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The true secret to fleet management success lies beneath the surface of all the moving parts of a fleet manager’s job – in all the numbers and results that dictate how well each part is done and predict how it can be improved. These metrics are easier to find than you think, but knowing what to look for, and how to use them, can help you create better processes across your whole operation.
While there’s plenty of measurable data to be found in every facet of a fleet, here are five key metrics that are vital to running a streamlined operation.
1. Inspection Results
Daily vehicle inspection reports, or DVIRs, can give you consistent, valuable insight into the overall health of your vehicles and equipment on a day-to-day basis. Leveraging that data allows you to keep a historical record of condition on each asset as well as possibly catch major issues or defects before they result in a mid-job breakdown.
Where some metrics tracking might take a little time and collecting to become useful, inspection results are immediately actionable, if you have the right system in place to act on problems as soon as they come up. Herman VanDenBogaert, fleet manager at landscaping and construction company Cherrylake, was able to cut maintenance expenses over his whole operation by utilizing DVIRs as a preventive measure. Once an inspection item was flagged with an issue, a work order could be dispatched more quickly and overall downtime was significantly reduced, all because he began paying closer attention to inspection results.
“Our team was throwing a lot of money into repairs instead of preventive [maintenance],” VanDenBogaert said. “We have some of these larger loaders, and when you have a repair that’s like, ‘I need brakes on this loader…’ It costs you $12,000 to $20,000. They’re these huge machines. So that got us more like, ‘Hey, make sure you guys are greasing, using the right fluids.’”
There are so many other factors that you can track to get a solid perspective on predictive maintenance – odometer readings, diagnostic trouble codes, utilization rate – but without daily inspections, you lose out on the opportunity to keep your thumb squarely on the pulse of what happens to your vehicles day in and day out.
2. Preventive Maintenance Schedules
When you’re dealing with an illness, it’s always easier and cheaper to make regular visits to a primary care provider than to show up in an emergency room. The same can be said for vehicles and equipment – preventive maintenance is always the preferred means of diagnosis, remedy and prevention of potential hazards. Keeping each asset on a strict, OEM-guided PM schedule means that they’re being seen and serviced regularly, and tracking each schedule can help you anticipate downtime in a controlled way and stay on top of recurring issues with certain assets.
In addition to setting a strict PM schedule, you’ll also want to track time to completion on each service to ensure that assets are being maintained effectively and in a timely manner. For Kayak Public Transit, a transportation provider servicing Northeast Oregon and Southwest Washington, implementing a digital solution for tracking PM service meant a massive increase in on-time completion rate, despite the fact that all maintenance was being conducted by a single individual.
Fleet manager Robert Johnson, the one-man show handling Kayak Public Transit’s maintenance, said that those PM schedules come in handy when auditors come knocking as well.
“We were able to provide accurate information because of our maintenance schedules,” Johnson said. “It’s all there, and that enabled us to approach a nearly 90% on-time maintenance rate.”
3. Technician Performance
Automotive technicians are the linchpin in your maintenance efficiency, so measuring their performance and setting achievable goals for productivity based on that data is an important part of the reporting process as a fleet manager. Whether you’re managing a team of in-house technicians or outsourcing to a third party, you can learn a lot about your fleet’s maintenance by watching how long technicians take on a service and how many they complete in a day.
As a former technician, Abt fleet manager Chuck Metoyer knows that techs have their own strengths and weaknesses.
“There’s certain guys that you can’t give a diagnostic job… you know, trying to figure out a wiring issue,” Metoyer said. “Each guy is different. You kind of get a feel for your guys after working with them for so long. You know what they’re capable of and what they’re not capable of.”
Measuring service times and services completed can help you stack your techs’ day with the optimal amount of tasks to suit their skill set and reduce downtime for all of the vehicles coming through the shop.
As you start to learn each tech’s capabilities and service times, you can use that information to start creating goals for performance. As you notice heavier backlogs of work, you can look to service records to indicate what might be going wrong and work with your techs to correct any time-consuming mistakes or procedures.
Always be sure to remember that techs are human – efficiency is always the goal, but use your data to augment your techs’ abilities, not punish them with a suffocating workload they can’t handle.
4. Driver Behavior
It doesn’t matter how scrupulous you are in the shop if you’re not observing how your drivers operate on the road. The way your drivers behave behind the wheel can affect more than insurance premiums – it can mean considerable costly mechanical failures, ineffective routes, lost fuel costs, and a litany of other tangible damages.
This may not seem like the most straightforward metric in a numerical sense, but driver behavior is an entirely measurable outcome when you use the resources you likely already have access to. Telematics devices aren’t just a regulatory formality; they can be used to gauge how a driver is braking, whether or not they’re taking the best route, how their speed is affecting a vehicle’s fuel economy, and so much more.
Ultimately, the best way to measure driver behavior is to simply pay attention and record what you see. Note any harsh braking or speeding events that come through your telematics provider and report their on-time job completion rate so that you can use those data points to improve their performance and institute more effective training programs.
5. Total Cost of Ownership
Total cost of ownership, or TCO, is possibly the most important and comprehensive metric to understand the financial health of your fleet. This metric is a compilation of your expenses across the whole fleet, from fuel and vehicles to maintenance and shop inventory, and the way that this number fluctuates either up or down determines whether or not your fleet is profitable.
Tom Rowlings, fleet manager for the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts, said that being able to effectively manage and demonstrate the costs associated with a fleet is the most important part of decision making around a fleet’s financials, especially if you’re part of a larger organization that isn’t exclusive to fleet operations.
“In companies both public and private – and in municipalities – a fleet is often overlooked, the red-headed stepchild, so to speak,” Rowlings said. “We’re a cost center. We cost a company or municipality a lot of money. When you’re spending millions of dollars in repairs to vehicles, in parts, in service, and you need something as a support mechanism… it’s hard to get the funding for it.”
Rowlings and his team started using fleet management software to accurately track everything happening in the fleet to not only justify their needs to higher ups, but to make the fleet more financially viable as a whole.
This may sound like an intimidating amount of effort, but it really is a gradual process of refining your data collection to aim for the most accuracy possible.
The first step is to identify your fleet’s expenses and define the process for tracking and reporting on those costs. Use fuel cards to keep track of fuel purchases and cut down on any abuse or fraud that could cost you in the long run, and keep valid service histories for each of your vehicles with the cost of maintenance or repairs indicated.
The next step is to compile the metrics above for each of your assets to figure out its cost per mile. Cost per mile is indicative of multiple characteristics of a vehicle, including its fuel efficiency, its utilization rate and its overall health. The higher a vehicle’s cost per mile, the more likely it is that it either needs to be sold or replaced.
Once you have enough data to start calculating TCO, it becomes a bit of a game: Ask yourself, “What move can I make this quarter to lower my TCO?” Begin making strategic decisions that have an effect on the number, assess over time, and try more new things to keep it dropping lower.
To automate fleet reporting and instantly analyze all of your key metrics, consider implementing a fleet management software.
Peyton Panik is a content marketing specialist for Fleetio, a fleet management software company that helps organizations track, analyze and improve their fleet operations.