Speaking of expenses that can turn into profits in the future, investing in a fleet tracking system is one such expense. Several businesses have already testified to fleet tracking’s role in their company’s success in minimizing costs. However, some people only see the upfront costs of fleet tracking and don’t look at the long-term benefits that it can give you. Many people also think there is no correlation between tracking technology and cost-efficient fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance.
In today’s post, we look at how device tracking can benefit businesses for more than just security and monitoring. In addition, we finally put to rest the question of whether or not it can help your company save money on fuel and maintenance costs.
Why Is It Important To Lower Fuel And Maintenance Costs?
Fuel and maintenance costs make up the bulk of any fleet’s operational costs. It is crucial to decrease these costs without compromising quality because costs are the biggest hindrance to a company’s growth. If your business can find ways to save money, the money can be used to further grow the business in new vehicles, car parts, and better equipment. Money saved from reducing operational costs can also give your business a safety net in case of financial downturns.
Common Causes of Fuel Inefficiency
For fleets, one of the biggest concerns is fuel efficiency. Businesses usually feel like they’re at the mercy of fluctuating fuel prices and supply and demand. However, there are ways by which you can lessen the impact of factors that you cannot control. Fleets need fuel for their fleets to run, but they also need to manage fuel costs for sustainability. There are seven primary reasons why fleets become fuel-inefficient:
- Unnecessary Speeding
- Lengthy Idle Times
- Inefficient Routing
- Improperly Maintained Vehicles
- Improper Vehicle Use
Most businesses fall prey to these fuel inefficiencies regardless of their size and financial capacity. Fortunately, these inefficiencies are easy to spot and remedy with the correct technology. So let’s take a closer look at each of these reasons to find out how fleet tracking technology can help solve these problems.
Drivers often need to balance and maintain their speeds while on the road. Of course, they need to go fast enough to reach their destination at the appointed time, but they also need to be mindful of speed limits to avoid vehicular accidents and not get in trouble with the law.
However, did you know that speeding at times where it’s unnecessary can also consume a lot of fuel? When you step on that gas pedal, the vehicle consumes more fuel to speed up. The same is true for hard braking and rapid acceleration. These actions put a lot of strain on the vehicle, so it needs to consume more fuel to pull it off.
Speeding is common on highways because you get vast stretches of road with little traffic, so drivers use this liberty to raise their speeds. However, this also wastes a lot of fuel. By driving steadily on highways, vehicles can cut down their gas mileage by as much as one-third.
With fleet tracking technology, fleet managers can receive notifications each time one of their vehicles over speed. The system also looks out for hard braking, rapid acceleration, and sharp turns, all-consuming more gas. In addition, fleet managers can note which particular drivers exhibit these driving patterns and give them the necessary feedback to adjust their driving habits to be more fuel-efficient.
Lengthy Idle Times
Another common cause of fuel inefficiency is lengthy idle times. As per DOT regulations, drivers are encouraged to take breaks on the road, especially if they’re working on long-haul orders. This is why it is not against company policy to rest stops to eat and break. However, some drivers tend to leave the engine on during breaks. Drivers may feel like it’s not a big deal if they leave the engine on while they go inside the convenience store to pick up some snacks.
However, every minute counts when it comes to fuel inefficiency. One hour of idle time translates to roughly one gallon of fuel wasted. Even a 5-minute cigarette or bathroom break can mean precious business dollars down the drain.
Drivers also tend to leave their engines running if they’re running multiple errands. For example, if they stop at a location to have documents signed, they will leave the engine on while waiting for the documents. If they are waiting for a package they need to pick up, the driver will usually sit on the driver’s seat with the vehicle running while waiting for the package. For drivers, it is more efficient because they don’t have to keep restarting the car at each stop.
Fleet managers who want to cut back on driver idle times can monitor them using the fleet management system. The app sends you a notification every time a vehicle has been idle for more than 10 minutes. Take note that the app doesn’t mark all unmoving vehicles as idle. It only does so with vehicles that are unmoving while the vehicle is turned on. Once you pinpoint which drivers are frequently going idle for more than 10 minutes, you can remind them to turn off the engine if they will be on break for more than 10 minutes.
How do you determine the best routes for your vehicles? For most fleets, this data is learned through experience. Usually, drivers will take the most familiar route to them; however, this doesn’t mean that it is necessarily the best and most fuel-efficient route.
One of the biggest hindrances to fuel efficiency is traffic. If your vehicles are stuck in traffic, the engine is running, but your car is not, which is equivalent to idle time. The problem with traffic is that you can’t be more fuel-efficient simply by turning off the engine when you’re stuck in traffic unless you want to earn the ire of other drivers. The best way to reduce fuel inefficiency caused by traffic is to avoid it in the first place.
Fleetr’s management system gives managers valuable data every minute and can store trip longs for up to 120 days. This means you can take a look at your fleet’s travel history and determine which roads to avoid because of traffic and what time of the day is traffic the heaviest. With this information, fleet management can develop more efficient routes where drivers don’t have to worry about running into traffic. This will save you more fuel and guarantee that your drivers can fulfill orders within the appointed time.
The system can also determine the most efficient and quickest route to the destination. As stated earlier, the most familiar routes are not necessarily the most efficient. With the data collected from the app, you can check if there are quicker and more efficient routes than the ones your drivers are currently taking. Aside from traffic, it’s also best to avoid roads with bad road conditions; if you can find routes that avoid dirt and gravel roads, the better.
Improperly Maintained Vehicles
It’s no secret that vehicles that are not in mint condition require more power to run properly. If your batteries are corroded, your vehicle will require more energy than usual so that it can run as it normally does. If a vehicle is running more sluggishly than usual, drivers may push it to its limits by frequently accelerating just to get rid of that sluggishness. Vehicles that are properly maintained are 35% more fuel-efficient than those that don’t undergo regular maintenance.
However, keeping track of your vehicle’s maintenance schedule can be quite a chore. Without fleet tracking, managers have to input the data on spreadsheets or on paper, which can be time-consuming. To save time, most managers set a weekly or monthly maintenance schedule for all their vehicles and perform maintenance on several cars simultaneously. It would take too much time and would put too much work on fleet management to assign a different maintenance schedule for each vehicle and keep track of that schedule every time.
However, fleet tracking technology can automate the entire scheduling process and decrease the workload for fleet managers.
Improper Vehicle Use
Drivers are usually wary of vehicle tracking technology because they feel like management doesn’t trust them enough and therefore feels the need to track their every move. However, it’s no secret that there are drivers who use company vehicles to run personal errands. If the company owns the vehicle, they are responsible for all costs associated with owning it. Since they are paying for fuel consumption, it’s only fair to expect that the vehicle will be used for business only, except for emergencies where managers may permit drivers to use it.
With the fleet management system, you can monitor all vehicles from a single screen. The trackers collect route data, so you can check if the vehicles are indeed plying their designated routes or if they’re veering away from their routes to attend to personal errands. The app helps drivers stay accountable even after work hours.
Fleetr has a feature called after-hours notifications. Managers can assign the fleet’s work schedule using the app, so it’s expected that no vehicle activity will be logged outside these scheduled hours. The app will send managers a notification if a vehicle is running or used outside of work hours.
Fleetr’s Vehicle Efficiency Scorecard
Because many factors determine fuel efficiency, fleet managers may have a hard time collecting and organizing data to determine areas where improvements need to be made. However, Fleetr’s vehicle efficiency scorecard can be your first stepping stone if you’re just starting out with fleet management.
The Fleetr vehicle efficiency scorecard is a metric that helps managers boost fuel efficiency by detecting driving behaviors that are considered fuel inefficient. This scorecard watches out for the following driving actions:
- Hard braking
- Idle times
The vehicle’s efficiency score is the weighted average of all instances of fuel-inefficient actions divided by the total driving time for the week. Vehicle fuel efficiency scores of 67 and above are considered good, while scores of under 33 are considered bad. Fleet managers can then examine the vehicle data from all cars that scored low to determine where the problem lies. Usually, drivers don’t even know that such actions can translate to a lot of fuel wastage. Hence, driver education and re-training are usually enough to resolve the issues.
The vehicle efficiency scorecard covers all the basics, but keep in mind that this account only for speeding, idle times, and other fuel inefficiencies caused by driver actions. It is a good place to start, but we encourage fleet managers to find areas of improvement from the data collected continuously.
How Fleet Tracking Reduces Vehicle Maintenance Costs
As we mentioned earlier, one of the easiest ways to cut back on fuel costs is to conduct regular maintenance. However, maintenance is another cost that the business needs to balance. Maintenance is something that a business can’t do without. Still, it shouldn’t cause the business to waste time and money either.
Fleet tracking has done wonders in terms of reducing vehicle maintenance costs for fleets. Let’s look at the many ways this piece of technology has changed the way fleets maintain their vehicles.
Streamline The Maintenance Process
Before fleet tracking technology, managers had to schedule maintenance checks manually. This is done either through a spreadsheet on the computer or a piece of paper. The spreadsheets are formatted to give managers a heads up when a particular maintenance date is approaching. They update the sheet again once maintenance has been done. Managers who want to go the easy route place the responsibility of vehicle maintenance on the vehicle’s driver. It is the driver’s responsibility to keep track of when the vehicle is up for maintenance and inform the manager.
The problem with both of these methods is that they can cause a lot of inconsistencies. For example, drivers may simply forget to remind their managers of an upcoming maintenance check. Using spreadsheets can also open the process up to human errors. As a result, companies usually send vehicles in for maintenance in batches to lessen mistakes with the same frequency.
However, maintenance frequency should be different for each vehicle. Some vehicles are used more, so they need fewer intervals between maintenance dates. By assigning a single maintenance frequency to all vehicles, some vehicles may end up not getting enough care. Vehicles that don’t get used as often, on the other hand, don’t need frequent maintenance. As a result, you’ll end up giving regular maintenance to vehicles that don’t need it, thereby wasting money in the process.
Even the idea of sending vehicles in for maintenance batches is very inefficient because this means you’re losing a chunk of your workforce every maintenance day. The best solution is to set up a different maintenance day for each vehicle. Each vehicle must have its own custom maintenance frequency. However, trying to track all of this down used to be next to impossible.
Thanks to fleet tracking, it is now possible to automate your fleet’s maintenance process, so you don’t have to obsess over spreadsheets to make sure you don’t miss a single maintenance day. It also ensures that each vehicle is getting the level of care they need.
Ability to Conduct In-House Maintenance
Because the maintenance process has been streamlined and automated, this means a lighter workload for managing the fleet. In addition, with a streamlined maintenance process, the possibility of a full in-house maintenance team is now possible.
Because maintenance schedules for a large fleet are difficult to track successfully, businesses usually seek the help of contractors or third-party companies to assist them with their maintenance needs. The other company will share the burden of tracking your fleet’s maintenance schedules to ensure that nothing falls between the cracks.
However, suppose you have complete control over your maintenance process. In that case, you don’t need to outsource your vehicle maintenance and repairs anymore. Having an in-house team can save you a lot of money if used properly for the following reasons:
- You have complete control over prices. If you hire contractors, you have to abide by their rates and their conditions. By having your own in-house maintenance team, you can start developing processes to lower maintenance costs, from equipment procurement to parts replacement. By having your own team, you can control how much money you spend on maintenance.
- You have full control over the maintenance schedule. Imagine creating the perfect maintenance schedule only to find out that the dates don’t work for the contractor or third-party company. With an in-house team, you can decide which dates to assign for vehicle maintenance and not have to worry about availability.
- Ability to carry out emergency repairs. If your team is in-house, you can always count on them to be there when you need repairs and maintenance on your vehicles. However, service availability becomes a massive problem with outsourcing jobs when you need a car repaired immediately because of urgent order. You find that nobody is available to work on your vehicle.
- Ability to record and collect data on vehicles. Bring your vehicles in for servicing somewhere, in most cases. Unfortunately, you don’t stay for the entire maintenance process, meaning you miss out on valuable information about your vehicles. However, conduct maintenance work on your own lot. As a result, you can ensure complete and accurate records of your maintenance process, which you can use to improve the process and lower costs.
- Vehicle expertise. Your contractor might change personnel in the future, or they may have someone new working on your cars each time. If your vehicles change hands quickly, the maintenance team may not accumulate enough information on your vehicles. On the other hand, if you have a dedicated in-house maintenance team, their training will tailor specifically to the vehicles in your fleet. In the end, you’ll have a maintenance team that knows your vehicles inside out.
- Build Connections Within The Industry. Depending on a third-party company for everything, from parts replacement to maintenance service, means you’re not spreading your own wings. Instead, by investing in your own in-house team, you can start to build connections with partners, suppliers, and distributors. While this may seem like a lot of work at first, forging relationships with suppliers means you can avail of car parts at lower prices. Building connections also means you have more people who can recommend your business to others.
A lot of fleets often overlook the benefits of an in-house team because of upfront costs. While it’s true that you might spend a lot of money in the beginning on purchasing your own maintenance equipment and training your team, but the maintenance savings it gives you, in the long run, may be well worth it.
Maintenance Scheduling Helps Manage Car Parts
A decent-sized fleet should always have an inventory of spare car parts. All parts of your vehicle have a lifespan. Even the best maintenance programs won’t stop them from degrading over time. However, keeping track of the lifespan of your car parts is just as complicated as scheduling maintenance checks for your vehicles, if not more.
Although GPS tracking doesn’t delve too much into inventory management, you can prepare for future car part demands if you have a streamlined vehicle maintenance schedule. In addition, because your maintenance scheduling is automated, it becomes easier to check if you’re due for car part replacements very soon so you can make purchases in advance.
Nothing is more inconvenient than finding out that you don’t have the necessary parts on the day of the maintenance itself. Whenever situations like this happen, fleet managers end up frantically searching for the car part they need, so there are also no opportunities for price canvassing to search for the best deals. Also, suppose your car cannot complete its maintenance routine due to a missing part replacement. In that case, it means that a particular vehicle cannot take on job orders until maintenance work is completed. Delays in maintenance work always mean loss of potential income for the company.
Reduce Operating Expenses with Fleet Tracking
The goal of any growing business is to spot areas of improvement to be more efficient at spending the company’s resources. Fleet managers are continuously trying to balance refining the company’s processes while maintaining the ability to support the company’s bottom line. Managers have known for a long time that fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance are two areas where businesses commonly bleed money.
Before fleet tracking technology existed, it was difficult to pinpoint the causes of these problems. You know there are problems, but you don’t know exactly who your enemy is. Without tracking, you cannot simply reprimand or blame drivers for fuel inefficiencies because you don’t have proof. With fleet tracking, the data transmitted by your tracking devices can give you a better insight into what goes on when a vehicle leaves the company lot. Because you can monitor your vehicles anywhere and anytime, you can pinpoint exactly where these inefficiencies are and then use the same technology to search for solutions to your problem.