For alcohol distributors, fleet management is a key skill set that can cut down on waste and improve efficiency. But acquiring these fleet management skills is challenging and often comes only after years of hard work and costly errors. In this article, we’ve compiled some key information about the principles and goals of fleet management, as well as listed out some best practices. With this overview of fleet management, you can pinpoint areas for improvement within your distribution business and work to optimize workflow.
What Is Fleet Management?
Fleet management is the practice of managing a fleet (group) of vehicles and drivers. It nearly always refers to businesses in the logistics and distribution industry. Distribution businesses often own and operate large fleets of vehicles with complex delivery schedules. Fleet management involves not only keeping track of all vehicles but also scheduling maintenance, ensuring compliance, working with drivers, and keeping costs down.
Why Is Fleet Management Important?
Fleet management is important for alcohol distributors because the success of the business model rests on the manager’s ability to keep the fleet active, effective, timely, and profitable. Without good management, minor maintenance issues can become major ones, labor issues can cause delivery delays, and clients and revenue may be lost.
Goals of Fleet Management
Here are a few of the goals that positive fleet management aims to accomplish.
- Reduce fuel consumption. If you can make delivery routes more efficient and minimize the amount of time that vehicles spend idling, that will reduce fuel consumption. Less fuel consumption is not only better for the environment, but it is also one of the easiest and most obvious ways to reduce costs.
- Manage driver schedules. In managing a fleet of vehicles, it also becomes necessary to manage the people who drive them. Since the industry was facing a massive shortage of delivery drivers long before the recent job boom came around, the situation is now dire for distributors looking to hire high-quality drivers. As the saying goes, it’s better to retain the people you have than to hire someone new, and that is certainly true in this case. Good fleet management practices keep drivers working efficiently, with clear communication and reasonable schedules — all things that motivate an employee to stick around for the long haul.
- Reduce vehicle downtime. Make the most of your assets by optimizing the delivery schedule to keep your vehicles in use as much as you can. Combined with proper management of driver schedules, these can bring an influx of revenue.
- Compliance. The wider your delivery area, the more complicated it can be to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal laws regarding the delivery of alcohol. It’s also important that your business comply with labor laws that limit the number of hours drivers can work over a certain period. Best practices can help you keep everything organized to ensure compliance.
- Improve customer relationships. Better service means more satisfied clients, which in turn can translate into higher revenue.
Fleet Management Best Practices
Stay Up-to-Date With Maintenance
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget that regular maintenance is key to keeping your fleet active. Simply being reactive and fixing problems as they arise sets your business up for potential major operational disruptions and costly repairs. It’s cheaper in the long run to commit some time to creating a system for tracking vehicle maintenance. Whether you invest in a fleet management software or use your own reminder system through spreadsheets, a digital calendar, or a project management software, your business will benefit from having a regular schedule for routine maintenance.
Likewise, this need for organization extends to other parts of your fleet management as well. Do you have a system for tracking your drivers’ hours worked? How about who is working when, and with which vehicle? It can be overwhelming to manage without a consistent system. However you choose to manage it is fine, as long as you have a reliable strategy that fits with your business’s needs.
Consider a Fleet Management Software
A fleet management software can be an easy way to outsource some of these organizational decisions to experts who are familiar with the needs of small businesses who work in this industry. This type of software often includes automated suggestions to improve efficiency and cut down on waste, and its ability to track and provide detailed vehicle use information can improve compliance. Fleet management software does come with some upfront and recurring costs, but many distributors report they find it a worthy investment.
Business profitability relies on your ability to retain customers and keep costs down. But with fuel prices increasing rapidly due to inflation, margins are thinner by the day. Carefully tracking fuel spending, along with optimizing driver routes and reducing vehicle idle time, can cut back on costs without significantly impacting existing customers. Many fleet management systems and fuel spending cards offer minor data analysis to give your business insight on how you can optimize fuel consumption.
Audit Your Processes
Don’t allow your operating procedures to go unquestioned simply because you’ve always done things a certain way. Technology is improving so quickly that even if you chose the best software out there three years ago, there are likely better, cheaper options available now. It’s a good idea to check in with your process periodically and evaluate it. Are there certain sticking points in your business that always seem to cause issues? Are there clients who have experienced multiple disruptions to their deliveries over the last several months? Evaluating your own performance helps you catch mistakes and make small improvements.
Communicate With Drivers
As a distributor, you are likely all too familiar with how challenging it can be to attract and retain good drivers in the current market. Without reliable management and healthy communication in the workplace, a delivery driver can easily find a new position and move on without a second thought. Clear communication about expectations, business developments, and sales goals can keep drivers engaged and on the same page as managers.
Fleet management can be an overwhelming topic, but it’s a necessary ingredient of success for any alcohol distributor, large or small. Thankfully, there are strategies and tools available to help your business manage your fleet, no matter its size.