If today’s low fuel prices are making a significant positive impact on your fleet’s balance sheet, it could be a good time to plan for the future. Take that unexpected profit and make it work long past the inevitable price increase down the road. Here are a few ideas:
Make those updates and repairs – Take a tip from Tracy Perryman, owner of a small oil company in Texas, who talked about survival in a field with such volatile pricing recently on National Public Radio. Fleet operators’ current gain is his company’s loss, as the price per barrel has dropped significantly. He took it in stride, noting: “When oil is up, we know it’s going to go down. We try to spend the money on our equipment and our production to get it in good shape so when it does go down, we have no debt, we have good equipment and we can ride through the hard times and get ready for the next boom.”
Invest in employee retention – Consider sharing the wealth with your employees. Whether you choose to give bonuses across the board or recognize exceptional individual performance, a bit of appreciation can go a long way toward cementing loyalty. In a tight labor market, employees are one of the best investments a fleet can make. Time and again, surveys show that workers value respect and appreciation from their managers even more than money. But a bit of extra cash when times are good is one way to show them that they are valued contributors to the company.
Find ways to keep fuel costs low – No matter how low gas prices are now, they still count as a major expense for any fleet. So focus on the percentage of your operating expenses taken up by fuel, then investigate all the options. Make an investment in long-term solutions. Is it worthwhile to install on-site fueling for your fleet? Should you implement a fleet tracking system? Do your drivers need a refresher course in driving for fuel economy? Every few cents per gallon savings can make a real difference over the long haul. Once the savings are gone at the pump, getting a bigger bang for the buck is your next best bet.
Jack Welch, the head of GE for many years, widely recognized for his business acumen, often talked about the need to look ahead to achieve success. “Management is all about managing in the short term while developing the plans for the long term,” he said.
If you don’t have a long-term plan, now is as good a time as any to create one.