Guide to motoring: More fleet, more problems?

Behind payroll, transport is probably your second biggest business cost. And running vehicles carries responsibilities that need to be managed.

Marc KeyFleetBy Marc McLoughlin, managing director, KeyFleet.

A full-time fleet manager can seem a little excessive, but on the other hand it’s too important to be handled on a job-share basis.

A recent study by the RAC found that 80 per cent of SME fleet operators have an individual within their business spending less than six hours per week managing it whilst trying to perform other job tasks.

When it comes to prioritising all these responsibilities, fleets are so complex that they often fall down the list of a person’s list of priorities.

My own feeling is that for an unqualified person with few tools and experience it’s almost impossible to manage your fleet risks, costs and administration without spending much more time on it and working on your skill and knowledge gaps. And even then it’s still a tall order.

So what exactly is fleet management? Maintenance? Breakdowns? Accidents? Trackers? Well the answer is – yes. It’s all part of it.

It’s about understanding your legal obligations in respect of the four pillars – the company and management, the drivers, the vehicles and the journeys.

And it’s about getting a framework in place that includes policies, driver management and vehicle management; making smart decisions about the right type of vehicles and funding; working out what’s involved to manage the vehicles and drivers on a day-to-day basis and defining what tools and resources you need to execute your fleet policy.

Driver handbooks, licence checking and driver training all have a part to play but this is not a box ticking exercise.

It sounds like there’s a lot to think about, and there is, but the alternative is what many SMEs are feeling right now: that feeling of the fleet being disorganised and out of control. High risks, cost leakages and drivers managing their own vehicles.

At KeyFleet we call it ‘fleet-pain’ and it’s symptomatic of a fleet managed on a part time job share basis. Also, we have to keep in mind that driving for work is a dangerous activity and the decisions you make can put the business, your drivers and those affected by your drivers at risk.

For me, it’s about using the right tool for the job. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know but that’s not a reason not to try and be proactive. Get to grips with it yourself or, if you can, consult with professionals. The great news is what happens when you start to work this way: the MD is happy, after all he or she is saving money and doesn’t have to worry about any legal repercussions. The FD is happy too; the right vehicles and funding are welcome to the finance department.

But that’s not all. What gets measured gets done and when you start to pay attention to your fleet, it responds. The drivers start to drive more safely and more efficiently, collisions reduce, costs reduce and insurance premiums stall. My advice? It pays to manage your fleet effectively – and the sooner the better.