One would think that with all of the computational firepower at the disposal of fleet managers these days, their task would be relatively simple. (Forgive the laughter in the back. That must be from the table of experienced operations managers who know this isnít true.) Their jobs have probably never been more challenging. Dealing in logistics is an increasingly complex business. As more data is available, solutions arenít always easier to find. So, what tips would a pro fleet manager give someone who is struggling just to keep up?
Keeping a fleet on time and a budget is always a challenging task. To help, operations managers should chase costs to find inefficiencies and keep up regular maintenance. They should also be prepared to replace aging rigs, make technology serve them, and take the long view when managing the convoy.
Figure Out Where Your Costs Are and Control Them
One of the best ways to chase down inefficiencies is to see where your loss-leading costs are coming from. This could be anything related to the business. For example, suppose you haul produce, and your drivers spend too much time dwelling at a particular terminal. In that case, you can probably posit a few things. You know that this terminal could be better optimized and that doing so will have a beneficial sway on the entire fleet. This is because if drivers arenít unnecessarily hung up, then they canít slow one another down at choke points.
And donít forget about weighing the benefits of protecting your business versus the potential costs of not doing so. Even if having quality insurance may seem like a luxury to some, however having commercial car insurance is a legal requirement. And while you may hope you never have to file a claim, having comprehensive coverage can provide good peace of mind. Still, considering the cost of reducing your business risks, having the right commercial car insurance is a much more attractive option than the alternative. Anyone from accountants to personal trainers can benefit business auto insurance. The costs are often quite reasonable and will depend on factors such as what the business does, how many vehicles are covered, what the policyís limits are, and where the business is located.†
Routine Maintenance is the Best Medicine
No matter if youíre dealing with hauling consumer goods or M-100 mining rigs, every vehicle will need to spend some time off for scheduled maintenance. Taking a vehicle that is still performing adequately out of service may seem counterintuitive. Still, this is one of the best times to do so. Preventative maintenance is the key to saving money in the long run.
Implementing a preventive maintenance program doesnít require much more than driver buy-in. You want drivers to spot problems during a routine inspection that could turn into more significant issues down the road. North Dakotaís DOT has a helpful checklist that will aid commercial drivers in doing just that.
Know When Replacement is Near
When exactly to replace parts of your fleet will depend more precisely on the vehicles it is made up of. Some vehicles can last for decades, if not indefinitely, when properly maintained. Some of San Franciscoís trollies are decades old, yet with regular maintenance, they run fine. And the system is still capable of handling 7 million riders annually. Nothing lasts forever, though. So, be sure to plan for the expense of replacement vehicles. Accidents do happen. And if your fleet utilizes a hard-to-source vehicle, be prepared to invest even more to rebuild trucks that need it.
Make Technology Work for You
Asset tracking and geofencing can be valuable tools to monitor your fleet. But still, if your system canít incorporate them, these features are worthless. The good thing is that asset tracking software has become much more accessible. By licensing software such as MaintainX or Asset Essentials, operators at even small businesses can utilize their data to provide more efficient solutions.
Geofencing can also be an excellent way to watch a fleet and track performance. It may even help you realize there is a problem with a specific rig that might need maintenance more often. And besides helping keep personal and goods secure, a high-quality system can also help cut down on the hassle of yard checks.
Take the Long View
Finally, one of the best pieces of advice a fleet manager could receive is to always be making decisions with an eye on the future. By taking the long view with logistics, youíll be fully considering a more complete set of options. And it is always good to have more options.
With the craziness of day-to-day fleet management, it is often impossible to think of the future, but taking a long view is essential to maintaining the overall health of the fleet. Just think, if youíre constantly scurrying to put out logistical fires, youíll never have the time to make the incremental changes that can have lasting impacts.
Still, having a long-term strategy is the only way one can possibly stay ahead of the curve with operations management. This is why it pays to take a deep breath, shut out the distraction of the day, and focus on what your fleet will need, not just at that moment but for years to come. Once you achieve this, you can unlock untold benefits for operations. Even if doing so is often easier said than done. Good luck, and Godspeed!