Fleet Management Solution and Vehicle Tracking System: Not a few have come to see both terms as two sides of the same coin. Some in fact believe that they are same in value proposition and only different in semantics. The latter probably explains why it is convenient to pass of a comprehensive insurance proposal incorporating a vehicle tracking system as one bearing a fleet management solution. It also in the same vein explain why a haulage firm would reject a proposal for the enterprise-wide installation of a functional fleet management solution while believing strongly that same has been installed as part of a wholesale comprehensive insurance package. However, contrary to what many have for long held onto, either born out of innocent ignorance or sheer expediency for business survival, Fleet Management Solution is NOT exactly the same as Vehicle Tracking System.
A vehicle tracking system combines the installation of an electronic device in a fleet of vehicles, with purpose-designed computer software to enable the owner to track the vehicle’s location, collecting data in the process from the field and deliver same to the base of operation.
Fleet management, a much wider term, refers to the entire gamut involved in the management of a company’s vehicle fleet. Fleet management solution will therefore include solutions designed to handle a range of functions, such as vehicle financing, vehicle maintenance, vehicle telematics (tracking and diagnostics), driver management, speed management, fuel management and health and safety management
There are already lots of fleet management solutions in the market and frankly speaking, most of the haulage firms or manufacturing companies with large fleet of heavy duty trucks do have the tracking devices installed and are able to track the locations of their vehicles. The sad reality is that most of the solutions marketed as “fleet management systems” are actually vehicle tracking systems with a little bit of added functionality (driver behavior etc.) in them. These systems put the vehicle position in the centre of fleet management and derive all the information from that perspective.
The Stark Reality
The truth of the matter is that in reality, the position of the vehicle is only a part of the solution in fleet management. By the time the cargo is on its way to the customer, the fleet manager has already conducted more than half of his work with that cargo and customer. Among other things, he has searched for the cargo, determined the appropriateness of a vehicle and fitness of a driver based on historical records just a click away, assigned the vehicle and driver, scheduled routes, checked the requirements which may include such issues as fueling and trip expenses and prepared the paperwork. Unfortunately, the so called “fleet management solutions” on the market today neglect these tasks.
A functional fleet management system should put the fleet manager in the middle while at the same time leveraging proactively on the support and capabilities of an integrated vehicle telematics for all of his work process. For instance, with Scheduling module usually included in fleet management system, the fleet manager should be able to easily plan his resources and assign drivers and vehicles to trips. Through added capabilities for Monitoring, aside covering the functionality of other services, it should also sends live alerts when something is not going according to plan or raise red-flags when remedial actions need to be activated immediately to save on valuable time and resources.
In addition to saving you money on fines and penalties, a good fleet management system can help you ensure that your vehicles and drivers will legally stay on the road where they should be. You need to limit the downtime of both vehicles and drivers. If they are not out on the road, they are not earning money. Vehicles parked in a workshop or panel-beater or waiting for permits or licenses that have fallen due without proper notifications are not productive, and a driver waiting for a license (or renewal of expired gate or loading pass in the case of a manufacturing company) cannot go out and earn money for you. You cannot afford to send out onto the road an unlicensed vehicle or driver, as the both the financial risk and potential liability could cripple your business.
Fleet management systems also enable a haulage company make informed decisions about the running of its fleet. Are you using the right vehicles? Are they costing you too much to maintain? Are they breaking down too often? At what point should you replace your vehicles, and when you do, which vehicle should you replace them with? Are your vehicles too heavy on fuel, and if you think they are, how would you know, and what do you compare the fuel consumption to? Can you identify possible fraudulent transactions?
So when next an agent is pushing aggressively for you to buy its ‘fleet management system’, now you know the critical questions and needs that the proposal MUST convincingly address before a deal can be finally sealed. ‘Convincingly’ would not just be about ‘mouthing’ the claims. There must be a clear, concise and practical demonstration of how the package will deliver on all of its value propositions.
In the midst of the proliferation of the marketplace with products and services ill-equipped to deliver on value propositions, there are still a couple of companies with proven track record of delivering value as proposed. However, from our experience, the greater challenge is in the would-be buyer of fleet management solutions having a proper understanding of their needs and knowing what to look out for in the product offering of service providers that perfectly match their clearly defined expectations or business need. In our twin article “Understanding Fleet Telematics” and “Deploying Fleet Management Solutions: Nigerian Business Environment in Perspective”, all the aforesaid and much more will be properly addressed.