The Logistics of Running Your Fleet (Part One)
The very first step is naturally to identify and quantify the needs of your business. You have to know what purpose the fleet is to fulfil, so you can choose the appropriate vehicles for the job. For example, if you’re looking mainly at cargo transportation, you need to know what type/s of cargo you’ll be transporting, any specific restrictions or needs of that cargo (refrigeration, for example), the quantities to be moved, how far it is to travel, when and how often.
From this information, you’ll be able to identify the appropriate vehicles for your fleet. Again, there’s a lot to consider; think about not only the capacity of the vehicle but also its efficiency, suitability for the terrain to be covered (for example, will it be able to travel narrow country roads?), the availability of spare parts and ease of repair and maintenance.
This process should be regularly revisited to ensure that your fleet remains appropriate to your business needs.
You should have a robust acquisitions policy to ensure that costs in this area are carefully controlled. This doesn’t simply relate to the acquisition of the vehicles themselves, but also to spare parts and other necessities. Consider whether you can purchase frequently needed parts in bulk; this can offer savings both in costs and repair turnaround times.
This can be assisted by ensuring a level of conformity within your fleet; using the same manufacturer means that you have more common parts, which can help to streamline the acquisitions process immensely.
It’s the fleet manager’s responsibility to ensure that the vehicles are suitably insured – and to ensure that all personnel operating fleet vehicles are fully conversant with accident and incident reporting procedures. Whilst insurance should always meet the minimum requirements of the law, you should also consider the particular needs of your cargo and staff when considering whether you need a higher level of insurance.
Vehicle Supply Management
There’s no point having the perfect vehicle for the job if that vehicle is not where the job is. One vital aspect of the fleet manager’s role is simply ensuring that your fleet vehicles are where they are needed, when they are needed. By planning routes carefully, you can consistently get your vehicles to the right places at the right times. Fuel needs are of course a vital part of the route planning procedure; an effective fuel management system helps to ensure that your vehicles always have enough in the tank, and can help you to identify the most efficient routes.
Vehicle security plays into this aspect as well; you need to ensure that vehicles are always secured, whether they’re currently holding cargo or not, as vehicle theft can impact your fleet significantly.
All vehicles require maintenance and upkeep; it’s up to the fleet manager to decide whether this should be performed in-house, outsourced on an as-needed basis, or contracted. Many large fleets will use a mixture of these options, for example performing regular services in-house and outsourcing ad-hoc repairs, whilst small fleets will often tend towards outsourcing because their needs don’t reach a level which justifies an in-house team.
It is essential that maintenance is performed on a proactive, preventative basis; this will prevent unnecessary deterioration of the vehicles. However, being over-zealous on your maintenance should also be avoided as this can be costly.
In part two, we’ll look at other aspects of fleet logistics, including vehicle leasing and outsourcing, vehicle disposal, performance management and health and safety requirements. In the meantime, should you need to improve your fleet management options with expertly designed fuel management hardware and software, contact us today on 01254 291391.