The new challenges facing today’s Fleet Managers
Management, in general, is taxing, but managing fleets of vehicles comes with its own unique set of challenges. To be a successful transport manager takes a particular set of qualities: not just attention to detail and diligence, but flexibility, strong analytical skills and the ability to switch between different tasks at a moment’s notice. The nature of the job means that transport managers have to be able to analyze and resolve problems in lightning-quick fashion.
Almost universally, the number one challenge cited by fleet managers is declining used-vehicle resale values and the struggle to manage depreciation in a deflationary market. The value of used vehicles has declined dramatically in the past three years, and particularly since manufacturers began to heavily encourage their new-vehicle retail sales.
The pressure to reduce fleet costs is another almost universal challenge facing commercial fleet managers. The question is how do you take cost out of an already squeaky tight budget? The most common cost initiative continues to be to simply keep vehicles in service longer. Fleet managers are struggling to come up with new and creative ways to cut costs without a negative impact on their drivers.
As vehicles age, the maintenance cost inevitably rises, and the fleet manager is faced with a cost/environmental benefit calculation. Whether it is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly to make the repairs and keep the vehicle another year or trade it in against an EV or Hybrid. Vehicle downtime remains one of the most frustrating aspects of fleet maintenance and management. Whether it is because of a road collision or breakdown, having to go without certain vehicles can prove incredibly costly.
Regular servicing, maintenance, and repair is arguably the most important and effective method of minimizing vehicle off-road time, even though the accidents and breakdowns that require repairs are difficult to manage, these have been identified as the biggest unplanned disruptions to vehicle availability.
Many fleet managers, tired of coping with the burden of legislation, more complex maintenance the tax implications on their employees of running a company vehicle, are considering switching to a system whereby employees use their vehicles and are reimbursed, known as Grey Fleet.
However, the responsibility for maintenance, fuel, road, speeding fines, tax, etc., doesn’t stay with the employee, employers owe the same duty of care under health and safety law to employees driving their vehicles as they do to a company owned or lease hired vehicles.
Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act which came into force in 2008, managers and HR departments have a legal duty of care to ensure that ongoing policies and processes are in place to assess and manage risks associated with driving at work.
Companies need to ensure that vehicles used on company business are fit for purpose, regularly serviced, in a safe condition and that the drivers are properly licensed, insured, fit and competent.
When considering fitness to drive mental wellbeing should not be overlooked and the potential effects of medication, prescribed or otherwise should be factored in. The combination of shift patterns, stiff key performance indicators around delivery times, and heavy workloads are likely to increase stress and mental health issues among fleet drivers.
Failure to manage these risks can lead to higher accident risks in the short term. In the longer term, businesses that fail to resolve stress and fatigue issues among their drivers could face staff being signed off sick, difficulties in recruiting replacement staff, and damage to their corporate reputations. They are also likely to find that the quality of their customer service falls.
To avoid this becoming a problem for your business a system of random testing for substance abuse during the working day will have the double benefit of not only stopping the practice for fear of detection but also enabling you as a manager, to identify and help any staff member struggling with some form of addiction.