In business, it's vital to keep evolving. Fortunately for today’s society, a lot of really great innovators held that same belief. If they didn’t, the phone or laptop you’re reading this on wouldn’t exist.
In all industries — but particularly in supply chain, manufacturing or those with a fleet of vehicles to manage — integrating an iterative approach to a company’s processes is crucial. Iterative processing involves repeating rounds of analysis and improvement until you reach the desired result. But it doesn’t end once it's been implemented. Monitoring, tracking and analysis should continue.
I recently read about the Houston Fire Department having problems with the air conditioning on 25 of the fleet's trucks. Imagine how oppressive it is to climb into a truck in triple-digit temperatures with 50 pounds of gear and no air conditioning. Companies managing large fleets need to avoid problems like this, and they can. Good fleet management strategies and preventive maintenance plans can help avoid mass breakdowns like the one in Houston.
Vehicle Management Best Practices
If your company manages a fleet of vehicles, there are several things you can do to keep them running smoothly. Follow these tips for helping to improve your fleet management system:
1. Preserve the condition of your vehicles with preventive maintenance.
In the case of those 25 fire trucks, it’s unlikely that the A/C on each broke simultaneously. They likely started to malfunction one at a time. Then, before the department knew it, several trucks became saddled with a busted unit. A preventive maintenance plan includes developing a comprehensive checklist of items to inspect and examine on a regular basis. For example, you could set up a schedule to check your vehicle’s oil, tires, air conditioning and windshield wipers every three months.
If you find something faulty, pull the vehicle from the rotation and repair it. While no one likes to be down a vehicle, it’s a lot easier to be down one than have several go out at once. Although a vehicle can still operate without air conditioning, it certainly won’t if you aren’t changing the oil.
Good record-keeping, like a spreadsheet or field service management software, can house that preventive maintenance checklist and all the data about your vehicles. And you can set up alerts when it’s time to evaluate each. This level of prevention can have your vehicles running smoother and more safely and will help them last longer.
2. Improve your drivers’ habits on the road.
Curtailing poor habits and patterns of drivers is another crucial part of good fleet management. Idling, excessive braking, and unnecessary accelerations can all add to wear and tear and increase your fuel costs. The good news is those are all correctable actions.
In true iterative process fashion, you could set goals for your drivers based on the key performance indicators on the road and monitor accordingly. Also, a good software can track the movements of your vehicles, which tells you if (and how) your drivers are operating your vehicles irresponsibly.
3. Ensure accountability among your workforce.
If someone asked you which of your employees drove a certain vehicle from your fleet last Friday, would you be able to answer? What if the question was about a Friday six months ago? If the answer to either question is no, your fleet management system is not nearly comprehensive enough. Not only should you know which employee is in which vehicle at all times, but you should also know how many miles that person drove each day and the condition of the vehicle when it was returned.
Let’s face it, employees don’t always treat company vehicles like they do their own. However, if there’s a process in place that records any dents or dings that occur on the job, they’re likely to be much more cautious. And don’t feel as though this has to be all about punishment for wrongdoing. You can create a fun award that recognizes the employee who takes the best care of his or her vehicle.
Keeping vehicles in tip-top shape isn't easy. But when you are managing dozens or hundreds in a fleet, it's important to have solid fleet management strategies to preserve your investment and keep those vehicles on the road.
Lee Schwartz, CEO of EnSight+, is an experienced chief executive officer with a demonstrated history of working in the utilities industry. Throughout his career, Lee has worked toward helping his companies achieve better efficiency, productivity and automation. He previously worked as COO at ThinkEco Inc. and is skilled in technology, accounting, operations management and energy efficiency.