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Overcoming fleet-management challenges

A recent global survey of small to medium enterprises by TomTom Telematics has identified five of the top challenges faced by fleet managers

Fleet operators are faced with several challenges that impact both productivity and profitability, according to a recent international survey conducted by TomTom Telematics.

While efficiency is perceived to be the foundation upon which good fleet management is built, most fleet managers who responded to the survey said they found themselves immersed in routine administrative tasks that were time-consuming and from which the companies at which they worked gained little advantage.

The study – which involved over 1 000 small to medium-sized enterprises – found that fleet managers were frustrated by the expense, time ineffectiveness and potential for human error caused by handling routine tasks.

“Managers want digital solutions to take care of routine tasks. This fact came up again and again,” says Beverly Wise, TomTom’s sales director in the United Kingdom (UK). She said of the top five challenges identified by fleet managers, excessive time spent on administrative tasks was perceived to be among the most wasteful.

“It might not appear as a cost on the financial statement, but time spent fixing routine administration problems is an expense that can easily add up,” Wise maintains. “Work that ties up people’s time ultimately limits the effort put into revenue-generating activities.”

In TomTom’s study, 49 percent of fleet managers said that at least one of their team members spent up to two hours each day sorting out administrative issues. “Paper-based systems invariably add more layers to administrative work, slowing down productivity. By embracing digitised workflows, admin tasks can be eased considerably, simultaneously reducing the risk of human error and miscommunication,” Wise says.

TomTom found that 26 percent of respondents used fully automated systems to manage vehicle expenses, with 34 percent agreeing that vehicles used for company business tended to drain more money than allowed for by their budgets – another of the factors identified as a top challenge.

In this respect, good fuel management was seen as a priority, with 66 percent of respondents indicating that they could do more to reduce fuel costs. Says Wise: “To reduce fuel usage, fleet managers need to identify fuel-consumption trends within their fleets – they can change only what they track. Again, this is where digitisation can play a vital role in overcoming problems.”

The survey found that while 81 percent of respondents agreed that digitised solutions could help to improve a fleet’s fuel economy, many still relied on manual processes in their attempts to effect change.  Says Wise: “Implementing telematics means fleet managers can use data – the fuel for modern business efficiency – to power productivity and save time and money.”

In the case of fuel usage, she maintains, telematics could be used to track consumption in real time, check for instances of over use, monitor driver behaviour, create efficient routes and identify continuous-move opportunities, among other applications.

“Telematics are designed to support efficient, time-effective operations, deliver accurate information and reduce the administrative load. In the end, having
access to, and control over, this type of information is crucial in helping to reduce the total cost of vehicle ownership.

“For example, fleet managers can use data on fuel consumption to identify areas of excess and data on driving behaviour to improve driving methods and reduce insurance premiums. The benefits are extensive.”

Vehicle maintenance was another critical point identified in the survey as a top challenge with, respondents stressing the need to keep fleet vehicles running smoothly, but indicating that staying up to date with maintenance schedules and service requirements was a time-consuming challenge.

“This is another area in which decision-makers are using automation to cut out inefficiencies,” says Wise. “Digitised solutions offer the benefit of regular service and maintenance reminders based on date, mileage or even hours of use.” 

She adds that some fleet managers canvassed indicated that they had discovered the benefits of telematics in alerting them to signs of vehicle malfunction, enabling remedial action to be taken before the vehicle suffered a breakdown.

Relaying messages accurately to drivers of vehicles on the road was perceived as another significant impediment to the fleet manager’s smooth-running day, with 36 percent of respondents saying that communicating schedules or a change of instructions often posed difficulties.

Fifty-one percent said the inability of their field teams to follow assigned agendas had a negative impact on their businesses, while 53 percent indicated that they were not sure if their drivers were behaving safely on the
road. Fifty-five percent of respondents agreed they had issues regarding miscommunication with their field teams and 58 percent said that one in three deliveries failed to reach customers within the initial estimated time of arrival (ETA).

“More and more transport organisations are turning to software and digital solutions to streamline and simplify the way they manage their people in the field. While messages and orders can be sent with greater clarity to the driver, the vehicles can send automated updates back to the office regarding the status of the order and the ETA,” says Wise.

She adds: “Businesses need to adapt to consumer expectations, and fleet management assists in ensuring that quality customer service is provided. This is critical in terms of business survival.”

According to TomTom, the survey, which was conducted earlier this year, received responses from
1 350 fleet decision-makers across a variety of industries, including construction, engineering, food and beverage, delivery, healthcare, hospitality, real estate, retail, telecommunications and utilities. The research was conducted in partnership with OnePoll in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, the United States, Poland, Sweden and Denmark.

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.

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