Guide to Truck Fleet Management

If daily freight deliveries remain the lifeblood of your fleet, effective truck fleet management can be the difference between your business thriving over the long-haul or getting left by the side of the road. But before you can implement a top-notch truck fleet management program, you first need a blueprint that leaves your fleet poised for success.

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In this introductory guide to truck fleet management, we cover all of the bases — revealing key tips and sharing best practices that can help you move your fleet forward. We also answer your most frequently asked questions surrounding fleet management and tackle topics such as:

  • What does truck fleet management mean?
  • Why is truck fleet management important?
  • How to manage a fleet of trucks
  • How DAT can help with management

Read on to discover everything you need to know about successful truck fleet management.

What does truck fleet management mean?

At a high level, when someone in the freight industry refers to truck fleet management, they are talking about the overall day-to-day functioning and operational activities of a fleet of vehicles. In other words, fleet management is simply the act of presiding over fleet-wide operations.By definition, any company that operates five vehicles or more can be considered a fleet. Small fleets are classified as companies that either operate between 5-to-50 vehicles or buy more than five new vehicles per year.

Even though truck fleets can vary in size, that size is actually immaterial when it comes to defining truck fleet management. No matter whether a fleet consists of just a handful of vehicles or dozens of trucks, the term “fleet” refers to the set of vehicles a company deploys to safely move freight on schedule. The fleet manager assumes ultimate responsibility for maintaining trucks across that fleet.

Fleets can consist of any type of vehicle or be a combination of vans, pickup trucks, and cars. Delivery, commercial, transport, and trucking fleets are all common types of fleets, though they aren’t the only ones. Companies that provide maintenance services, laundry delivery services, flower delivery, appliance or appliance delivery, or food and beverage delivery also often operate fleets whether they recognize it or not.

To better understand this definition, consider a local roofing company that just acquired its sixth van – does that count as a fleet? Yes. How about a regional winery that operates eighteen trucks and four additional vehicles across the state – is this a fleet too? Once again, the answer is yes.

Given the significant expenditures involved with fleet management, it’s not surprising that data shows that high-quality truck fleet management, at its best, can appreciably cut costs by 17% to 22% relative to alternative outsourcing options.

How does that happen? Well, managing a fleet of trucks involves a number of core day-to-day functions, including, but limited to:

  • Asset Management
  • Fuel Management
  • Insurance
  • Maintenance
  • Route Planning and Optimization
  • Safety and Accident Management
  • Upfitting
  • Vehicle Purchase, Title, and Licensing
  • Vehicle Disposal or Remarketing

That might sound like a lot of work, so let’s take a moment to address two truck fleet management questions that may have crossed your mind already: how much do fleet owners make per truck and how much do truck fleet owners make in general? According to some estimates, the average gross per truck can range anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000. That means an owner-operator who owns the company and oversees its operations can usually end up taking home between $2,000 to $5,000 per week.

Keep in mind that these figures remain highly variable, hence the wide spreads. Mileage, driver efficiency, vehicle maintenance costs, seasonal conditions and a number of other market factors can all influence a fleet’s revenues and profitability. However, generally speaking, owning a fleet and managing it properly can be a great way to make money.

Why is truck fleet management important?

Proactive truck fleet management is fundamental to any fleet’s long-term success. Truck fleet management should be focused on ensuring drivers, vehicles, and the company as a whole pull in the same direction to advance mission-critical business objectives.

The value of effective fleet management speaks for itself. With top-tier fleet management, you can catalyze new growth levels, unlock operational efficiencies, control costs, and reduce accidents across your fleet. And that’s not all. Top-notch truck fleet management can also move the needle and affect core areas of the business.

Key elements of truck fleet management

Truck fleet management involves a lot of different components. However, there are a few key areas that are particularly central to the job. These are:

Truck maintenance, compliance, & safety

The most trusted, established, and ultimately prosperous truck fleets place the safety of their personnel, as well as ongoing, preventative vehicle maintenance, at the forefront of their business. The value of scheduled and preventative maintenance can not be overstated: a truck is simply not able to perform its job if it’s in the shop for repair work.

Accidents happen, of course, and sometimes disaster strikes no matter how many precautions you take. But investing in the condition of your fleet, which means proactively investing in the safety of your drivers and the security of your trucks, is the only way to reach optimal performance levels across your fleet. Investing in driver safety training, which includes everything from instructions on pre-road checks and lessons for driving in dangerous conditions, can help you reduce the likelihood of accidents. And it’s not just about making sure drivers are staying safe. You also need to make sure the truck is always in peak condition.

In general, it’s a good idea to build a robust, preventative accident management program and enforce certain disciplinary actions for at-fault incidents. Remember: when accidents do occur, fleet managers preside over repairs and ensure accident reports are filed correctly, so the fewer preventable accidents there are, the less time you’ll have to waste on paperwork and fixing vehicles.

Vehicle management

Vehicle management begins with vehicle acquisition. Optimal purchasing strategies are designed to serve your company’s unique business needs — the right acquisition strategy can end up saving your fleet thousands of dollars and spare you the burden of having to regularly rent vehicles or trailers due to capacity issues.

If you’re just looking to purchase one truck, you may want to visit your local dealer with the aim of negotiating a fair price. Fleet managers can repeat this procurement tactic each time a new truck is required. For purchases of larger scale, on the other hand, fleet managers can take advantage of the discounts and fleet programs that leading automakers offer. Dealerships’ fleet programs often cater to local businesses by offering deeply discounted prices, while larger automakers, like Ford and General Motors, often provide flexible financing options.

Beyond overseeing new vehicle acquisitions, truck fleet managers are also responsible for ensuring the title, licensing, and insurance for every truck in the fleet remains active and up-to-date. That means staying on top of key dates and paperwork for every single truck in your fleet. After all, uninsured vehicles produce zero bottom-line value for your business if they remain sidelined and unable to reach the road.

Asset management & fuel management

Effective asset management and fuel management are core components to successful fleet management. By proactively taking care of your personnel and property, you avoid unscheduled breakdowns and repairs — saving your fleet substantial money over the long-haul. The key here is for fleet managers to stay on top of their vehicles’ lifecycles. While investing in a newer vehicle may seem tempting at first, before adding to a fleet, managers should always run a cost-benefit analysis to ascertain whether the value of the new investment outweighs the total cost savings on maintenance, fuel, and other operating costs that come with it.

As gas prices continue to soar and volatility at the pump shows no signs of slowing down, fuel remains the top operating expenditure for many fleets. When it comes to optimizing bottom-lines, monitoring fuel costs and consumption levels can be just as important as tracking your trucks in real-time. Simply put, the most effective fleet managers stay on top of when, where, and how much their vehicles are fueling up to identify patterns, discrepancies, and course correct as needed.

Upfitting requirements for trucks

Specialty freight often commands specialty vehicles. If your business operates within a niche industry or caters to a unique clientele, like service or maintenance providers tend to, you may have a need for specialty vehicles. Businesses that fall into this camp typically undergo an upfitting process that occurs after a vehicle is bought, but before it is ready for full service.

Sometimes the customizations a truck requires to move specialty freight is minor and straightforward, while other times it may take weeks, if not months, to install the necessary equipment. The bottom line is that, depending on the scale of modifications, the upfitting process can take time and, if not adequately administered, can tack on weeks to vehicle delivery. It’s up to the fleet manager to plan around this timeline and ensure that the process is as efficient as possible.

Truck disposal and resale

The disposal and resale of vehicles is an oft-overlooked aspect of truck fleet management. Every vehicle reaches the end of its lifecycle at some point, and it’s up to fleet managers to take care of the vehicle once that time comes. Trucks from fleets are frequently sold through dealerships, private events, auctions, or employee sales. From purchase to disposal, there are a number of cutting-edge tools that fleet managers and owner-operators can leverage to maximize the output and sell-on value of each vehicle in their fleet.

Efficient, optimized route planning

The best fleet managers optimize for routes and plan ahead for their long-term success. While some fleets travel on fixed routes, others have routes that change on a daily basis. In either event, what’s imperative is that managers always consider mileage, travel time, fuel consumption, and other variables to plan out the most efficient routes.

The difference between the best route and all other suboptimal alternatives can often be the difference between your drivers completing their jobs on schedule or being delayed. Optimized routes and advanced, real-time location tracking technology can help fleet managers decrease fuel costs, efficiently tack on additional stops to a driver’s route, and ensure customers and drivers alike remain supported and satisfied.

How to manage a fleet of trucks

Now that you understand the benefits and key components of effective fleet management, it’s time to ask: what are management best practices for fleet managers looking to take their fleet to the next level? Here are some tips to help you understand how to manage a fleet of trucks:

  • Hire a full-time fleet manager: Now that you know how to define a fleet, and you understand the role and value of a fleet manager, you should have a clearer idea of what to look for in a fleet manager. You need someone organized, knowledgeable, and passionate about helping your fleet and your organization perform to its full potential. A manager will take care of all the elements described above that help keep a fleet running smoothly and help you save money in the long run. If you’re worried about cost, you can start with a part-time manager before hiring a full-time one.
  • Partner with a fleet management provider: One option you can consider instead of hiring a full-time manager (or in addition to it if you have a large fleet) is outsourcing some of the operational duties to fleet management companies, which are designed to help fleets of all shapes and sizes. The time you can save by passing off some of your day-to-day fleet management tasks appeals to many over-burdened fleet managers. A fleet management provider can also drive profitability to new heights, particularly for smaller fleets that might not have a full-time manager in place.
  • Develop your drivers: Professional training and certifications allow the best trucking fleets to grow in lockstep with their employees. By investing in your drivers’ continued development, you empower your truckers to drive with confidence and position your fleet to prosper. Establishing codified safety standards and clear best practices helps you eliminate fleet-wide downtime and operate more efficiently as a whole.
  • Establish clear and open lines of communication: A full-time fleet manager in charge of day-to-day affairs and operations will regularly hold meetings with truck drivers, as well as other vested stakeholders, to provide visibility across the fleet. Keeping open lines of communication throughout the business ensures jobs are performed safely, effectively, and on time.
  • Leverage smart technology where possible: The fleets that lead the pack rely on advanced technology systems to keep their businesses operating at peak levels. Smart technology platforms and leading on-demand freight marketplaces like DAT can serve as key driving forces behind a fleet’s long-term success.

How DAT can help with truck fleet management

DAT provides a proven pathway for fleet managers to build out their freight network, win new business, and leap ahead of the competition. DAT One serves as a super-charged, all-in-one solution designed to help fleets of all kinds break through to the next level. With more than 1 million new loads posted daily, the DAT load board attracts the most successful fleet managers and trusted professionals across the industry. Nowhere else can carriers take their pick from more than 357,000 exclusive daily freight listings.

By using the DAT Load Board and gaining access to the most robust freight network in the country, fleet managers can find the best loads at optimal market rates. DAT equips fleet managers with advanced market analytics, including up-to-the-minute freight rate data, to ensure you’re always obtaining the best deals. Nationwide maps reveal insightful supply-and-demand trends, while metrics on truckload rates, which are based on real transactions, are designed to boost your business’s bottom-line.

DAT empowers fleet managers to find freight easily, get paid fast, and eliminate the downtime of their fleet. DAT offers a range of freight factoring services through its partnership with OTR Solutions, a leading freight factoring company. Fleet managers can get paid within 24 hours on each invoice and put an end to any cash flow uncertainties. DAT identifies which loads can be factored and contains user reviews, credit scores, and other useful tools that allow you to grow your freight network – and business – with confidence.

DAT’s Fuel Cards, meanwhile, are designed to help fleet managers cut costs and efficiently budget resources. In addition, with the most partnership programs offered in the industry, fleet managers can streamline their operations and save money through DAT’s dispatching and tracking tools.

Optimal fleet management boils down to ascertaining your business’ key objectives, constraints, and challenges. As a trusted partner, DAT helps you advance your business forward on all levels – offering best-in-class, end-to-end solutions that propel driver performance and preserve driver safety. See how DAT can help your business today!

DAT’s carrier fleet services make truck fleet management simple!

Truck fleet management isn’t easy, but DAT can take some of the burden off your shoulders. Whether you need to find loads, cut fuel costs, or factor freight, DAT is here to help!

See the difference DAT’s carrier fleet services can make for your business today!

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