How to keep your fleet running smoothly and cost-effectively

Managing an efficient, cost-effective fleet is a complex task. Here, a fleet manager at a major health organisation explains why investing in driver education, relationships with local dealers and insurance is key to running a smooth operation.

16 Jan 2017
  • Viva Energy

Fleet managers are under increasing pressure to keep costs low while delivering a reliable, delay-free service. Even though it may seem counterintuitive, investing time and money in your people and your fleet will help to lift productivity and, ultimately, profitability.


Invest in driver education

It’s impossible to control the pump price, but you can reduce consumption to compensate for unpredictable fuel costs. One of the most effective strategies for cutting back on excessive use of fuel by drivers – especially during behaviours like pointless idling – is vehicle education.

At the outset, thorough manufacturer handover of each vehicle is essential. That’s not to say drivers aren’t aware of the principles of driving efficiently; rather, new models have new features and explaining these in technical detail will help drivers and other logistics staff understand how best to operate each vehicle. This process also gives busy drivers who are usually on the road a rare opportunity to ask manufacturers face-to-face questions about the mechanics of a vehicle.

Between manufacturer handovers, senior staff should hold training sessions for drivers at least once a year to advise of any changes in vehicle technology and ensure drivers’ skills are up to date. And, of course, when new staff come on board, thorough training is an absolute must.

Some organisations favour telematics for a number of reasons, such as the ability to identify vehicle movements and driver safety. Some organisations may already have a handle on their vehicle movements; they’ve identified where further efficiencies could occur and have acted. I’m not convinced telematics offers huge savings, and you can end up buried in reports you don’t know what to do with. If you decide to go down this path, it’s important to identify what you want to get out of telematics. Is it specific cost savings, driver safety, vehicle movements, FBT reporting? It’s very important to evaluate what you want to achieve, as well, to make sure the installation is cost-effective.

Partner with local dealers

Negotiating partnerships with local dealers and mobile mechanics is a great way to ensure your fleet undergoes regular, consistent inspections and you keep your costs down. It’s important to understand what these dealers can do for you and what you offer to their business, and negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement.

For example, rather than working with five different tyre brands and having to worry about quality and negotiating cost with each one, look at locking in one provider you’re happy with and who likes working with your company.

Preventative maintenance is key to making sure you don’t run into bigger, more expensive problems, so it pays to preference dealers who you trust to identify any issues without taking advantage of you.

Finding a local dealer who’s willing to come out to your site will make maintenance and repairs easier for you – plus, it’s good regular work for the dealer even if they’re not the provider of the vehicle. Remember, you’re a big customer for many of these dealers, so you have an advantage when it comes to negotiating the best deal for your organisation.

Get a good deal on insurance

Insurance can impact the bottom line but there’s no doubt it’s an absolute essential in our line of work. So how can fleet managers secure a good insurance deal that covers what’s required with minimal wastage?

We have an underwriter that goes to tender every few years to get the best deal. Our insurance has come right down and we’re paying a lot less than in the past, so from our experience, going to tender is the best way to ensure you get a good deal that covers your needs.

Approach a range of insurers and detail the specific expenses you want to cover – for example, replacement terms, towing, glass replacement, roadside assistance and loan vehicles. Request that they include extras depending on your requirements, and push for a great deal. Don’t forget, they want your business, so make them earn it.

Bonus tip from Viva Energy: Use a fuel card

Fuel cards, like Shell Card, can allow businesses to set up reports to monitor everything from fleet fuel consumption to transactions and exceptions. Businesses can choose the level of control and security required, and when and where drivers use their cards. Purchase controls can restrict the fuel type, products or services cardholders can access, while customised reporting can help you calculate fuel consumption and monitor driver behaviour through odometer entries. See here for more ideas.

As a proud corporate partner to AFMA, Viva Energy is committed to supporting fleet managers.

Viva Energy has a dedicated fleet management team who can discuss solutions for your fleet requirements with you. Choose the relevant contact from the list below: