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Strategies for Developing a Fleet Management Program
Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff
Fleet management is an evolving field. A closer look at the challenges and issues related to maximizing a fleet management program can help grounds care managers devise a cost-effective and flexible strategy to meet the organization’s demands.
The biggest challenge managers often face with a fleet management program is securing funding for replacement and proper maintenance of vehicles, says Paul Lauria, president of Mercury Associates, a fleet-management consulting firm in Gaithersburg, Md.
“Because the support departments and the role their vehicles play in the day-to-day operations of an organization are not well understood by financial managers, they think that cutting fleet budgets is an easy way to reduce expenses,” Lauria says. He adds that avoiding investments in the fleet infrastructure might save money immediately but usually results in higher costs later.
Managers also face a challenge in finding properly trained and experienced equipment mechanics, says Mark Teegen, fleet manager of Acres Enterprises in Wauconda, Ill. Louis handles repair issues by closely tracking equipment warranty periods. Several off-the-shelf software packages can flag repairs an existing warranty might cover, which is an excellent way for managers to help departments recover some maintenance expenses. If a vehicle has problems and is under warranty, it goes back to the dealer for repairs.
“I work with several different dealers,” Louis says. “If I am not confident that the closest dealer can handle the problem, I can take it to another. Their staffs have varying expertise, too.”
Technological advancements related to a fleet management program also are surfacing on shop floors and in managers’ offices. Louis says his department’s mechanics use scanning tools and software to check the operating systems of computerized cars and trucks. Technicians also have digital test meters and thermometers. Analog pressure gauges are connected to the system being checked, and they register the pressure produced by the system or component.
“Having service and parts manuals on compact discs makes research faster and the office is less cluttered,” Louis says. “The information on the discs seems to be more complete.” Managers also are tapping into technology to produce performance reports.
Computer technology has changed the way many managers operate, and a growing number use off-the-shelf software to aid in preparing effective reports. Managers also can use presentation software for training sessions, and a database can record all vehicle information.
Some specialized fleet-management software also incorporates global positioning technology that helps managers track the usage time and location of vehicles. Other modules help managers schedule routes, coordinate repairs, monitor parts inventories, track fuel and tires, and enable detailed analysis of productivity.
Some software also will assist with scheduling and tracking grounds care functions. With the use of the Internet and e-commerce, managers can efficiently research vehicles, buy parts and dispose of used equipment. With the amount of information available on the Internet, it is easy to compare vehicle features, dealer prices, parts availability and delivery schedules. All of this information can lead to increased efficiency and cost-effective purchasing.
Finally, organizations sometimes consider outsourcing their fleet management services as a way to combat rising costs, labor shortfalls and technological sophistication of vehicle management. Often, outsourcing activities in a fleet management program shakes up a fleet manager’s responsibilities. They now become fleet contact administrators.
Focusing on Fleets by Cathy Walker