Too Much Data, Not Enough Time: 4 Tools Every Fleet Manager Needs When Managing Fleet Data

by Tom Callahan

If there is one thing that all fleet managers have in common, whether they have a 50-vehicle fleet or a 3,500-vehicle fleet, it’s that the amount of data they have to deal with can seem overwhelming. And to manage this data efficiently while achieving your far-reaching corporate goals, you as a fleet professional are even more challenged. So how can you make due with such little time? We hear this question throughout the industry often, and the first thing we tell fleet professionals is that they need to understand their company’s critical goals. From there, you can identify fleet goals that will support your corporate goals.

Once your goals are aligned with the company objectives, the first step is to set up key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs allow you to measure how you are performing relative to achieving your company/fleet goals.

Let’s look at four vital fleet analytics tools that will help you save time and add value to your fleet program.

Tools of the trade

Business Intelligence Tool

Designed to help you understand what is happening with your fleet, what is driving any trends, and what you can do to drive fleet decisions, Business Intelligence (BI) Tools allow fleet managers to track their fleet’s success against KPIs. BI tools achieve this in part by giving fleet managers a visual representation of their data.

So what happens if you are not hitting your KPIs? The format of the BI Tools is to focus on one issue to see what is driving that issue, and then to drill down to uncover the drivers and ultimately pinpoint specific changes you can make to improve your performance. Some common KPI’s include:

  • Total fleet spend and cost per mile
  • Compliance metrics such as preventive maintenance compliance
  • Fuel efficiency and carbon emissions
  • Fleet program savings

Exception Reporting

These reports focus attention on what you can do today. If you need actionable data now, exception reports are a good way for you to start taking action on areas of concern. Some of the more common exception reports include:

  • Under-utilized vehicles – First you need to identify the best way to identify these vehicles. For example, are you looking at a 30-day or a 90-day trend? Also, what threshold of mileage will be utilized?
  • Use of premium fuel – Where and when are drivers using premium fuel? Should they be using this fuel?
  • MPG – compare actual MPG to the EPA average. This will help you identify who is driving poorly. Look at vehicles that are significantly below the designated EPA numbers. Traditionally, anything below 10 to 15 percent should be examined.
  • Vehicles due for maintenance
  • Vehicles due for replacement

Best Practice Reports

If you are a fleet professional who is stressed about too much data and not enough time, you may want to reach out to a fleet management company (FMC). With their Best Practice Reports, an FMC should be able to guide you and help you understand the importance of these common reports. Some common reports include:

  • Total spend by common cost categories such as leasing, maintenance, and fuel spend
  • Replacement and Cycling reports
  • Accident and Subrogation summary
  • Business and Personal Usage reporting

These reports often provide an overview or bigger-picture view compared to exception reports, which are directly actionable.

Telematics

Generally, if you have telematics data, you are better able to understand the “why” behind what is actually happening between the driver and the vehicle. For example, using fuel program data, you can identify underperforming drivers, but with telematics data you can identify whether it’s due to idling, harsh driving behavior, or high proportion of city driving, for example. This gives you the information you need to determine whether or not the exception is a true issue and provides guidance on the type of coaching that will correct that behavior, allowing you to focus on the drivers with truly poor behavior as opposed to all drivers with low fuel efficiency.

Regardless of whether you use these tools or not, fleet managers must be sure that they are not derailed in their day to day activities. By identifying your corporate short-term or long-term goals and the critical fleet goals that will support your company goals, and eliminating conflicts between your fleet goals and your corporate goals, you will be able to focus on only the data that is necessary to drive the results your company expects, driving fleet performance and saving time.

This column originally appeared in Fleet Management Weekly.

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