If there's one feature that all utility companies have in common, it's the importance of highly dependable, well-maintained vehicles. The transportation of technicians, engineers, and installation professionals is part of what makes field service possible.
3 Ways to Win
A fleet manager willing to interpret data and adapt their fleet accordingly can be a unique asset to a utility company.
Fleet managers—responsible for selecting, purchasing, and maintaining a company's fleet— have an enormous influence over how those vehicles affect their company's bottom line. They have the ability to limit maintenance costs, increase fuel efficiency, minimize liability, and even bump productivity with dynamic routing techniques. A fleet manager willing to interpret data and adapt their fleet accordingly can be a unique asset to a utility company. Here's a guide outlining several things fleet managers can do to be successful.
Improve Fleet Drivers’ Habits
Over time, a utility company can lose a lot of money from reckless driving habits. Speeding tickets, accidents, inferior fuel efficiency, and worn-down brake pads can all accumulate company costs and take a toll on its fleet. Your position as a fleet manager is to positively influence driving habits. If you do this effectively, you can cut down on vehicle maintenance, repair, and replacement costs as well as improve employee safety. There are several ways you can go about getting the best from your drivers. What follows are two techniques we believe stand atop that list.
1. Fleet Telematics
Telematics, or GPS fleet tracking, is a technology used to monitor drivers. Telematics devices are typically small "black boxes" or cubes that can be placed inside a vehicle's glove or central compartment. Once activated, you should be able to identify which drivers are costing the fleet the most money because of poor driving habits. You can monitor a vehicle's GPS position, speed, fuel consumption, and idling, as well as habits like acceleration, braking, and turning. In many cases, telematics can be synchronized to fleet and field management software. This allows driver habits and vehicle information to be accessed in a single central database.
2. Driver Incentive Programs
Another technique fleet managers can use to sharpen their drivers' habits is incentive programs. Motivate your team to drive safely and adhere to best practices for fuel efficiency by offering weekly or monthly recognition for the best drivers, or special access to the fleet's finest vehicles. Fleet managers should talk to their supervisors about what other incentives are feasible, too. Believe it or not, incentive programs are not just about dangling rewards in front of employees. In the long term, they help positive habits take root and develop a culture driven by and committed to ideals that benefit the whole company.
As a fleet manager, you're responsible for keeping track of a substantial amount of information. You need to constantly update and maintain detailed files and data on all your vehicles, including information on registrations and inspections, maintenance records, and gas receipts. You may also be keeping track of driving incidents—traffic violations, accidents, and other miscellaneous costs on the road. In 2018, keeping all this information in hanging files and manila folders is downright inefficient. In addition, it may also be detrimental to your company in the long term. Uploading detailed files onto a digital database makes them more accessible for everyone and ensures they won't get lost, misplaced, or accidentally trashed. One of the best ways for you to carry out the conversion of paper to digital files is by using one of the latest fleet management software. These programs allow fleet managers and their colleagues to input and access detailed notes on all their fleet vehicles. Some of these notes include VIN numbers, tags, who the vehicle is currently assigned to, and what project it's working on. For fleet managers like you, centralized, hyper-accessible data on your fleet means fewer mistakes, increased control, and greater peace of mind.
Interpret and Adapt
If you're keeping records on all your vehicles and using telematics, you're going to have a lot of data at your disposal. For fleet managers, the key is to act on that information without overreacting to it.
Using telematics, you'll be able to conclude whether certain drivers are costing the fleet and the company with irresponsible road habits. If someone on your team is wearing down your vehicles' brake pads and amassing traffic violations, you don't need to discipline them immediately (though you can). Instead, let them know the costs of their fast and loose driving. Knowledge is powerful and communicating your findings may do just as much to influence your drivers' behavior as reprimands from supervisors. In addition, metrics like cost per mile, total annual maintenance cost, and departmental cost per vehicle can offer telling insights into what's driving your overhead. Carefully interpret the data and come up with questions and potential changes to consider. How much could you save per mile if you gradually phased out your current fleet for more fuel-efficient vehicles? How much would you save if your vehicles went 8,000 miles instead of 6,000 between oil changes? Are there ways to shave down the departmental cost per vehicle without compromising the quality of the product you're providing for your company? Data can inspire meaningful, actionable questions like these. The best fleet managers know how to leverage that data without letting it overwhelm their daily operations.
In a field service industry where nearly every service technician, engineer, repairman, and installation pro needs a vehicle, fleet managers control vital assets. And because these vehicles are so integral to the utility industry's daily workflow, they tend to carve out a significant portion of company budgets. By using data collection and analysis and consistently communicating with drivers, fleet managers can find savvy ways to save money. And by leveraging all the latest technology out there—including telematics and fleet management software—they can keep their drivers safer and more responsible on the roads. For fleet managers like you, a willingness to embrace practical technology and pinpoint subtle differences in things like fuel efficiency, routing, and maintenance can help you provide major value for your company.