It’s 8 a.m.; do you know where your trucks are?
After real estate, a dealership’s largest non-inventory asset is likely their rolling stock — delivery flatbeds and lo-boys, remote service vehicles, salespersonnel cars or trucks, delivery vans, etc. But land and buildings stays put. Your rolling stock ... well, it rolls.
As dealerships add locations and cover more territory, the need and opportunities to plan and schedule the use of more and more of your rolling stock across larger areas requires adding processes to track where each vehicle is located at any given time. This article will provide examples of how technology is being used for fleet management.
Knowing where, how and whether those vehicles are being used is an issue for good asset management, a way to improve productivity, and an opportunity to increase your security and peace of mind about protecting those valuable assets.
Better Asset Management
Your large investment in vehicles requires that you consider the financial costs of those assets and manage them with discipline so as to maximize your return. The cost of owning, maintaining and repairing larger vehicles, such as over-the-road transport trucks or service repair trucks carrying high priced tools and accessories, is considerable. On average, these costs can surpass $3 per mile or even more in some areas.
Given the fast pace of business, more and more dealers want to know where their trucks are in real time; minutes count and customers’ expectations of service are increasing. So increasing the productive use of all of the dealership’s vehicles and the people driving them must be a prime objective.
Top dealerships measure technicians by billed hours and salespeople by gross profit and/or revenue. Its vehicles contribute significantly to increasing those productivity measures.
Real Life Examples
At a recent meeting, a dealer noted the extensive benefits of using fleet management technology. As a practical example of its value, he said, simply keeping drivers from getting lost made it worthwhile. Sending a delivery truck to an unfamiliar far-off location often means wrong turns or missing key landmarks.
“Knowing where, how and whether your vehicles are being used is an issue of good asset management ...”
Realtime GPS technology allows the driver or his supervisor to pinpoint where the truck is at any given moment, as well as its target location. If he misses a turn, the supervisor can use the hardware and mapping software to tell him where he missed the turn and how he should backtrack.
It’s hard to measure the value of vehicle security fleet management technology offers until you have a theft or accident that requires you or your insurance company to pay. Fleet management technology cannot keep you 100% secure, but when it’s used as it was designed, it can reduce the temptation for your employees or others to misuse your rolling stock assets.
Real-Time Fleet Management
The hardware used to determine vehicle location is either GPS or cellular-based and use either CDMS or GPRS. In the case of cellular-based systems, the electronic devices on the vehicle are contacted (or pinged) regularly and the position is triangulated from cell phone towers.
Information, such as distance, mileage, speed and engine idle time, can be transmitted from the vehicle to a central location. The systems can also be used for two-way messaging between the vehicle driver and the dealership.
Within the vehicle, some systems incorporate timesheets so drivers can clock-in and out or track time on a job. The latter is useful to show customers who question the hours billed.
Other capabilities include barcode scanning, credit card processing and turn-by-turn navigation with in-cab displays or voice instructions.
Fleet Management Software
As with most electronic technology, the key is the software, or in the case of newer systems, web-based solutions, which means it’s not necessary to purchase software. The system provider will give the dealership tools for managing, reporting, routing or diagnostics.
System management includes the ability to track assets, optimize routes and monitor driver activity. For example, a supervisor is able to see whether a driver has left home or is parked for a long time at the coffee shop.
Reporting or logging can include things like distance traveled, required vehicle maintenance or use of accessories. For monitoring, you can get reports that show use of the vehicles after hours, or when the vehicle might be used outside of a certain area — the so-called “Geo-Fence.” There are also reports that show whether speed limits are exceeded.
The routing feature offers the capability to cost effectively plan routes, show addresses and maps. For supervisors or schedulers, the software can show which vehicle is best positioned to provide service in an emergency or unplanned change in schedules.
With communications technology, vehicle fleet managers can remotely monitor engine performance and other factors that add to the productivity of your service vehicles and staff.
For example, oil pressure or coolant temperatures can be monitored to identify potential problems that might cause breakdowns on the road. For determining ways to cut expenses, system diagnostics can provide maintenance alerts or excessive fuel consumption due to over-idling or speeding.
Where to Start
There are many vendors of fleet management software, but not a lot of them provide integrated hardware and software.
There are fewer yet that offer integrated hardware with web-based solutions. As with other equipment dealership applications, more and more vendors are providing web-based solutions because of the increased user flexibility, speed of updates and upgrading, and per usage cost structure.
It is important to choose solutions that are flexible and integrated. This means they are scalable so that as your business and use of fleet management grows, the solution will accommodate your needs. Integration is very important so that you’re not creating a remote island of data. Ask the question, “Does the system tie into your existing business system and mapping software?”
If you have a rental fleet, consider the use of fleet management technology for managing those valuable assets as well.
Not a lot of farm equipment dealers are using a fully integrated fleet management system today but its use is growing. Consider the benefits to your business of better asset management, improved productivity and peace of mind.