Whether your company has just a few vehicles or a few thousand, mastering fleet management will help you use them more efficiently. It’ll also keep your drivers and property safe and provide a better experience for your customers.
If you’re looking to invest in fleet management, or if you’re moving into a fleet management role for the first time, this is the place to start. In this guide, we’ll cover the basics so you can begin optimizing your fleet.
By the time we’re finished, you’ll have a solid grasp of:
- What fleet management is
- Industries that rely on fleet management
- What equipment you need to do it well
- What to look for in fleet management software
Let’s begin by exploring what fleet management actually is.
What is fleet management?
Fleet management is how companies ensure they’re getting the most value out of their vehicles and drivers. It involves using a range of tech to track and monitor your trucks, vans, cars, and heavy machinery, then using software to get a bird’s eye view of your fleet. This helps you identify logistics problems, see better ways to use your resources, and address safety concerns.
Fleet management primarily relies on GPS technology, dash cameras, vehicle telematics, and fleet management software to track your vehicles and record data about their usage. Depending on the equipment you use, you can monitor routes, speed, stops, fuel usage, braking force, engine runtime, and more.
Even without modern technology, most companies that have vehicles are already doing fleet management—they’re just doing it the hard way.
The goal of fleet management is to ensure your company vehicles are being used in the most efficient ways, in the right places, and according to regulations. And it’s a lot easier to monitor and accomplish all that with technology.
Sometimes you won’t notice your drivers have overlapping or inefficient routes until you see their routes and stops on the map. Or maybe a particular vehicle is being overused. Fleet management can help you monitor which vehicles are due (or overdue) for maintenance, which can help prevent costly unscheduled downtime. You may also discover that a driver has been taking unapproved detours, making unscheduled stops (or stopping for too long), or racing through town.
While some of your drivers may grumble about being held accountable by GPS trackers and dash cameras, a fleet management system also protects them against fraudulent claims and helps ensure they have a manageable workload, too. If one driver has a significantly longer route or makes more stops, you’ll have data to help you balance their workload, which could help fight driver fatigue, reduce frustration, and prevent burnout. (It can also help you stay in compliance with regulations regarding driver hours.)
Fleet management tools also help you support your drivers in the event of a delay. If a stop takes longer than expected, a driver may not be able to notify you until they’re on the road again, which could impact deliveries, appointments, and other scheduled stops throughout the day. With fleet management software and GPS trackers on your vehicles, you can catch delays before they impact customers—so you can either reroute another driver or notify your customers in advance.
Industries that rely on fleet management
Fleet management is most valuable to organizations with numerous vehicles and/or companies that operate within a large geographic space. The more vehicles you need to manage, the more you use your vehicles, and the more ground you cover, the more a fleet management system can help you reduce costs and increase efficiency.
But it’s a worthwhile investment for any company that relies on company vehicles for their day-to-day operations. At SpyTec GPS, some of our most common clients are small businesses.
Here are just a few ways fleet management can benefit various kinds of businesses.
If you’re a moving company, your entire business hinges on the availability and efficiency of your moving trucks. GPS trackers ensure you always know where your vehicles are, how far they’ve gone, and the number of stops they make. With the right tech, you can monitor additional information like fuel efficiency and engine runtime as well.
Fleet management software may reveal that your drivers are taking too much time or being too hard on your trucks. You might also see in advance that a truck will need maintenance or a more thorough inspections, based on its route or how hard it was ran. And if you rent vehicles to customers, many new dash cams can detect accidents (and notify you via email or an app) and ensure you always have a record of what happened—whether your customer provides one or not.
When you have expensive equipment at numerous construction sites throughout your city, county, or state, it’s incredibly important to have a reliable way to keep track of it all. Excavators, bulldozers, dump trucks, cement mixers, and other construction-related vehicles are also expensive to operate, so you want to make sure your crews use them as efficiently as possible.
With GPS trackers, you can create geofences around your construction sites to make sure your equipment doesn’t leave a job site until it’s supposed to. (More on that later.) You can also monitor fuel efficiency, speed, and other metrics that could impact maintenance costs, safety, and fuel costs.
Lawn care and landscaping are industries where optimization is vital. When you take on clients, you’re essentially selling your crew’s time, and every day there’s a tight schedule your teams have to stick to. Fleet management software will help you see exactly how long each job takes, so you can optimize accordingly. You’ll also be able to identify areas where your teams are wasting time or making unnecessary stops, and you can create more efficient routes and eliminate overlap between crews.
Similarly, cleaning services may want GPS tracking to hold employees accountable and optimize routes and job sites. Additionally, fleet management software helps you adjust your schedule when a job takes longer than expected. When your customers are planning their day around your estimated timeline, it’s important that you have a way to recognize if a job is taking longer than you originally planned, so you can update clients as soon as possible.
When a customer stops paying to lease your vehicle, you need a reliable way to get it back. Discreet GPS trackers are a basic necessity for car leasing companies, and fleet management software is the backend that keeps track of all your vehicles and shows their location. When you need to repossess a vehicle, a GPS tracker lets you see exactly where to get it.
Fleet management helps organizations in numerous other industries reduce costs and keep personnel and property safe.
Not to mention, GPS trackers can help you automatically record mileage and fuel usage for tax-related purposes. Any business that uses company vehicles can benefit from that.
Let’s take a closer look at the equipment that makes it all possible.
What do you need to manage your fleet?
Fleet management primarily relies on three main pieces of equipment: GPS trackers, dash cams, and fleet management software. But the tech you need depends on what you’re most concerned about monitoring. If your top priority is security, you’re going to need different equipment than an organization that’s focused on optimization.
GPS trackers come in a wide range of styles, and they’re often designed for specific purposes. Some are battery-powered. Others plug into car chargers, directly connect to the car battery, or plug into the on-board diagnostics (OBD) port.
GPS trackers that plug into the OBD port can give you a lot of valuable data to help you optimize your vehicles, such as fuel usage, ignition status, engine health, braking force, acceleration, and more.
But they’re not very discreet. Depending on where your vehicle’s OBD port is, your GPS tracker may be immediately visible to anyone sitting in the front seat. That shouldn’t be a problem with your employees—and its visibility will serve as a constant reminder to hold themselves accountable—but it makes it easy for a would-be thief or bad customer to disable.
If security is your main concern, it might be better to invest in a small, discreet GPS tracker you can easily conceal on the exterior of your vehicle or beneath the hood. These models won’t have the advanced analytics you get with a GPS tracker that plugs into the OBD, but they can notify you when your vehicle leaves a designated area. This is ideal if your vehicles are supposed to stay at, say, a construction site or another location that’s difficult to secure.
GPS trackers can use geofencing to create a virtual perimeter around the location you want your vehicle to stay. If your vehicle leaves the perimeter, the tracker will notify you. Not all GPS trackers support geofencing, so if security is important to you, be sure you select a GPS tracker with this capability.
You should also pay attention to how the tracker will notify you of movement. For fleet management purposes, an email notification may be more valuable than a text message or push notification, but just make sure your tracker notifies you through a channel you can use at scale.
And of course, if you want to make sure you can track a stolen vehicle, you’ll need a GPS tracker that’s capable of real-time tracking.
Recommended OBD GPS tracker: XT 2000
Recommended discreet GPS tracker: GL300MA
Dash cams can determine who’s liable in an accident. If your business relies on vehicles and has drivers on public roads, dash cams are a must. They’ll help protect your drivers from fraudulent claims, ensure clear resolutions to insurance disputes, and help you monitor abuse of company property. Some dash cameras can also connect to your GPS device to record your vehicles’ speed and coordinates along with the footage.
Want to invest in quality dash cameras? Check out our dash cam buying guide.
Fleet management software
Fleet management software is essentially the interface of your GPS trackers and dash cameras. It’s how you actually access the data they transmit. While your trackers and cameras provide the information, your fleet management platform organizes it in useful ways. (In many cases, you may have separate dashboards and apps for your various devices.)
Since fleet management software is the backbone of fleet management, let’s take a more in-depth look at what you need in a fleet management program.
What to look for in fleet management software
While tracking your vehicles is pretty straightforward, some fleet management software programs are a lot more complex or comprehensive than others. Some are only designed to help with particular aspects of fleet management. Or they have all the functionality you need, but a terrible user interface (UI), which makes using it frustrating and confusing.
When you start looking at fleet management software, here’s what you’ll want to compare.
Your fleet management software is constantly accessing data transmitted from numerous devices, and it will likely need to store that data for an extended period. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that fleet management software is generally subscription based. There’s almost always going to be a monthly fee to access your data and reporting. So it’s important to select a platform that works with your budget.
Note: SpyTecGPS is ____/month. Check it out!
The specific GPS trackers you choose will change what kinds of data you have access to. As we mentioned before, OBD trackers can give you more information because they’re directly connected to the vehicle’s diagnostics. But you need to make sure your fleet management software can display and organize that data as well.
Depending on your goals, you may want your software to monitor:
- Every stop (location and duration)
- Last stop
- Ignition status
- Fuel usage
- Engine health
- Braking force
- Dash cam footage
Not every fleet management platform can access this data or organize it in a useful way.
Some fleet management platforms include task management functionality, so you can easily assign jobs to specific drivers and keep track of who’s doing what in the same place you see where everyone is. This may not be essential to your business, or you may have another task management solution you prefer, but it can be valuable to have this functionality bundled into your fleet management software.
Reporting is one of the most significant differences between fleet management software programs. In most cases, your problem won’t be finding a platform that provides the data you need—your problem will be finding one that organizes that data in ways you can actually use.
If your software is recording every stop along with braking force, mileage, fuel usage, etc. for every vehicle, that quickly becomes an overwhelming amount of data. You need a platform that lets you filter this data based on what you want to see.
Maybe you want to focus on fuel efficiency, so you want to filter all your vehicles by fuel usage or mileage. Or maybe there are specific drivers or vehicles you want to home in on. Or you want to reduce stop time, so you need to filter by stop duration.
Your software’s reporting capabilities directly impacts your ability to manage and optimize your fleet. So be sure to explore the user interface you’ll rely on every day before you invest in a platform.
Take a closer look at a premium fleet management platform
The right fleet management software will help you track and secure your vehicles as well as find clear, actionable ways to lower costs and increase efficiency.
We designed SpyTecGPS to give businesses of all shapes and sizes the tools they need to manage their vehicles. We’ve streamlined reporting to let you organize your data in the ways that are most useful to you. And the software itself is simple and intuitive, so it’s easy to find what you need.
Schedule a demo of SpyTecGPS today.