way for drivers to manage multi-stop routes or complex service appointment schedules. Before the advent of these optimized solutions, even experienced dispatchers and planners could not quickly generate route plans for drivers that made the best use of time and fuel.
Providing drivers with better route plans can now be combined with vehicle tracking to monitor driver compliance to those plans, as well as responsible vehicle operation. Engine idle reports available from these GPS and vehicle monitoring solutions are another way fleet managers can monitor driver behavior. Fleet managers can know when trucks are sitting idle with engines running for an extended period of time, providing insight into areas of waste that affect profitability for a small fleet or a larger commercial carrier.
"When I took over this position, routing and scheduling in the service department, just by rearranging the routes I shaved off time," Roger Graham, general manager at Arrow Exterminators, told the magazine. "People just thought they knew which was the best way (to get to a job). When I started running idle time reports, I was shocked at how often people would just sit around with their truck running for no reason."
Keep tabs on the mobile workforce
Many of today's fleet managers either arm their drivers with mobile devices or give their staff the option to bring their own smartphones and tablets along with them on their routes. Communication with drivers is of the utmost importance, especially in the even that drivers are out-of-route, or deviating from their planned paths, which can be revealed with GPS tracking systems.
"Running a mobile workforce comes with its challenges," Joe Boyle, vice president of customer experience for Fleetmatics, told the magazine. "You don't always know where they are, and the nature of being out in the field, there's the reality that you have a substantial amount of assets out there in the field, and they're expensive."
Fleet managers must focus on savings
Consistently rising fuel costs are constantly a battle for fleet managers, and now NAFA Fleet Management Association is gaining national publicity for its suggestions for how companies should confront with high fuel costs. Phillip Russo, executive director of NAFA, told Bloomberg Businessweek that purchasing large quantities of fuel at a locked-in price, reducing the number of trucks at the company or investing in alternative fuels are just a few ways companies can assure fuel costs aren't breaking the bank.
"We're at a stage right now where no fuel or technology has come out to be the forerunner, so everyone is trying out everything," Russo said during the interview. "Fleets are a natural beta test – guinea pigs if you want to use that language. They have a controlled environment, controlled vehicles and are collecting real-life data."
Experimenting with prototypes and new vehicles is another way fleet managers can save money for their firms. Automakers are sometimes receptive to allowing firms to pay a reduced price to trial a vehicle and determine if it will suit the carrier's or fleet's needs. The same model can apply to alternative fuel options. Fleet managers who are quick to partake in discounted pilot programs can save their companies a lot of money in the short term.
"Give fleets incentives to purchase vehicles and they'll be happy to test them, so that five or 10 years down the road when the general public is out looking for a vehicle, these vehicles will have been fully tested and proven to work," Russo told the news source.