Managing a fleet is no easy feat. There will always be a few million tasks on your to-do list and never enough time in your day.
As a fleet manager, you’re involved in everything from driver hiring, training, and supervision to vehicle maintenance, monitoring, and scheduling. It’s a constant juggling act as you try to find a balance between profitability, safety, and compliance.
And the stakes are high.
Poorly managed fleets lose revenue, risk driver injury and attrition, and incur expensive tickets and penalties.
Fleet software is versatile and each solution offers different fleet benefits and features depending on your specific needs. Despite the undeniable benefits of fleet software, there is a price tag attached, so in the interest of maximizing your ROI it’s best to find a solution with features and benefits that will benefit your fleet.
Feeling lost? No need. This guide will shine a headlight or two on how to select the best fleet management software for your needs.
Step 1: Real-Time GPS Tracking
Reliability is incredibly important in fleet management software. You want to make sure your software is accurate, timely, and able to provide a high level of detail.
That’s where ‘real-time’ GPS tracking comes in.
Modern GPS tracking has advanced over the years and the market for GPS technology has steadily increased and become more available. You want a system that is able to monitor the location and behaviour (speed, acceleration, braking, etc.) of each one of your fleet vehicles 24 hours a day, all year round.
It’s important to note that no GPS tracking system is 100% real-time. Any company, salesperson or expert who tells you otherwise is leading you astray. There are two factors that cause delays in every single tracking system: technological limitations and data repeat rates.
Technology has come a long way, but some processes still require a bit of time. These are three main points of delay:
- Data Communications Network Latency – the time it takes for GPS data to be sent from your modem to your fleet software company’s servers over a satellite or cellular data network.
- Server-Side Data Processing Time – the time it takes to process the data received into information.
- Information Communications Network Latency – the time it takes to send the processed information to the end user’s (that’s you) fleet software over the internet or a cellular data network.
These areas of delay should amount to mere seconds in a good system. However, in poorly-designed or badly maintained fleet management software delays could be much longer.
A repeat rate is how often your fleet software updates your vehicle data. In other words, it’s how often your vehicles move on your software screen. While many systems offer repeat rates of 1-2 minutes, good systems offer higher repeat rates of 30-60 seconds. Top quality systems offer the best repeat rates. They do this by combining a set interval repeat rate (eg. 30-60 seconds) along with algorithm-based updates that are triggered by certain events, such as a change in vehicle speed or use of a brake pedal.
You may think a set interval repeat rate of 30 seconds is plenty. And it is when you’re driving in a straight line on a boring road at a steady speed. However, you may have a problem when you want to look back at a speed incident, vehicle collision, or even equipment theft. A lot can happen in 30 seconds and your GPS system can miss these events entirely. Unfortunately, this hinders your ability to disprove unjustified speeding tickets, reconstruct accidents, or recover stolen property.
Algorithm-based GPS tracking is far more reliable and closer to the literal meaning of ‘real-time.’ You’ll know each and every time a vehicle slows down, accelerates, changes direction, or turns on. You get notified each time a driver hits the gas too hard, or has left her truck idling for an excessive period of time. High quality repeat rates help you to keep your drivers safe, protect yourself from undue liability, and reduce operating costs.
Step 2: Customizable for Your Fleet’s Needs
Any fleet management software you choose should support multiple uses – with an emphasis on your current uses. Do you want to have to adapt your way of doing business to fit the fleet software you use? Or, would you rather use a system that can support your current business processes? We’re pretty sure the answer to that is clear.
So, be on the lookout for fleet software that is customizable in its ability to completely meet your specific fleet’s needs. At the minimum, several different package options should be available. It helps to ensure your basic needs are met even if that’s just separate options for light and heavy duty vehicles.
Additionally, high-quality fleet management systems package certain services and features separately as software add-ons. These add-ons generally address specific needs that not all fleets have. Therefore, they may include anything from ELD (electronic logging device) to a call centre service or electronic forms app. When features are offered separately as add-ons, you’re not forced to pay for services you’re not using, but you know they’re there if you ever need them.
In the best case scenario, you’ll find a fleet management company that is experienced in developing custom fleet solutions. Generally, they are far more willing to add and customize features in an effort to support your exact needs.
First, ask yourself what you need to feel comfortable using a fleet management system. Then have a conversation with your short-listed fleet management companies about the specifications you need and the customizations they can offer.
If you find a fleet management system that is rigid in its architecture and feature set, keep researching for more flexible options. They are out there.
STEP 3: Scalable Alongside your Fleet
Your business growth should never be impeded by software – least of all your fleet management software. It’s a good idea to ensure the fleet solution you choose can scale and adapt as your company grows and changes.
A new deal may push you to double the number of vehicles in your fleet. Will your fleet software be able to handle that jump? How long would that process take? You don’t want to be stuck with a fleet management system that can’t handle the increase or isn’t user friendly with such a large number of moving components.
Similarly, a temporary contract may cause you to hire additional drivers and create shared vehicle pools. Does your fleet software support vehicle sharing? Will Driver ID software cost you more? You want a fleet software provider that can accommodate changing needs and is experienced in helping clients through transition periods.
Ensure that you ask fleet management companies if they’re able to meet your growing needs and how they’ve handled direction shifts with other clients. The right fleet management system provider will be experienced and eager to assist your growing company.
STEP 4: Complete Solution
You shouldn’t need a dozen different software platforms to manage your fleet. Luckily, If you invest in a quality fleet management system you won’t. The best fleet management companies in the business provide far more than just GPS tracking. You can expect one solid platform to offer:
- Real-time vehicle tracking
- Driver behaviour monitoring
- Fleet maintenance management
- Employee management
- Fleet dispatching
- Driver ID monitoring
- Reporting and analytics on all of the above
- An assortment of add-on services and features like ELD and electronic forms
With a quality fleet system, you gain centralized access to everything important going on in your commercial or government fleet. You should be able to dispatch your drivers to jobs and receive reminders for vehicle maintenance checks. Then, you should be able to analyze your drivers’ performance, and know who’s driving what truck at any given time using just one platform and one login.
Make monitoring all your various drivers, vehicles, and equipment as simple as possible. Choose an all-in-one fleet management platform.
STEP 5: Return on Investment (ROI)
A good fleet management platform shouldn’t cost you anything once you consider the ROI. If your fleet management software isn’t covering its own costs then either you’re not utilizing it or it’s time for better software.
Do some solid research when considering fleet management software. There are certain measurable metrics that can be used to rate fleet management systems against each other when it comes to ROI. Some systems are able to prove they reduce idling and speeding resulting in fuel and maintenance savings. Others show that by using their system customers have saved thousands of dollars by increasing driver productivity and receiving fewer speeding tickets.
Regardless of where exactly the savings come from, investing in a high-quality fleet management system should only return positive results. You can be sure that finding the best system will be worth it.
STEP 6: Knowledgeable and Friendly Service
It’s extremely important to consider the attitude and approach of any fleet software company’s employees. You’ll want to have access to a real person and be offered phone support directly through the company. A fleet system is useless if it isn’t working properly. So, you need to know you’ll receive quality support from professionals. They should know what they’re doing and be eager to help.
Ask about onboarding software training. What about any ongoing training? Can you access online resources? Do they provide webinars or personalized training sessions? Will you have a dedicated company contact? What are the service hours? What if you have a fleet emergency, such an accident or theft in the middle of the night?
Having a team that is invested in helping you to solve your fleet management problems is well worth the investment. Be on the lookout for a long-term partner. That’s how you’ll know you have found a complete fleet software solution.
Finding the Perfect Fit
Your number one job as a fleet manager is to make sure your drivers, vehicles, and loads are safe regardless of job destination or length. By putting safety first, you’re setting yourself up for compliance, profitability, and success. But without the proper software, you’re making fleet management far more stressful and inefficient than it needs to be.
Take a little bit of time out of your jam-packed schedule and find some fleet management software that offers:
- Real-time GPS tracking
- Customizable features
- Scalability to support your growth
- A complete solution platform
- Positive ROI
- Knowledgeable and accessible service
You’ll find that managing your drivers, clients, vehicles, budgets, and stress levels is made simpler with the right software.
Done this before? Is there anything else you look for in fleet management solutions? Let us know in the comments!