If you count on one or more vehicles in the day to day of your small business fleet, management strategies are critical to a smooth operation.
When you run a small business, fleet management is no different than managing a team. An employee can call in sick, a delivery truck can break down, you pay an employee's salary, and you pay for the upkeep of your fleet.
Just like your employees are a vital part of your operations, your fleet vehicles are, too. You rely on both of them to get the job done and to make sure your customers are happy. When a key team member is unexpectedly out sick, everyone has to scramble to make things work. The same holds true for an unexpected vehicle breakdown.
The flip side of this is that when you and your team plan ahead for vacations and time off, it's much easier to work without that person for a few days. You've planned a course of action to fill the void while they are gone.
The same applies to your fleet vehicles. If you keep them in good shape with a regular maintenance schedule, you'll keep your overall expenses down and limit the surprises.
Small business fleet management: 7 steps to flawless productivity1. Keep detailed records
Whether you use a spreadsheet or software specifically for fleet management, detailed reports will help you hone in on how efficiently your fleet is running. You'll especially want to keep track of service expenses, fuel consumption, and repairs so you know the true expense of each vehicle.
2. Get regular tune-ups and oil changes
Use a rotating schedule, so your entire fleet gets regular oil changes and tune-ups. Changing the oil as per the manufacturer's schedule is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep your car alive. Or as the mechanics on Car Talk put it, "Changing your vehicle's oil is one of the most important things you can do to avoid bringing large bags of money to your mechanic later on."
Beyond oil and filter changes, be sure to check the oil level in your vehicles every few hundred miles. You could make this part of your drivers' checklist or have an assigned person on staff to keep up with mechanical work.
3. Check the tires
You may have the same tires on your personal car for two, three, or even four years depending on how often and where you drive. Not so with your fleet vehicles. For any business, especially a small business, fleet management is about keeping your cars on the road. You can't do that without good tires.
Poorly inflated tires, worn tread, and misalignment can reduce your gas mileage, make steering and braking difficult, reduce traction, and strain your car's suspension.
And with fleet vehicles, tires can wear down a lot faster than you may realize. Check your tires regularly for proper inflation and adequate tread, and check with your mechanic right away if it feels like your car is pulling to one side, shakes during braking, or vibrates excessively on the road.
4. Build a relationship
Speaking of which, your mechanic is going to be your fleet's best friend. Build a relationship with them just like you would with any vendor. When you're in a pinch with a major delivery on the line, wouldn't it be nice to have a mechanic who can "fit you in" right away?
5. Keep your fleet insured
It goes without saying that you need insurance for your personal vehicle. And you know you need business insurance. But don't skip out on fleet vehicle insurance. General business insurance won't necessarily cover fleet and commercial vehicles. There are a variety of options and plans available, so talk directly to your insurance agent to work out the best plan for your small business.
6. Talk to your drivers
No one knows better than the driver if there is a problem. Even with a regular maintenance schedule, issues come up. Speak to your drivers at the end of the day to find out if you need to address anything. It might be worth mentioning that if your driver makes a commission on mileage, you'll need to pay them for their time "off" the road, otherwise, they won't have any incentive to share vehicle status with you.
7. Rotate maintenance
If you have a small fleet, you may be able to take all your vehicles to the mechanic and get them serviced in one day. For larger fleets, keep a rotating schedule so you can keep as many vehicles on the road as possible. Give your drivers a day of administrative duties or career training while their car or truck is in the shop.
Do you have a small business fleet that needs insurance? Get in touch with your local Pekin Insurance agent and find out how to get the coverage you need.
Do you have any additional small business fleet management tips? Share your experiences in the comments.