Fleet Expense Management Bolstered by Tech
April 15th has come and gone but for many in the trucking industry, managing and tracking expenses does not end with a deadline. Fleet managers and drivers alike are accountable for managing expenses every day, so in a sense their tax season never ends.
Fleet expense management is one of the most important aspects of business operations in trucking. Every decision made in the day-to-day operations of a trucking company will have more impact on the bottom line than those of most industries in the country. That is why fleet managers are looking to technology to help tighten schedules, maximize load capacity, and streamline payment processes. To that end, fleets are also relying on technology to help monitor and track fleet expenses because in an industry that is made up of moving parts with super skinny margins, every dollar counts.
QuickBooks is the software most small and medium-sized companies turn to for accounting and expense management, but the trucking industry is different. Fleets need a more customized approach that can address specific needs or be integrated into the QuickBooks solution. The ability to generate a report that includes all of the expenses for a specific trip and load is not only key, it is critical. In fact, trucking veteran W. Joel Baker set out to create his own fleet expense management software because he could not find the right solution and was not willing to compromise.
When I first started out, I didn’t have a lot of money. I researched a lot of the accounting software that was on the market and I could not find software that allowed me to manage the books the way a trucking business operates.
— W. Joel Baker, TruckBytes
While some software options are free, most require a fee, and the cost of implementation can be unexpected. However, a reputable fleet factoring company like Fleet One Factoring can help by providing the resources to purchase and implement a fleet expense management process and then train managers, employees, and drivers to use it.
6 Fleet Expense Management Products
Crystalynn Shelton of Fit Small Business, an online small business consultancy, breaks down the best software options for fleet expense management based on the following functions:
- Track loads – Track detailed information for each load, including delivery date and time, truck info, driver details, and expenses.
- Generate trip report – Run a report that includes all expenses, vehicle mileage, and maintenance to bill customers, pay drivers, and do IFTA reporting.
- Track expenses – Keep track of tolls, parking, fuel, and other expenses for each trip.
- Track income – Bill customers immediately after a load has been delivered or soon thereafter.
- IFTA tracking/reporting – Track all of the required data by municipality in order to complete quarterly filing of the IFTA reports.
Here are the results of that research, beginning with the highest recommendation.
1. Truckn Pro by Fog Line Software is ideal for any independent owner of a small fleet of trucks. Truckn Pro is affordable desktop fleet expense management software that includes payroll and fleet management features like vehicle maintenance logs and trip planners. Truckn Pro offers three plans based on the company’s or driver’s budget and needs.
2. Truck Bytes is ideal for truckers who are just starting out as well as veterans who don’t have employees. By offering a free plan (it is the only company that does so), it crushes the competition when it comes to affordability and features included for the cost.
Whether you are an independent operator with a single truck or a large fleet of trucks, you can use QuickBooks to manage all of your income and fleet expenses. When it comes to accessing data, QuickBooks beats the competition hands down. Your drivers can enter data using their mobile device out on the road as long as they have an internet connection. Unfortunately, QuickBooks Online is not customized for the trucking industry, which means that you will have to invest a few more hours when you set up your trucking company than you would for software like Rigbooks or Truck Bytes, which are customized for trucking accounting.
3. ProTransport is ideal if you own and operate a fleet of five or more trucks; it can easily manage multiple drivers and trucks for both small and large fleets. The extensive catalog of financial and productivity reports is quite impressive and will go a long way in helping you make informed business decisions. ProTransport also integrates with QuickBooks.
4. Xero is ideal for trucking businesses that have trucks traveling outside of the United States. Xero can handle more than 160 currencies, which means that you can create invoices, receive payments, and record the expenses of your drivers in just about any currency. In comparison to the top pick (Truckn Pro), Xero does not have fleet management features such as an integrated Bing trip planner, the ability to maintain IFTA trip logs, or a driver database. However, you can customize Xero to track trips, monthly per diems, and vehicle maintenance records.
5. Rigbooks is ideal for a trucking business with five or fewer trucks. Unfortunately, it is the most expensive trucking accounting software package that we looked at, which is why we do not recommend it. Most of the competitors we looked at offer the same features Rigbooks does for a much more affordable price.
Fleet expense management does not have to be daunting. These software packages can simplify business so fleet managers and drivers can focus on the haul. And, with the help of fleet factoring, the cost to make business even more efficient is worth every penny.