Core information about Fleet Management and Fleet Managers
What is Fleet Management?
Collision Management Systems (CMS) works with the fleet management profession. Supporting fleet managers in using our platform to make better use of their existing telematics data, and thereby be better at their job. But what do we mean by fleet management?
In its broadest sense, fleet management is the business function and process that is responsible for all elements of an organisation’s fleet of vehicles.
That is a cradle to grave responsibility. In that the function covers vehicle acquisition, life-time management while on fleet and the disposal or de-fleeting of the vehicles.
In most organisations it also covers to some degree, normally legal compliance, the drivers of those vehicles.
As such it extends from the maintenance and uptime of the vehicles, through to budget management and onto incident and risk management. Which is where CMS’ platform really helps out.
Fleet management is a complex role
The role of the fleet manager is therefore a very complex one. They often deal with thousands of (literally) moving parts, with their fleet of vehicles. A roster of drivers, business objectives and an external environment of legislation & compliance that can change quite rapidly.
Within this the key drivers for a fleet manager are always going to be: efficiency, cost management, risk management, duty of care, and compliance.
Unsurprisingly with such a complex management task, fleet management is either a dedicated function or department, within a business. Or is outsourced to a specialist fleet management company.
In both cases it is normally supported by a fleet management system. Which is a combination of software for fleet management. Coupled to in vehicle hardware devices such as trackers, GPS, and telematics.
What is the role of fleet managers and fleet management?
Taking the above a little further the role of a fleet manager is based on the fact that any organisation that uses cars, trucks, LCV’s, or HGV’s within its operations requires some form of professional fleet management.
Just think of managing your own household vehicles. Buying them, servicing, and maintaining, insurance and road tax, MOT’s, driving, repairs, and selling. Then multiple that by 250, 500 or several thousand times, and you have an idea of what’s needed.
Be that an organisation which has a fleet of cars for its salespeople. Or a supermarket chain with thousands of branded home delivery vehicles. Which on any one day may be driven by two or three separate drivers, the complexity is immense.
Fleet managers keep the business moving
The fleet manager is responsible for keeping these vehicles all doing what the organisation needs them to do (get salespeople to client visits, deliver to customer’s houses, supply other businesses, provide transport for the Police service, etc). While also improving productivity, reducing costs, ensuring legal compliance & duty of care and reducing risk to both the drivers and the organisation as a whole.
Like most things in management, data is key to gaining the insight to act on. This can be for scheduling vehicle downtime for servicing through to the data areas that CMS is expert in. Namely risk profiling and risk management.
Our SaaS platform supports fleet managers by taking in the oceans of data they get from their existing and installed telematics systems and devices. Standardising, normalising, and filtering it to give them just the alert and risk information that they need to act on.
What challenges do fleet managers face?
With some understanding of the complexity of the task a fleet manager faces, here are some of the core challenges fleet managers face.
The nature of much of fleet management is problem solving. When things do not go to plan, or the unexpected happens (e.g. a vehicle has an incident). Sorting these problems out can be a drain on time and focus. Taking the fleet manager into the minutiae of an issue when their time could be better spent on bigger, more value adding tasks.
Administration tasks associated with tracking all the information required for each vehicle and every driver is also a big drain on the time of fleet managers. That is traditional or legacy based paper or spreadsheet recording of the situation takes time away from doing what is needed to improve the situation.
Of course, the big step forward for fleet management in providing efficiency has been automation via fleet management software systems and the associated hardware of telematics, dashcams and other sensors.
With many tasks automated, time has been freed up and errors from manual inputting & poor reporting have been reduced, if not eliminated. Tasks such as managing operating and fuel expenses, service records and reminders, communicating with drivers on schedules and routes can all now be automated. Effectively automation has helped that constant management challenge of good communication and clear oversight of the task or responsibilities (in this case the vehicle fleet)
Controlling fuel costs
While the fleet financing cost is likely to be the single biggest cost in fleet management, the second cost will be fuel. Anything that a fleet manager can do to reduce fuel costs will help the organisation’s bottom line, and so an important part of the role is fuel cost management. Again, fleet management systems automation has been a great help here as it provides the data and insight to allow the fleet manager to take effective action.
That is, they can check driver behaviour to identify trends like hard acceleration, engine idling or other poor habits, that impact fuel consumption. With these identified they can talk to the responsible drivers and train them on better, fuel saving, habits.
Better more fuel-efficient route planning becomes possible, and as traffic patterns change, new routes can be found and highlighted to drivers as being more efficient routes to take.
A further area where the fleet manager can have a big impact on fuel costs is in the deals and discounts that can be secured from using a fuel card. These can be highly competitive, and shopping around for the best deal can deliver big savings over the contract period.
One other area of fuel cost management, and one that is becoming a serious consideration is the choice of fuel.
Diesel has always been the popular choice for its cost per mile benefit, but recent issues such as the Volkswagen scandal and the growing concern over the emissions from diesel vehicles, particularly in urban scenarios, are detracting from that benefit.
While petrol would once have been the default alternative, fleet managers can now look not too far into the future and see electric and hybrid options coming on stream. While these may have a higher unit cost, this will be heavily offset by the lower running costs.
Plus, their environmental benefits may become as big an influencer in an organisation’s policies as the reduced running costs are to the organisation’s fleet manager.
Vehicle acquisition and disposal
The fleet manager is responsible for determining what vehicles are needed on the fleet, both type and number. This runs from bringing them onto the fleet through to the de-fleeting and disposal.
To do this effectively the fleet manager needs to keep upto date on vehicle needs, the options and availability of vehicles from the manufacturers, changes to vehicle legislation, tax, and insurance, plus employee expectations about the type and quality of vehicles they will be driving.
Within this there is a constant need to look at the life-time cost of the vehicles on fleet – financing, operational and end of life – so that budgets can be met, and savings made. As an example, white vans hold a better value when being de-fleeted over more niche coloured vans.
Managing maintenance and service costs
Ontime and regular servicing and maintenance of the vehicle fleet is crucial to the fleet’s operations and minimising vehicle off road time. Again, this can be a complex task given the size of fleets that many fleet managers manage.
Tracking all the information to support this can be a major time sink – vehicle mileage needs to be recorded, servicing planned and actioned etc – so, most fleet managers use a fleet management software system to keep on track of the situation. These take live feeds from the vehicle telematics systems and track that information against the service scheduling to provide ongoing scheduling and prioritisation of service bookings.
There are also disciplines for the drivers to maintain, such as daily visual checks of vehicles, which the fleet manager can lead and enforce within the drivers. This means that not only are the drivers taking responsibility for the vehicle’s that they are driving but the fleet managers get notified of any issues that can require maintenance or repairs.
Being able to communicate with drivers is a crucial part of the fleet manager’s responsibilities and can be challenging as the drivers are out on the road.
Regular pre-shift briefings by team leaders, email and other communication channels are good for a daily update, but on-the-road communications can still be a challenge.
Mobile and cell phones have made a huge difference in this area, and so have telematics systems. These enable fleet managers to check on the location and timings of their drivers, plus communicate with them when schedules and plans change. Similarly, drivers have the capability to contact the fleet manager when the unexpected happens.
While this is still a challenge for the fleet manager, the use of the modern fleet management systems has improved the capability immensely in the last decade, making dynamic communication and therefore more flexible and agile fleet operations possible.
Duty of care and health & safety
One of the most important areas of responsibility for the fleet manager is the health and safety of the drivers and the duty of care to those drivers that the company extends.
Incidents happen, and the fleet manager needs to be able to know they have happened, and to take fast, responsive, and effective action to help the driver and any other party involved. This includes following first notification of loss (FNOL) procedures for insurance reporting and repair management.
Good communication standards between the drivers and fleet managers can help in these situations. To support this effective fleet managers will build strong working relationships with their drivers, as like in most situations, a strong worker-manager relationship can go a long way in getting things done effectively.
They can also be helped by the use of telematics which will alert the fleet manager to incidents that have happened so that they can proactively contact the driver to discuss the situation with them.
Filter out false alerts
CMS’ platform helps in this regard as it works to filter out the false positives that can be reported as incidents (e.g. a driver going over a pot hole fast can be reported as a collision), giving the fleet manager alerts to only the incidents they need to react to.
Further, by incorporating non-vehicle driver data such as training records, annual reviews, traffic violations, etc, our platform gives the fleet manager a 360-degree view of the driver’s risk profile.
This allows them to identify the drivers more likely to have an incident (be it their driving behaviour, the routes they work, the vehicle they drive, or a combination), and focus their management time on those drivers rather than having a blanket training and review process.
Ultimately, by using CMS’ platform, the fleet manager is working to avoid the incident happening in the first place. Which is an ultimate expression of an organisation’s duty of care to its drivers.
Legal compliance is an essential part of the fleet manager’s role and supports the duty of care aspect as well as the fleet’s operations.
It includes areas such as vehicle checks, inspection sheets, driver checks, maintenance reporting, damage management, MOT’s, insurance, road tax, emissions, etc.
It is also an evolving subject as both local and nationwide changes happen, for example the Direct Vision Standard due to come into force in London in Autumn 2020 (UPDATE: now February2021). So, fleet managers have to stay on top of the changes as well as manage the existing information, conformities, and non-conformities.
Ultimately, this ensures that a full audit trail of information is compiled for each vehicle and driver for both management purposes and in case the organisation needs to provide information due to an accident, a claim, or an investigation.
Avoiding information overload
Given all the above, an additional challenge in fleet management is avoiding information overload.
The quote, keeping the main thing, the main thing, is the main thing, is a management mantra that many fleet managers must adhere to.
They have access to huge amounts of data from a long list of sources covering a wide range of subjects. It is very easy to lose time and focus in this complex matrix of information. This can run the risk of missing the key and important points, which can have cost implications.
Fleet management systems automate a lot of this information gathering and reporting making the fleet managers life somewhat simpler.
In the case of incident alerts and risk profiling, CMS’ platform take this further by bringing in all the information from existing and installed telematics devices, standardising and normalising the data, and filtering out the false positives.
This leaves the fleet manager with just the information they need and notifications to the alerts that need their attention.
What is the future of fleet management?
Like all jobs and professions fleet management is facing a huge set of changes as technology and other factors change.
Technology in the form of telematics, GPS, fleet management systems, mobile phones, and Collision Management Systems own software, have fundamentally shifted the fleet managers role into being a more dynamic, better planned and more responsive role.
It has also added in more complexity as the sheer amount of data that is available as management information has grown.
There is more insight available, but knowing what insight is valuable has now become a key skill.
This need will be a key area to be addressed in the near future. It is what CMS exists to-do right now in the areas of incident alerts and risk management – take in disparate and multiple data sources, use technology to check and filter that data and give the fleet managers just the insight that they need to manage.
ACES are in the future
The other areas where fleet managers are going to have to evolve their skills and knowledge are in ACES vehicles and environmental impact.
ACES – Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared – vehicles are the future. Driverless vehicles, using electric power and shared across several fleets all connected via the internet are less than a decade or two, away.
Technically possible now, the evolution to let them happen has to be in legislation, to allow driverless vehicles on the roads, the socio-economic area of no longer needing a profession of commercial drivers, and the infrastructure to support electric charging on an industrial scale.
Environmentally fleets will change as organisations move from diesel and petrol fleets to electric, or other more sustainable energy, fleets. This will be driven by strategies that fleet managers need to influence but will also be impacted by.
What these two areas mean for fleet management is that it will go through another period of transition where the old established ways will be taken over by new better ways.
These will deliver new cost savings and more efficiency, just as telematics, GPS and fleet management systems have over the last two decades.
The skill of the fleet manager will be in getting the pace and depth of implementing these changes right.
How does CMS work with fleet management?
The starting point for CMS’ work is that the growth in the disparate data sources used by fleet managers (telematics devices, connected in vehicle cameras, and other connected vehicle technologies) is adding to the management challenge as the amount of data generated drowns out the value of the clear insight it is designed to deliver.
CMS’ connected-data SaaS platform, aggregates the data, references, standardises and normalises it, no matter the source(s), providing clear actionable information, insight and alerts.
It does this in a technology agnostic way, allowing users to aggregate and process data from any of their existing or future connected sources.
This includes connected cameras, mobile apps, telematics, black boxes, video data, employee information, training records, traffic offences, etc.
Once aggregated, proprietary methods standardise and normalise the disparate sources, so that all data is both comparable and consistent in the moment and over time.
With this methodology, time critical incident alerts are notified in real time, without needing to sift through the mass of data noise.
Additionally, and importantly, users are able to access a simple, single view of their fleet, driver, and remote worker risk profiles and behaviours.
What are the benefits of fleet managers working with CMS?
In terms of results, CMS’ platform has delivered a 400% ROI and a close to 20% reduction in near miss and collision frequencies.
It also allows fleet operators to answer these four principal questions:
How is my organisation’s risk profile changing?
What behaviours are causing this change?
Which employees or drivers are the biggest contributors to my risk profile?
What incidents are occurring right now that need a response?
With this fleet operators are able to:
Reduce incident frequency
through assessing not only the on-road risk, but all occupational road-risk contributing factors, by incorporating corporate, employee, legal, and other related data into their risk management programme.
severity and total claims spend by enabling incidents to be responded to faster and with more data.
Ensure duty of care compliance
by identifying drivers who are at a higher risk of an incident occurring.
Enhance driver training
by better targeting of management and training resources to risk-profiled drivers.
Have a robust fleet risk management process
in place to support company and brand reputation.