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Technology Tip

Technology Tip
Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Small Business Fleet Management Tools

Small Business Fleet Management Tools

Whether your small business depends on one vehicle or 30, fleet management tools can help you reduce costs while improving efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Fleet management systems combine hardware, software and data to provide you with a real-time view of your vehicles’ location and performance, up-to-date maintenance data, notification about driver behavior or other events, and other information that improves the overall effectiveness of your fleet (and your business).

Better Understanding

Fleet management tools help business owners get an accurate measurement of what each vehicle – and the fleet as a whole – costs to operate per mile. Understanding and tracking this vital metric is often the first step to identifying ways you can optimize fleet-related costs.

The software will also provide reports on typical expenses such as fuel, repairs and driver payroll that can be easy to track individually, but harder when combined. Understanding these costs can help you identify potential savings.

For instance, fuel generally accounts for about 25 percent of a fleet’s operating costs, so finding ways to schedule or route vehicles more efficiently can provide savings that improve your company’s bottom line directly.

Tracking how and when vehicles are used can also help you reduce the amount of time vehicles sit idle, or are driven without cargo. Reducing those so-called “empty miles” can be a helpful step in increasing efficiency and lowering fleet-related costs.

In some instances, for instance, using an outside provider to make a small or one-time delivery may be a more cost-effective choice than dispatching a company vehicle. Understanding your fleet’s cost-per-mile can help you make better-informed decisions.

Purchase Considerations

With a growing number of fleet management platforms targeting small and medium businesses, picking the right one for your company’s needs will likely require careful evaluation of features and usability. Some factors to consider include:

  • Ease of use. Most systems depend on a GPS module that’s plugged into your vehicles’ onboard diagnostic port. The module monitors vehicle conditions and uploads real-time data that you can monitor via a Web-based dashboard or mobile app.
  • Route planning. Many systems allow you to enter a list of deliveries or service calls a vehicle needs to make, and automatically plots the most efficient route between stops. Some systems can notify the next customer when a vehicle is heading their way, and provide an updated arrival time.
  • Vehicle location tracking and alerts. This data can helpful when dispatching or tracking a specific vehicle, and can also be valuable if a company vehicle is stolen.
  • Driver behavior monitoring. Some systems can provide text or email notification if a vehicle is driven too quickly, sits idle for an extended period, deviates from scheduled routes, or engages in other undesirable activity. Some drivers may object to having their driving habits monitored electronically, but the good ones probably won’t mind.
  • Maintenance tracking. Fleet management software can track when routine maintenance such as oil changes, tire rotation, brake inspections and other preventative repairs have occurred. More importantly, they can provide updates about maintenance that should be performed soon, allowing you to schedule repairs with minimal disruption to your other vehicles.
  • Data integration. Some systems allow you to link vehicle performance data with driver scheduling and timesheet apps, which can be helpful in tracking timecard and payroll data.

Most fleet management systems designed for small businesses are cloud-based, with subscriptions varying by desired features and the number of vehicles that are tracked.

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