The Comprehensive Guide to Fleet Management
Originally published on April 28, 2020
A successful and efficient fleet largely comes down to one thing – effective fleet management that fosters motivation and inspires engagement. Albeit rewarding to manage a successful team, fleet management can come with a number of inherent challenges that can be overcome by proactively developing management skills. As a fleet manager, you might find it can sometimes prove difficult to manage a group of people so widely dispersed and with whom you may have little contact. These hurdles leave many fleet managers asking questions about they can better manage their fleet. For example, what are the best ways to ensure your fleet is running efficiently using a reliable system? And, how can you best motivate your fleet?
Our fleet management guide breaks down four key areas for development to help you find fleet management solutions. We can help facilitate growth by showing you how to employ excellent fleet management skills for a more efficient, motivated and committed team, ultimately leading to a more successful and profitable business.
Improving Fleet Efficiency
Research shows that out of the 2.7 billion workers in the world, 80% don’t sit at desks and are harder to engage. Engagement and efficiency come hand in hand, and when working to meet deadlines, either internal or external, efficiency is key both in terms of time and cost.
Fleets can face a number of roadblocks to meeting deadlines, such as traffic or road closures. And, while these factors are outside of the control of drivers, there are many ways fleets can practice diligence when it comes to time management. So how can you, as a fleet manager, encourage your team to take individual responsibility for fleet efficiency?
Thankfully, there are a number of ways fleet managers can improve fleet efficiency. First, ask your drivers. As the ones on the road, your drivers will be able to tell you if there are regular frustrations or inconveniences they encounter that impact their efficiency levels. Not only does this build rapport and trust, but it also allows your drivers to feel empowered and heard. Hearing about your team’s first-hand experiences gives you fresh insight into their roles and day to day tasks, meaning you can work more closely with them to find ways to remove obstacles in their work-day.
Another tool to help you improve fleet efficiency is to analyse and act on fleet data through a fleet management app. Most fuel card providers offer a fleet management app as a central dashboard to keep tabs on aspects of a fleet. By having access to fleet management reports that can be easily exported as spreadsheets, fleet activity is compiled into facts and figures, making it easier to spot discrepancies or inefficient activity within the fleet. Some fuel card companies also partner with a telematics company for access to information, such as detours or excessively long stops. A card activity monitor also allows fleet management to view the spending behaviour of each driver and offers the option to set a cap on the fuel card spend. This helps to pinpoint any recurring problems within the fleet, so they can be addressed swiftly and directly. Our blog post on how to use and store fleet data can help you further with using fleet information to increase efficiency.
Once you have a clear picture of how your fleet is operating, the habits of each driver within your team, and a solid grasp on how you're managing your time, you can start to put the foundations in place for a more efficient system.
Another core element of an efficient fleet is solid communication. When your team is dispersed around the country in its respective fleets, you don’t have the luxury of regular team meetings. This is an advantage in that efficiency is boosted by not losing money and time on poorly organised meetings. Research shows that the cost of poorly organised meetings was predicted to reach £45 billion in the UK in 2019, due to a number of factors including a loss of time to complete work and confusion from the meeting. But it can also be a negative if it ends up with certain team members being out of the loop or getting their wires crossed. An effective communication strategy is essential to an efficient and successful team.
Fleet efficiency doesn’t just boil down to the activity or work habits of drivers within a fleet. Busy fleet managers can also benefit from a quick audit of how they spend their time to make sure they are working effectively. We’ve all heard it - ‘work smarter, not harder’, and while this phrase has become a trope, there is a grain of wisdom to be considered. Working smart requires the underutilised tool of delegation. If you have a fleet administrator to support you, it’s worth asking yourself if you’re delegating your workload effectively and drawing on the help of your administrator. What are some things you can delegate your fleet administrator?
Management Tips and Advice
A team is only as good as its manager, and nobody wants to be a ‘bad boss’. Becoming a good manager benefits the company as a whole and, as a fleet manager, you'll always be looking for management tips to learn and grow in your management style and technique. Employees who feel well managed are much less likely to leave, improving driver retention. Research from Gallup shows that high performing employees have 10-plus years of service within their company.
So, what makes a good manager?
While management and leadership are different in nature, a good manager should also be a good leader to inspire motivation, responsibility and hard work within their fleet. We'll expand on leadership skills in the following section.
Some of the duties of a good fleet manager include:
- Motivating their team
- Setting expectations and goals for their fleet
- Assessing the effectiveness of the fleet and make the necessary changes to improve it
To grow as a manager, it’s key to understand your management style so that you’re aware of your starting point. While no two managers are the same, there are general attitudes and approaches different managers adopt over time. Let’s take a look at some common management styles to help you identify your modus operandum in the management sphere.
The most widely recognised management styles include:
- Autocratic (Most controlling)
- Laissez-Faire (Least controlling)
You may be an autocratic manager if you’re prone to making decisions for your fleet without welcoming ideas or contributions from your drivers or other subordinates. Autocratic managers also tend to regularly check up on their employees which can foster a low-trust relationship. However, before abandoning this style of management entirely, it’s important to note that there are a variety of benefits to this style of management, depending on the nature of the employees in question and the fleet culture.
Less hands-on than autocratic managers, democratic managers encourage the thoughts and suggestions of their fleet drivers but make the ultimate decision themselves. By gathering as much information as possible to make a decision that benefits the fleet as a whole, democratic managers naturally nurture more trust in their working relationships than autocratic managers.
The most relaxed of all the management styles, you might be described as a laissez-faire fleet manager if you leave all the decisions up to your drivers. While the geographical scattering of drivers requires an element of self-management from your team, this style only works if your fleet are motivated and inspired. This is where good leadership comes in, but this may not be the most effective management style depending on your fleet.
Becoming a good manager is essential if you want to create a system and hierarchy that ensures smooth operation in your fleet. A common question we hear from fleet managers is how they can improve driver turnover. Every time a driver leaves a fleet, the manager is left to deal with tying up any loose ends, recruiting a new driver and onboarding the new member of the fleet. This can be disjointing and costly and doesn’t increase productivity levels within the fleet. If a fleet is experiencing high levels of driver turnover, this is usually telling of low loyalty to the company and low motivation – factors that can be remedied by the fleet manager.
Developing Leadership Skills
As mentioned in the previous section, management and leadership traits are different but not mutually exclusive. In short, management refers to controlling external factors to ensure their team are working well while leadership involves creating a culture where a team works well because of the values that are nurtured within the team. In a sense, management works from the outside inwards while leadership works from the inside outwards. The perfect blend of both approaches can revolutionise the culture and effectiveness of a team.
It goes without saying that employees who feel valued are more committed and dedicated to their jobs, so if you want to ramp up fleet efficiency, learning how to value your drivers is a great place to start. Leadership expert, Simon Sinek, outlines seven traits of a successful leader:
- Trustworthiness – By setting an example of integrity for your fleet, you will, in turn, gain their trust, which is invaluable when you rely on them to be equally trustworthy while on the road.
- Having a vision – Using your management skills to set goals and expectations works hand in hand with adopting a vision. While goals and targets are great parameters to work towards, keep track of and measure, they aren’t inspiring. Goals are essentially the means to a vision and by having a vision for your company and fleet, you unlock the ability to take your fleet with you rather than pushing them towards goals that feel draconian or they may not believe in.
- Trying new things – Being open to new approaches communicates to your fleet that you are open-minded and approachable. When you listen to your drivers and are prepared to take unprecedented steps to improve the way your fleet works, not only will your team feel valued but they’ll also feel part of working towards a culture they believe in.
- Investing in their employees – While you don’t need to become best friends with your drivers, good working relationships are vital to an efficient and happy team. Research has shown that employees who work with friends perform better than those who work with acquaintances. Although your drivers will often work alone for long periods while driving, cultivating good relationships with them will still make a difference.
You'll know you’re a good leader for your fleet when your drivers are intrinsically motivated! You might even find you have to chase them up less, and they start to finish jobs quicker and with a better attitude. But if you need further help, please read our blog post on 4 ways to motivate your fleet.
Although leadership and management require different skillsets, strong leadership is a core part of being a good fleet manager.
Importance of Fleet Safety
As a fleet manager, you’re partially responsible for your team’s safety while on the road. Of course, you can’t be there to supervise your drivers individually, but you can ensure you are putting the right guidelines in place to fulfil your duty of care. So, do you know how to mitigate fleet risk?
Ensuring that the vehicles in your fleet are safe to drive is the first step to managing fleet safety. Organising regular vehicle checks is vital for both car and haulage fleets and is up to you to arrange or delegate to your fleet administrator.
A study cited by Fleet News showed that work-related stress caused by work was cited by more than one in 10 (12%) fleet drivers as a key reason for an accident, while a further 12% said phone calls during journeys were to blame. As a manager, it’s up to you to ensure your drivers have adequate time to reach their destinations without rushing or driving unsafely. Additionally, by knowing when your drivers are behind the wheel, you can avoid calling or texting them. If you do need to be in contact with your fleet drivers, ensure each one has a functional hands-free system in their vehicle. Some fuel card providers offer satnavs as part of their mobile app package, which is another tool to consider when keeping your drivers safe on the road.
In fact, a study showed that 42% of fleets have seen fewer safety incidents since monitoring driver behaviour using fleet tracking software.
For more fleet safety tips, please refer to our blog.
We hope this fleet management guide has inspired you to become an even better manager for your fleet and has equipped you with some of the tools you need to achieve your goals of running an efficient and motivated fleet. Our blog includes articles on this subject area in greater detail.