What image comes to mind when you read the title Fleet Manager? Many of us picture an individual who manages a large commercial trucking fleet. Even though most small businesses run on vehicles, many small business owners don’t think of themselves owning a “fleet” of vehicles. This can be a missed opportunity.
According to Forbes, fuel often accounts for about 25 percent of fleet operating costs. Poor route planning as well as excessive idling ratchet up fuel expenses. Without one person accountable for preventative maintenance, you may face costly repairs down the road. Without a big picture view of fleet management across your business vehicles, you may be tripping over a dollar to save a dime.
Many small businesses simply can’t afford a dedicated fleet manager. This is why it pays to get creative about how you allocate fleet management duties. Here are three models small businesses use to successfully handle fleet management, according to a recent article in Business Fleet Magazine.
Dedicated Fleet Manager
To better understand how small businesses are handling fleet management today, Business Fleet conducted an informal online survey in 2017. The survey’s 54 respondents were small service fleets utilizing a variety of vehicle types. The majority of respondents run pickup trucks, followed by medium-duty trucks, vans, sedans, tractor-trailers, and vocational trucks.
Many companies who designate one fleet manager to oversee all in-house vehicle responsibilities. For fleet managers, the top five duties included vehicle procurement, fuel management, maintenance management, telematics/GPS system management, and upfits.
Example: Tuff Turf Molebusters, a pest control and lawn fertilization company, appointed one of its lawn technicians to oversee all fleet duties. The technician has a background as a mechanic. He takes care of the company’s 13 vehicles and all the equipment in the on-site repair shop. The business owner saves money by not needing to outsource any maintenance or repairs.
Many small fleets increase efficiencies by sharing fleet duties across several employees. According to the Business Fleet’s survey, the top five fleet duties handled by other employees included safety/accident management, routing, driver management, tax/title and licensing, and vehicle remarketing.
Example: Northland Mechanical Contractors spreads its fleet duties between a two-person team. One employee handles vehicle maintenance, while a separate employee handles vehicle upfitting and purchasing equipment. “Once the vehicle is put into service,” said Matt Tieva, co-owner of the 25-vehicle service fleet, “the warehouse manager will handle the service side of the duties and then log the maintenance history in our tracking software.”
Sixty percent of Business Fleet’s survey respondents said they outsource fleet duties to a third party. Forty-four percent said they outsource to a leasing/fleet management company, while 11 percent said a fleet dealer. Remaining respondents answered with “other.”
For the majority of respondents, the top outsourced duties are maintenance (including bodywork), alignment, transmission replacements, and tire management.
Example: Hometown Home Health & Hospice, a health care provider in Michigan, uses the Enterprise Fleet Management program to monitor vehicle repairs, insurance, and fuel costs for its 26-vehicle fleet. This eliminates the need for a full-time fleet manager. “We look to our fleet company to keep us in a positive equity,” James Reynolds, Hometown’s CFO, told Business Fleet.
Fleet management is often overlooked in small businesses because owners and employees are so busy getting the job done. Thinking of smart ways to allocate fleet management duties — from sharing duties to outsourcing — is a great way to save money by thinking like a fleet manager.