The key challenges fleet managers face and how fleet management software can help

Fleet managers must step into multiple roles to ensure the efficient and smooth operation of their business. Find out how fleet management software can help them perform their daily tasks.

Anna Edwards

Fleet managers play a vital role in overseeing and managing a fleet of vehicles in various industries from courier to construction and even engineering companies. A fundamental position within a business, fleet managers must step into multiple roles to ensure the efficient and smooth operations, in addition to having driver wellbeing and safety as a priority while tackling various operational challenges that arise on a daily basis.

What is a fleet manager responsible for?

A fleet manager’s duty is to ensure that vehicles always run safely and efficiently. These responsibilities vary depending on the organisation and the specific fleet operations and needs, but they typically undertake the following activities:

Fleet maintenance to ensure that the proper maintenance and upkeep of all vehicles is in order. This is a critical responsibility including scheduling regular inspections, organising routine maintenance, and addressing any repairs or breakdowns promptly. 

Route planning and optimisation that involves minimising mileage, reducing fuel consumption, and improving overall efficiency in the business. Fleet managers need to analyse data and consider factors such as traffic conditions and delivery schedules to develop effective and safe route plans for their drivers.

Fleet managers are also responsible for fuel management which involves monitoring and managing fuel consumption. They track fuel usage and identify areas of inefficiency where they can implement fuel-saving strategies.

In addition to ensure vehicles are always in a good condition, they are also responsible for driver management and overseeing driver performance. They need to ensure that their drivers adhere to safety regulations and company policies and are practising safety on the roads.

Fleet managers are also responsible for tracking and managing fleet assets, including vehicles, equipment, and inventory. 

They also need to ensure that compliance and regulatory requirements are met. Managers need to stay updated on relevant regulations, permits, and licenses required for fleet operations. 

They are also responsible for managing the fleet budget and controlling costs. They’re responsible for analysing expenses, negotiating contracts with suppliers and service providers, and implementing cost-saving measures.

Fleet managers collect and analyse data related to fleet performance, maintenance, fuel consumption, and other key metrics which they can use to create reports and provide insights to stakeholders, enabling informed decision-making.

Over the past decade, fleet manager roles have experienced significant transformation due to advancements in technology, changing industry dynamics, and evolving environmental and regulatory considerations. These changes have reshaped the responsibilities and expectations placed on fleet managers, propelling them into strategic leaders within their organisations.

One major driver of this evolution is the integration of technology. Fleet managers now have access to sophisticated fleet management software, telematics systems, GPS tracking, and data analytics tools. These technological advancements provide real-time visibility into fleet operations, enabling data-driven decision-making, streamlined processes, and improved overall efficiency.

There has also been a growing emphasis on sustainability and environmental impact which fleet managers have had to adapt by exploring alternative fuels, adopting electric vehicles (EVs), and implementing green initiatives. Evaluating the feasibility and impact of transitioning to more eco-friendly fleet options has become a crucial aspect of their role in any organisation.

Fleet managers no longer work in silos, the role has evolved to now needing to strategically collaborate with other departments within their organisations. Their input and insights are sought during strategic planning and decision-making processes, which requires them to work closely with procurement, finance, and operations teams to align fleet management objectives with overall business goals.

Ultimately, with the advancement of technology, fleet managers have evolved from traditional operational roles to become strategic leaders who leverage technology, data, and industry trends to optimise fleet performance, improve safety, reduce costs, and enhance the overall customer experience, positioning the role of fleet managers as vital contributors to the success of their organisations.

Why has the role of software become so critical?

In the modern fleet management landscape, data is gold. Fleet management software has become critical because of its ability to harness and leverage data effectively. By integrating various data sources, such as telematics, GPS, and vehicle diagnostics, fleet management software empowers managers with real-time visibility into their fleet's performance, fuel consumption, maintenance needs, and driver behaviour. This data-driven approach enables fleet managers to make informed decisions, optimise routes, improve fuel efficiency, and enhance overall operational efficiency.

The information insights and data provided by advanced fleet management software is invaluable for decreasing fleet management costs. It allows these managers to effectively operate in their role by analysing and utilising mobility data which they can use to identify areas for improvement, implement fuel-saving measures, and monitor driver performance to enhance safety and efficiency in their operations.

With the implementation of fleet management software, businesses can lower operating costs in various areas of their fleet management by analysing driver behaviour and fleet monitoring.

  • Improve driver behaviour to lower costs – When not controlled, traffic violations, accidents and poor driver behaviour can increase to your operational costs. With driver behaviour tracking, the software will trigger automatic alerts for incidents such as speeding, allowing immediate action to be taken. Drivers’ behaviour reports will be a great base to coach and guide employees. Aggressive driving and speeding alone accounted for 29% of all fatal accidents in 2021 according to NHTSA.  Fewer accidents and injuries mean lower costs for your business.

  • Save fuel with data - A driver’s impact on fuel efficiency can be as much as almost 20% - this number is based on data gathered from the ABAX customer base. Bad driving behaviour such as hard acceleration, idling, inconsistent speeds, and hard braking are habits that can be monitored and corrected by using fleet management software.

  • Decrease costs with preventative vehicle maintenance – The use of mobility data will ensure that vehicles are well maintained, typically using less fuel and preventative maintenance can prevent breakdowns leading to downtime in operations. Each time a vehicle breaks down, it’s money and time wasted. With embedded vehicle data, in-vehicle management systems can monitor real-time alerts to identify minor problems before they become major ones, helping reduce expensive roadside repairs and downtime for the company.

The range of software available is huge – but is it helpful in silo?

Fleet managers often find themselves juggling multiple software applications that manage different aspects of their operations in isolation. This siloed approach creates inefficiencies and limits visibility into the overall fleet performance – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Telematics Systems

Telematics systems use GPS technology and onboard sensors to collect and transmit data about vehicles and drivers. It’s used to monitor vehicle location, track routes, analyse driver behaviour, and gather performance data.

Fuel Management Software

This software helps fleet managers monitor and manage fuel consumption and costs. It tracks fuel purchases, calculates fuel efficiency, identifies fuel-related issues (such as theft or inefficiencies), and generates reports for analysis. 

Maintenance Management Software

Maintenance management software assists in scheduling and tracking vehicle maintenance and repairs. It can also keep a record of service history, sends reminders for maintenance tasks, tracks warranty information, and helps manage maintenance budgets.

Route Planning Software

Route planning and optimisation software aids fleet managers in determining the most efficient routes for their vehicles. It considers factors such as traffic, distance, delivery windows, and vehicle specifications.

Asset Tracking Software

Asset tracking software enables fleet managers to track and manage their valuable assets, such as trailers, containers, and equipment. It provides real-time location data, alerts for unauthorised movement or theft, and helps streamline asset utilisation.

Fleet management software, like the solution offered by ABAX, addresses this issue by integrating various functionalities into a unified and centralised platform.

By providing a comprehensive suite of tools, fleet management software eliminates data silos and streamlines operations. Fleet managers can access critical information, such as vehicle maintenance schedules, driver records, and route optimisation, all in one place. This integration enhances collaboration across departments and improves decision-making by providing a holistic view of the fleet's performance.

Running things in silos can lead to several repercussions, including duplicated efforts, fragmented data, and limited efficiency gains. Fleet management software solves these problems by centralising data and processes, enabling fleet managers to make better-informed decisions and achieve significant operational improvements.

Fleet management software - cost or investment?

According to research conducted by Data Bridge Market Research, the UK fleet management market is expected to gain market growth in the forecast period of 2022 to 2029. The market is growing with a CAGR of 9.6% in the forecast period of 2022 to 2029 and is expected to reach USD 5,272.17 million by 2029. The growth of the fleet management market indicates an increasing demand for fleet management solutions and services. More and more businesses are recognising the benefits of efficient fleet operations and the market expanding to cater to this demand.

One common question that arises when considering fleet management software is whether it is a cost or an investment. While the initial cost of implementing fleet management software may seem significant, it is essential to view it as a long-term investment that brings substantial returns.

Fleet management software provides a range of benefits that contribute to cost savings and operational efficiencies. Optimised route planning, reduced fuel consumption, proactive maintenance scheduling, and improved driver behaviour are just a few examples. By leveraging these capabilities, fleet managers can achieve significant cost reductions and improve overall fleet performance.

By reducing the average mileage of a vehicle doing 12,000 business miles a year by 10 per cent would save £150 in fuel costs alone – according to a case study of financial benefits of reducing mileage by The Energy Saving Trust. This means that the driver of the vehicle spends an average of 300 hours per year at the wheel doing an average speed of 40mph, which will equal approximately 20% of the drivers working time. By cutting one vehicles mileage by 10%, you could free up 30 hours for different work activities. At £30 per hour, this is effectively an annual saving of £900 per employee.

At the initial installation, the costs of fleet management software might seem like an expensive outlay, but in the long run, you save thousands of pounds per year, improving your profits and allowing you to spend money on developing different aspects of your business.

The challenges fleet managers will face over the next 5 years

Looking ahead, fleet managers will encounter several challenges that will require innovative solutions to overcomes.  

Driver shortages and acquisition

The shortage of qualified drivers is expected to persist, posing a significant challenge for fleet managers. As the demand for transportation services continues to rise, finding and retaining skilled drivers will become increasingly difficult. Prior to the COVD-19 pandemic, the RHA estimated the shortages of drives to be at 60000 in the UK, in 2021 a Logistics UK report reveal that HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) drivers fell by a further 30,300 in the first quarter of 2023, raising further concerns for shippers and carriers.

There are several reasons for the shortage of drivers, including difficulties in recruiting new drivers, a lack of interest in the profession among younger people, and Brexit has also played a significant role in this crisis, making it harder for EU citizens to get work permits in the UK and resulting in fewer drivers in the country.

Fleet managers will need to implement strategies to attract and retain drivers, such as offering competitive compensation packages, improving driver satisfaction, and investing in driver training and development programs.

Fleet management software can improve the working conditions of drivers by streamlining processes and alleviating much of the frustration and stress that drivers face. Integrated driver mobile apps make it easy for fleet managers to manage schedules, communicate updates, and make real-time changes to journeys as needed. Additional features such as data analysis and real-time location tracking and route optimisation helps them to avoid getting stuck in traffic or having to look for alternative routes themselves, helping them to reach each job on time. Innovative software solutions can continually make life easier fleet managers and drivers alike.

By leveraging data on driver performance and behaviour, fleet managers can identify areas for improvement and implement strategies to attract and retain talented drivers.

Driver wellbeing and safety

Ensuring driver well-being and safety is of paramount importance to fleet managers. Drivers shouldn’t be treated as resources but as humans who are trying to complete their tasks in very stressful environments. Driving takes a physical toll on the body but long hours on the road also affects the mental health of drivers. Companies can invest in training helping their drivers on how to manage emotional stress by focusing on mental wellness. A healthy and happy workforce is usually also a more productive workforce.

Fleet management software also plays a crucial role in promoting driver safety by monitoring driver behaviour, providing real-time feedback, and enabling timely interventions. Drivers spend long hours on the road and can easily get fatigued and make mistakes that cause accidents. Monitoring driver behaviour also facilitates the implementation of safety protocols, such as driver training programs and fatigue management systems, to enhance overall driver well-being.

Understanding the wider role of data in the organisation

Data is not only valuable for fleet management but also plays a significant role in other departments within an organisation. Fleet management software can serve as a bridge between different departments, enabling the sharing of data and insights. These systems are just one part of the global transportation landscape, which is made up of various other players from vehicle and sensor manufacturers, software and map data providers to warehouse managers. When data is shared properly between the various systems, it enables synergy and creates additional value for fleet managers and customers. For example, integrating fleet management software with inventory management systems can optimise stock levels, prevent theft, and streamline operations. The smart inventory offering from ABAX encompasses anti-theft measures, inventory management, and preventive measures, providing a comprehensive solution.

The value of automation and AI adoption

Automation and AI adoption are becoming increasingly important in fleet management. Fleet management software can automate repetitive tasks, such as maintenance scheduling and reporting, freeing up time for fleet managers to focus on strategic decision-making. AI-powered predictive analytics can also identify potential issues before they occur, enabling proactive maintenance and minimizing vehicle downtime. The value of automation and AI adoption in fleet management cannot be overstated.

Fleet managers work with large amounts of data, and AI can be harnessed to analyse this data and generate insights that can help to improve fleet business by boosting operational efficiencies such as:

In the fleet management industry, AI is rapidly developing in a wide range of areas, including:

  • Predictive or proactive maintenance of vehicles

  • Assets utilisation using algorithms to help with route planning and optimisation

  • Identifying bad driver habits such as aggressive driving or speeding to improve safety and reduce accidents

  • Reducing fuel consumption by identifying behavioural, environmental or mechanical patterns that can lead to fuel savings

ABAX MobiSense analyses your fleet data using AI.

Electric vehicles and alternative fuel adoption

The adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and alternative fuels is a growing trend in the fleet industry. May 2023 witnessed a significant surge in the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), with a 58.7% year-on-year increase because of rising fuel costs and a turbulent market in the UK. Fuel is one of the largest expenses for businesses operating a fleet and with the constant increase, the mismanagement of fuel spend can be detrimental to a business.

In 2022, fuel prices hit a record high in the UK with the average price of petrol hitting 191.53p-per-litre and diesel reaching 199.05p in July. Slight relief came when prices slowly started falling again in August 2022 but in these uncertain times, businesses need to prepare for anything.

Businesses in the construction industry have also faced their own nuance of challenges after a ban on red diesel was introduced by the government. From 1 April 2022 it has been illegal to use red diesel in vehicle and construction machinery fuel tanks in the UK, except in very limited and specific circumstances. This law change was introduced to help meet climate change and air quality objectives.

This means that construction companies need to make the switch from red diesel to white diesel, which has higher cost implications on their operations. Companies need to review their processes and ensure that they’re complying with any new law. This will always raise awareness of the cost implications of paying higher duty on diesel, which needs to be factored into their planning.

All businesses operating a fleet and machinery need to be especially prepared. It is as important as ever to track your fuel spend and ensure that your business is not leaking fuel, in a literal and figurative sense. Fleet management software plays a crucial role in managing this transition to EVs by providing tools for route planning, charging station optimisation, and range monitoring. The software can also help the total cost of ownership for EVs and guides fleet managers in making informed decisions regarding their adoption.

Fleet protection

Protecting fleet assets from theft and damage is a constant concern for fleet managers, particularly during economic downturns when theft rates tend to rise. According to Zurich Insurance, employee theft has jumped by a fifth (19%) as the rising cost of living triggers a wave of workplace crime.

National figures reveal almost 6,000 workers were caught stealing from their employer in 2022, up from 5,000 the year before. No business industry has been left unaffected by the downturn of the economy. Across the UK, the data shows 98,730 vehicle thefts took place. That means a vehicle is stolen somewhere in the UK about every five minutes, at a national average rate of 146.63 per 100,000 population. Businesses that own fleets, need to do everything they can to protect their assets. Turning to fleet management software offers features such as geofencing – which sends alerts when a vehicle leaves a predetermined region, real-time tracking, and anti-theft alerts, providing an additional layer of security for your vehicles. By automating inventory management and implementing preventive measures, fleet management software helps mitigate the risk of asset loss or damage.

Fleet managers face numerous challenges in their daily roles, ranging from driver shortages and safety concerns to optimising costs and adapting to evolving regulations. Fleet management software, such as the solution provided by ABAX, offers a comprehensive and integrated approach to overcome these challenges. By harnessing the power of data, streamlining operations, and facilitating informed decision-making, fleet management software enables fleet managers to optimise their operations, enhance efficiency, and achieve substantial cost savings in these difficult economic times. 

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