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Five fleet optimization tips for the small business owner

March 11, 2024

Fleet optimization isn’t just for large fleets. Small businesses, which often operate on thin margins, can experience significant benefits by implementing just a few small operational changes. While solving for how to turn around an underperforming delivery fleet may be challenging, there are opportunities for improvement – you just need to know where to find them. By tackling inefficiencies head-on, small businesses can mitigate rising fuel costs and ensure their drivers stay motivated and safe on the road.

Luckily, there are many ways small businesses can drive down costs through fleet management optimization. Some of these solutions are high-tech, such as utilizing affordable route planning software, and some are common sense, such as incentivizing drivers.

Now, let’s explore five actionable tips to help streamline your fleet operations and drive down costs.

1. Consider using a fleet card to consolidate your transactions 

Fleet cards offer more to your small business than standard purchasing cards do. Fleet cards are designed for businesses managing a fleet of commercial vehicles. They offer businesses of all sizes the tools to track and manage spending, with a focus on savings, transparency, and security. 

In recent years we’ve seen a gradual shift in fleet card uses to embrace the evolving needs in fleet management, including:

  • Enhanced security
  • Real-time tracking
  • Widely available acceptance
  • Contactless payments
  • Comprehensive expense management
  • Data analytics and reporting

2. Find the most efficient routes

All fleet managers recognize that one-way trips, long-distance trips, and trips with deadhead – trucks carrying an empty trailer –  are not cost-effective. Data is your friend, and it’s the best place to begin when trying to understand which routes are most profitable. 

Forbes’ Brian Sodoma emphasizes the need to find the “sweet spot” of efficient routes: ones that are “multi-pickup, multi-drop, nonstop, and highly repeatable.”

Use trip planning and routing to ensure the most efficient routes for you and your drivers. Matching the right vehicle for the route is also a top consideration. Assigning your most fuel-efficient vehicles to cargo deliveries immediately lowers fuel costs for many small delivery fleets.

3. Use fleet management and optimization tools

Trucking Dive’s Nina Jovanovic reported that about 35% of trucks travel empty in the U.S. That means roughly 61 billion miles are driven deadhead, causing unnecessary time, labor, and fuel expenditure.  

With fuel usually clocking in at about 60% of fleet operating costs, optimization software can help managers create more fuel-efficient routes by finding “continuous move opportunities” for vehicles so they don’t sit idle for long.

Fleet management and optimization software doesn’t have to be expensive. With the subscription model, small businesses can pay a low monthly fee for a minimal tracking software package.

WEX fleet cards gain you access to a variety of features aimed at simplifying fleet management. The WEXOnline portal lets fleet managers easily handle day-to-day card and prompt management, access analytical reports, review spending metrics, and accurately forecast budgets. This web-based platform allows flexible management from any device, anytime.

4. Use data to gain valuable insights on your fleet

According to Forbes, “it’s not enough to maintain spreadsheets full of maintenance cost figures, insurance expenses, driver wage figures and fuel costs, unless the data is analyzed.”

When managers break down expenses on a per-mile cost, they can easily compare their operating expenses with carriers-for-hire in their area. Sometimes the most cost-effective course of action is to hire out for some deliveries.

Data can also be used to better understand your fleet operations. From understanding your expenses to analyzing driver behavior, data can reveal opportunities for improvement. 

WEX ClearView can help provide important insights to help manage your fleet and make informed business decisions.

Explore which tools can best support your fleet:

  • ClearView Snap – Keep it simple with quick and easy insights delivered directly to your inbox.
  • ClearView Essentials – Access simple analytics to help you easily identify opportunities and inconsistencies.
  • ClearView Advanced – Access powerful reporting and analytics tools to help turn insights into actions. ClearView Advanced also includes all the perks of Snap and Essentials.

5. Don’t forget incentives

Michael Cote, vice president of sales for Novatel Wireless, told Forbes that the carrot is far more effective than the stick for recruiting delivery drivers who “really want to compete and do well. A system of rewards can accelerate the improvement of drivers, lowering fuel costs, maintenance costs, accidents and insurance.”

Fleet optimization should never be overlooked by small businesses. Harnessing data to find the most efficient routes and break down per-mile cost as well as utilizing inexpensive fleet management and optimization software will pay dividends for small delivery fleets.

Learn more on how to better manage your small business:

WEX speaks the language of small business operators. Whether you’re looking to modernize your insight and reporting efforts, save on fuel costs or take advantage of the latest GPS tracking technologies, WEX offers solutions to simplify the business of running a business. To learn more about WEX, a dynamic and nimble global organization, please visit our About WEX page.

Apply for a fleet card today!

Trucking Dive

Editorial note: This article was originally published on January 26, 2019, and has been updated for this publication.

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