3 ways to ramp up your fleet's efficiency

Discover three easy improvements you can make today to improve how efficient your fleet operates with the added benefit of reducing operational costs.

3 ways to ramp up your fleet's efficiency

Fleet efficiency is simply defined as aiming to get maximum output from minimum input. This means increasing overall productivity and keeping operational costs down. The main way that most fleets can immediately improve their efficiency is to implement telematics software. This gives you increased visibility of all your fleet’s activities, so you can see which areas are not performing optimally and where you need to improve.

Once you’ve done this and collected a significant amount of vehicle and driver data, which areas do you need to pay specific attention to if you are looking to improve your fleet’s efficiency? Here’s a quick rundown of the top metrics to monitor:

Vehicle maintenance

According to some estimates, vehicle downtime can cost a fleet an average of between $624 per vehicle, per day1. When a vehicle is not available for use it has an impact on a fleet’s ability to be as efficient as possible.

There are two main reasons for vehicle downtime. The first reason is accidents. It’s said that approximately 20% of annual downtime2 is because of accidents. Now, while some accidents are unavoidable, their rate can be significantly reduced by ensuring that your drivers operate their vehicles as safely as possible. This means less speeding and less aggressive driving (which includes reducing harsh braking, acceleration, and cornering). A telematics solution can automatically measure which drivers are not practicing safe driving habits. With this information to hand, you can provide relevant training to infringing drivers. Add on to that real-time driver feedback via in-cab devices whenever they engage in certain events, and drivers can improve their driving performance to self-correct to avoid an accident from occurring.

The second reason for downtime is mechanical problems. This is where preventative maintenance comes into play. By keeping electronic records of when vehicles have been serviced and getting notified as soon as the next service is due to occur, you can ensure that problems are picked up before they lead to breakdowns. In addition, you can measure things like battery life, tire pressure, oil levels, filters and more, with technology that links directly up to vehicle engines and sends alerts when any of these go below or above a certain predefined parameter. Having access to electronic repair and service records also allows you to see which vehicles are going in for more frequent repairs so that you can analyze why this may be the case. Is the vehicle reaching its end-of-life? Is it being over-utilized? Is it being improperly handled by the driver?

Idling

Idling is inevitable but there is such a thing as excessive idling, which is defined as maintaining a stopped vehicle with the engine running for five minutes or longer. The problem with idling is two-fold. It wastes precious fuel, which leads to an unnecessary increase in costs, and it also means that the vehicle is not actively “working” while still consuming resources. This means decreased efficiency.

Telematics software can reduce idling by tracking exactly how much idling occurs per vehicle, per time period, and in which areas; idling will most likely occur in high traffic areas. It’s important to set guidelines for drivers on what constitutes excessive idling and find ways to remind them to switch off their engines when they haven’t been moving for a certain amount of time. It’s beneficial to change driver habits that may be contributing to excessive idling. For example, encourage them to switch off their engines when loading or unloading cargo and to do away with the idea that vehicles need to “warm up” before departure, as this is often not the case with newer vehicles.

Route optimization

Route optimization is all about determining the most efficient routes for your drivers so they can complete their daily tasks faster. This will lead to reduced fuel costs, save time, and improve customer service. In addition, if drivers are less stressed about getting their tasks done on time, they are more likely to drive safer and pay more attention to what they’re doing.

To optimize routes, start by looking at how much time drivers spend at each stop, like a customer’s office, a work site, or the like. Tracking technology can collect data on start and stop times as well as how much time exactly a driver spent at each location they visited. How much time passes from the time a driver stops at a location to when they depart? Measure this over, say, a few months and figure out an average time. Once you have an average, see which drivers are the outliers and review their processes from start to finish and compare it to those whose stop durations are acceptable.

Prioritizing stops is another way to optimize routes. Only send drivers to the locations they are nearest to, to reduce travel time. If an unexpected job comes to your attention during the course of the day, you can look at the real-time tracking data from your telematics software to see which drivers are closest and currently available so you can dispatch them instead of someone that is too far away. If your fleet makes deliveries, look at which customers prefer which delivery times. Take that one step further by clustering together special deliveries based on their proximity to one another.

Lastly, look at the actual routes your drivers take. Are you taking traffic into consideration and doing as much as you can to avoid or plan around hotspots? Traffic can depend on a variety of factors including construction, area density, lack of public transport infrastructure (which leads to more vehicles on the road), poor weather conditions and holidays. It’s also dependent on time of day, day of the week, and even the direction drivers are traveling in at any given moment. Alongside various accurate traffic and weather tracking apps available now, you can utilize telematics tracking to see how long a route takes to navigate based on a particular day or time so that you can plan around busy roads.

Sources

  1. Knight, C. (2020, April 27). Work Truck Online. Fleets use evolving tech to reduce downtime.
  2. Antich, M. (2019, October 19). Automotive Fleet. Managing the cost of unscheduled vehicle downtime.
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