Professional vehicle fleet management includes many diverse tasks and responsibilities. It requires a dedicated staff to manage vehicle acquisition, maintenance, repairs and disposal, while following all pertinent laws, regulations and policies.
The following best practices or requirement constitute the foundation of a Professional Fleet Management Program:
- Focus on long-range outlook
The fleet management plan should address all long-range strategic and business aspects of owning, operating and disposing vehicles. It also needs to address the financial aspects of establishing vehicle use rates and replacement funding.
- Set up accurate database
Having timely and accurate data is vital to professional fleet management. A management information system designed specifically for your fleet can track, analyze and provide the reports necessary to ensure accurate and timely decision-making, so you can optimize overall fleet performance. The database can help you:
- Maintain inventory
- Manage proper maintenance
- Identify and analyze high-cost vehicles
- Develop reports for regulatory compliance
- Monitor vehicle use
- Establish vehicle-replacement cycles
- Use proven financial practices
It is important to understand the costs of owning and operating a fleet, so managers can make informed financial decisions.
Financial statements should be developed that capture all costs, including labour, supplies, fuel, depreciation and overhead (agency indirect costs) attributable to the fleet activity. This information should be readily accessible to managers and stakeholders.
A charge-back system should be used to allocate these costs to the programs that benefit from the use of fleet vehicles, so that program managers can understand the full cost of their program activities.
- Establish Appropriate Vehicle-replacement Cycles
The proper replacement of vehicles minimizes costs and assures safety. Vehicle-replacement cycles are developed through life-cycle analysis that predicts the optimum replacement time.
This analysis considers depreciation, maintenance, fuel consumption, vehicle-preparation costs, overhead and resale value. Newer vehicles are more technically advanced, have improved safety systems, produce fewer emissions and are more fuel efficient.
- Finance Vehicle Purchases
An integral part of managing the vehicle-replacement cycle is having funding available when you need it. You can reduce the life-cycle costs of replacement by adhering to appropriate maintenance schedules. Instead of relying wholly on cash budgets to buy new vehicles, companies should consider the use of leases especially during lean economic periods. This ‘convenience-of-payment’ financing alternative can be an effective part of fleet management thus eliminating the necessity of keeping vehicles past their useful life.
- Understand regulations and industry standards
Fleets are required to comply with a multitude of federal, state and local laws and policies. These include:
- Specific daytime and night time operation
- Driver monitoring
- Reporting to state and federal regulatory agencies
In more advanced clime, you hear of compliance requirements such as:
- Buying vehicles that use alternative fuels
- Emissions compliance
- Fuel consumption
- Cargo securement standard
HOWEVER, the requirements and even the best standards do change often.
Professional fleet management requires staying current on all of these laws and policies. A fleet manager can stay well informed through training and by active participation in local and national, public and private fleet management programs or events.
Industry periodicals are also a good source for information on changing fleet regulations and policies.