A shorter version of this article ran in the February 2013 edition of Transport Operator
Why wouldn’t you want to run a more cost-efficient business?
What a modern fleet management system can do for you
“I know what my fleet costs to run.”
“I know what my total maintenance costs are, even by vehicle.”
We often hear these comments from fleet operators. For example, a haulage company may have a haulage package with a bolted on “garage” system; quite satisfactory for many because the system will tell the operator how much he spent on a vehicle over the last year or over the life of the vehicle. But then we ask, “What did you spend your money on?” and the answers become vague. If we ask, “Can you identify the difference between fair and unfair wear and tear?”, or “Can you separate out accident damage?” often the answer is no.
Many business owners or managers are closed to finding out anything new that could help them run their business – for them lack of knowledge is better than making any potential changes to the ‘way things have always been done’. For example, recently in a discussion with a very large company who have a private fleet of over 1,500 tractor units and already have a haulage system, the workshop manager told us that despite his pleas with his senior management team to invest in a proper workshop and stores system, they wouldn’t. They decided that they only needed to know the total annual cost of the trucks, even though it is a confused figure (because it may include such items as damage).
Another fleet I knew of said that if their distribution costs remained at 4% of turnover, they’d be happy. Yet with so many complaints nowadays about transport costs, including fuel, tyres and RFL, you might have expected the company to be looking at making their fleet more efficient in order to save money over the long term.
Those companies who are open minded to change can learn major insights about their company that help them make important decisions. One fleet manager was arguing with the senior management team that his company’s ageing fleet was not cost effective and needed replacing – they disagreed. Knowing he would only win the argument if he had a strong case based on practical facts and statistics gathered over time, he bought TRACE. By using the system to deliver all the facts and figures he needed to support his proposal, he convinced the management and, after eighteen months, the company replaced the whole fleet with new vehicles on contract hire.
There are many benefits to be gained from installing a specific fleet and garage management system such as TRACE and these benefits cover all aspects of vehicle maintenance and usage, as well as garage efficiency, stores management (including warranty control and returns management). These last two items are often left behind in a garage because they are considered to be time consuming or impossible to monitor. But there are vast savings to be made on these two points alone. Ask yourself “How much did we claim last year on parts warranty claims?”, “Did we actually return all the parts we didn’t need, including surcharge parts?”, “Did we get the credit notes?” – ask yourself how much you could have claimed if you had that information. You won’t know the exact answer but just imagine – most people have a good idea that they are not claiming all they should and are not returning parts in a timely fashion.
Another question to ask is, “When does a warranty period start?” Is it when you purchase the item or when it is fitted? If it sits in stock for a month before being used have you wasted a month of warranty time, which could be critical if the component fails? With a system such as TRACE you’d know exactly when it was fitted, you’d base your warranty on that date and you’d have the proof.
What else can a modern system do for you? There are a number of systems available for electronic inspection sheets and the more common ones store all the data in an off-site database – these, of course, are not connected to any in-house system and so there is not a contiguous system from inspection through to rectification and vehicle history. At TRACE, however, we have a portable electronic device for inspections and jobs that can be used anywhere; the data is sent back to the in-house computer system and into the TRACE system and to that specific vehicle record. This is then securely stored, available for scrutiny and printing should VOSA want a printed copy. For commercial vehicle garages this means a copy of the inspection sheet can be with the customer within seconds of the inspection being completed. For the fleet operator they’ll know straight away whether the vehicle is back in the fleet or is VOR.
The message we’re trying to convey here is that, whilst the attitude of many fleet managers, transport owners and workshop managers is that ‘we’re fine as we are’, they need to realise that the world around them, the legalities, the industry and indeed the vehicles themselves, are changing and becoming more complex. But it doesn’t need to be complicated for anyone or expensive – we can offer you a tailored package that works for your business, and a training guarantee to ensure you know how to use it effectively. That means you can beat the competition, increase efficiency and drive your business forward.