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What Is Fleet Management?

April 23, 2019

7:18 am

Businesses organize, track and maintain their vehicle fleets using fleet management services. Typically, these commercial fleets will consist of cars, trucks and vans. Fleet management services will also help businesses care for drivers' health and safety, and make sure that they're obeying the law.

A fleet management system will normally have a hardware element — such as trackers fitted to the vehicles — and a software element. This software element allows drivers to keep their records up to date, and gives bosses an easy way to see, at a glance, how well their fleet is performing.

If your business uses a fleet of vehicles, it's well worth investing in a service — especially now the ELD Mandate has come into force. If you'd like to get an idea of the costs involved, you can get no obligation quotes from the top fleet management system providers using our simple form.


In This Guide:


What is a Fleet Management System?

A fleet management system is a bundled combination of hardware and software that includes three elements:

  1. The FMS device. Hardware sensors and an interface are installed or plugged into every vehicle in the fleet
  2. The vehicle software. This collects data like engine status and vehicle location from each vehicle
  3. The management interface software. Software that the fleet manager uses to receive and interpret data from all the vehicles.

Different FMSs record different data. Those with sensors installed into a vehicle’s engine will receive more comprehensive data about the engine status than plug-and-go dashboard devices.

Some operations do only or mostly “less than truckload” (LTL) shipping, meaning that a single truck is delivering goods to multiple clients. These fleets should look for LTL-friendly FMS, which includes a specialized load optimization service not offered by TL-oriented FMSs.

The best FMSs come with active data trackers rather passive ones. This means the data sent by an FMS might refresh as often as every few seconds or as rarely as every ten minutes. A passive tracker collects data on the go but only transfers it to the software later. Near-real-time data updates are essential for a truly effective FMS, so fleet managers can react quickly to important updates, such as late deliveries, or vehicle faults. Some FMSs may even be operated using smartphone apps, making it even easier for managers to respond to situations.

Advanced fleet management solutions may also offer accessories such as in-cab driver coaching devices.


Fleet Management Video Guide

For a better understanding of how a fleet management system can transform a business, it's helpful to look towards a case study.

Verizon Connect is one of the top fleet management providers around – click the video for a closer look at how this system can work.

Why Use Fleet Management?

There are plenty of benefits to using a fleet management system. It can reduce costs and risks while also helping you improve efficiency.

It's also the law. The ELD Mandate made it essential for businesses to track their drivers' working hours using some sort of electronic logging device — a fleet management system will help you do this.

A good fleet management system will also help you with:

  • Dispatch management — route planning and communication with drivers
  • Tracking and diagnostics — live data on vehicle location and status
  • Fuel management — data on how quickly fuel is used
  • Vehicle maintenance — customizable maintenance alerts can be set
  • Financing — data on the wear and tear vehicles undergo
  • Health management — data on the duration of drivers’ work hours and breaks
  • Safety management — data on vehicles’ driving and cornering speed can identify high-risk drivers

A typical FMS collects this data while plugged into or installed in a vehicle’s dashboard. It then sends the data via a GPS to a fleet manager’s central hub.


How Much Does Fleet Management Cost?

There is no standard price for a Fleet Management System as they are tailored to each business’ requirements, with several cost-influencing variations. The size of the fleet which needs tracking, and the categories of data you want to track are the main price-influencing factors. Some FMS companies may include a one-time installation fee as a separate charge.

Another financial component that can be hidden if a fleet manager doesn’t know to ask about it, is a subscription fee. A monthly FMS subscription is common, as an FMS company’s maintenance and tech support costs are ongoing. However, the quotes these companies offer may not make it clear that they’ll expect an ongoing fee in addition to their quote for the hardware and software itself.

Fleets that lease their vehicles rather than own them may want to opt for a pluggable FMS rather than upgrade motor vehicles that they don’t own, for long-term cost effectiveness.

Your best option when combing through the varying costs of FMS is getting price quotes from a range of FMS companies, all tailored to your operation. Tell Tech.Co what you’re looking for and we can do this for you for free. Our simple form takes less than thirty seconds and can put you in touch with the best deals offered by a range of industry-leading suppliers who match your needs. And using Tech.co’s price comparison tool puts you under no obligation to buy.

Read More: Fleet Management Cost Guide


Fleet Management Benefits

Verizon Connect Fleet Management Insights

Sure, you know that FMSs are designed to streamline the management of a fleet. But here are the main reasons businesses rely on them, broken down into their component parts.

Cost Savings

This is a huge benefit, as any FMS offering full telemetrics will provide more than one way to save money:

  • Fuel economy — Fuel expenses are a major chunk of a fleet’s daily budget, and FMS reports can help to reduce these by as much as 30%.
  • Fewer harsh braking incidents — Harsh braking can be tracked by most FMSs, letting fleet managers identify the drivers at fault and prevent any wear and tear in the future.
  • Less engine idling time — If the engine status is active but the vehicle is at rest, the FMS will know the engine is idling. The fleet manager can discuss excessive and frequent idling with their drivers to reduce future wasted time.
  • Reduced overtime — Similarly, overtime hours are tracked by FMS, ensuring fleet managers will be able to address a situation in real-time rather than learning about a driver’s overtime hours after the fact.
  • Better efficiency — Location tracking means that any wayward vehicles can be course-corrected faster, saving time and money. Also, over time the quickest routes can be identified by the system's reports, for future efficiency increases.

ELD Compliance

A fleet management system will also make your business compliant with the ELD mandate. Since December 2017, it's been the law in the US that businesses using commercial vehicles must track drivers' work hours with an electronic logging device.

This might seem like the government is forcing your business to invest in a service it might not actually need. However, if you get a good fleet management system, your business will likely save money as you'll be able to run your business more efficiently.

Getting an ELD-compliant fleet management system isn't just a good idea, then. It's the law.

Finally, an FMS benefits a fleet operation through a few measures that may not result in immediate savings, but can prevent potential catastrophes down the (metaphorical) road.

  • Anti-theft — Sure, managers can purchase separate anti-theft trackers, but if a FMS is on board, it will track a vehicle’s location at no extra charge.
  • Vehicular control — Some FMSs don’t merely track data, but are given a measure of control over the engine, allowing managers to remotely limit speeds or slow and stop vehicles when necessary, preventing mistakes or collisions.

Fleet Management Best Practice

fleet management concerns

As with any management software, FMS can open fleet managers up to a few vulnerabilities if not used responsibly. Here are the downsides to fleet management systems that you should be aware of.

Don’t Intrude on Privacy

A FMS isn’t exactly designed to respect a vehicle drivers’ privacy. It records their speeding habits, their location, and how quickly they take a 90-degree turn, after all. This is perfectly legal during working hours, though employees should be made aware of what’s being tracked and why. However, if a fleet operator’s vehicles are ever used privately by employees, the operator should take care to disable the FMS for these trips.

Manage Drivers’ Expectations

Speaking of privacy, drivers in a fleet may be upset at switching to an FMS and away from a passive GPS tracker or a paper logging system. Having their driving habits and overtime tracked may make them uncomfortable. The best approach to introducing an FMS is transparency and open communication. Depending on the FMS company, driver training courses may be provided to ease them into the new process.

Some businesses also choose to alleviate any negative feelings employees might have around tracking by providing rewards based on the new data. For example by offering bonuses to the most fuel-efficient drivers or those with the lowest records of harsh braking. These awards can be allocated easily using the driver scorecard reports offered by many fleet management systems.


Best Fleet Management Companies

Provider

Summary

Verizon ConnectVerizon Connect is one of the top fleet management companies you can choose. Its system is easy to use, and simple to get your head around. Verizon Connect also has loads of features including engine diagnostics, and fuel efficiency monitoring. What's more, it has best-in-class customer support.
SamsaraSamsara is a relatively new fleet management company, having only been set up in 2015. However, it offers a very complete fleet mangement service with all the core features — driver safety, fuel tracking, routing and dispatch, for example — while also benefitting from a simple installation process and strong support options. Samsara also has strong customer support and employee training options, making it ideal for growing companies.
Teletrac NavmanTelectrac Navman is one of the biggest fleet management companies in the world, with service coverage extending to the US, Canada, and Mexico along with the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Teletrac Navman's fleet management sustem offers GPS vehicle tracking, two-way messaging, safety alerts, and in-depth vehicle diagnostics at very reasonable rates.
US Fleet Trackingus fleet tracking logo smallUS Fleet Tracking doesn't offer a full fleet management system. Instead, the company focusses on selling GPS trackers for vehicles. This means you don't get as many features with one of US Fleet Tracking's services, but it can be a good value option. For example, you won't be able to monitor fuel efficiency, but you'll be able to see where every vehicle in your fleet is in real time. You'll also be able to review fleet movements, and it's ELD compliant.
Fleetiofleetio logo smallFleetio is a software-only company, meaning that drivers and fleet managers use apps for communication and tracking. This makes Fleetio cheaper than much of its competition — although without a hardware component, it isn't ELD compliant. Despite it being software-only, Fleetio has a decent range of features. For example, you can set up driver scheduling, and keep an eye on vehicle maintenance. If you're after ELD compliance with Fleetio, you can install a tracker from one of its hardware partners.

Get Started with Fleet Management Today

If you want to improve the management of your commercial fleet, a fleet management system is a great place to start — whether you're running a business with five pizza delivery vehicles, or thousands of semis. You'll be more efficient with planning driver routes, managing the upkeep of your vehicles, and monitoring driver workloads. What's more, your business will be fully compliant with the ELD mandate.

So if you're looking to get started with a fleet management system, you can get quotes from the leading providers quickly and easily by filling out our free online form.

About our links

By clicking to compare, you’ll receive quotes from various suppliers, tailored to the needs of your business. If you enter into a contract with a provider, we may receive a payment for the introduction. This helps Tech.co to provide free advice and reviews. It carries no additional cost to you, and doesn’t affect our editorial independence.

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Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for the last decade. He's also a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry (and Digital Book World 2018 award finalist) and has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect. When not glued to TechMeme, he loves obsessing over 1970s sci-fi art.