With COVID-19’s effects on the global economy still on display, businesses across all industries face mounting challenges. The demand for commercial vehicles that ACT research recently highlighted leads to the need for effective fleet management systems.

This need is only projected to become more pronounced in the coming year, in terms of the US and global economies alike. As the shutdowns’ impact on major domestic manufacturers like Ford and GM caused inventory in stock to plummet, essential businesses continue to face challenges in terms of cost-effectiveness. In this regard, Comvoy reported an increase in buyer requests as high as 480% since March, and this trend appears likely to continue. Thus, it is in businesses’ best interests to be aware of the essential features of an effective fleet management system as a means of confronting the economic challenges that may still lie ahead.

 A fleet of white moving vans.
A fleet of white moving vans.

Defining fleet management systems and software

Fleet Management Systems, commonly abbreviated as FMS, seek to centralize various monitor analytics that concern vehicle fleets. Such analytics include routing, vehicle condition and fuel status, real-time location updates, incident reporting, driver behavior monitoring, and other significant metrics and data. The sensors of vehicles relay such actionable information to administrators and managers, which can, in turn, inform data-driven decisions and proactive measures.

In this pursuit, FMS solutions typically use telematics; information technologies that allow fleet vehicles to relay such data to central locations. Devices that support this technology may vary, but they usually take the form of a compact black box that is connected to either the On-Board Diagnostics II (OBD-II) port or the Controller Area Network (CAN) bus port. Through GPS and onboard diagnostics, telematics devices continuously record such relevant information.

The significance of fleet management systems

This year’s exceptional circumstances notwithstanding, effective fleet management systems are crucial for any business that commands a moderate or large city fleet. In terms of budgeting alone, fleet management entails considerable costs; deprecation, fuel costs, maintenance costs, taxes, licensing, administration, and insurance and repairs. The need for such management and the last quarters’ challenges both arguably fueled, in part, the American Trucking Association’s Moving & Storage Conference that seeks to advocate for the industry’s interests.

While MoveBuddha reported continued growth for the moving industry despite adversity, most moving companies affiliated with Best Movers NYC also share such concerns. Thus, optimizing one’s fleet management comes as an invaluable asset toward sustained growth, especially in uncertain times.

Essential features of an effective fleet management system

The metrics mentioned above should all allow businesses to optimize workflows, reduce costs, and limit potential risks. Most FMS solutions provide different functional modules to adapt to a fleet’s specific needs at a particular point in time. Nonetheless, the essential features of an effective fleet management system should be universal in their practical benefits, regardless of a business’s scope and circumstantial needs. Such features may differ in scope, exact functionality, or implementation, but they typically fall under specific categories.

Route management

Routing information can be provided by GPS trackers and drivers’ smartphone devices, but telematics can also provide such data. FMS solutions optimize processing such data through filters and search features, which can assist in pinpointing specific indicators of significance.

Such data typically includes real-time location updates, mileage, and status updates. FMS solutions can, in turn, analyze traffic, stops and stop duration, and other factors to assist with optimizing fuel-efficient routing. Finally, the ability for managers to create custom maps can optimize seasonal routes, ensuring better route management throughout the year.

Asset tracking and management

An invaluable asset toward vehicle identification and management, asset tracking is an essential feature of an effective fleet management system. FMS solutions can provide centralized databases of a fleet’s vehicles, wherein managers can identify vehicles based on vehicle type, mass and capacity, color, seats, mileage, repair history, and other notable factors.

This data can inform insights on vehicles’ life-cycles and help optimize vehicle deployment. Simultaneously, radio frequency identification (RFID) systems can complement GPS systems to facilitate tracking in low-signal areas, ensuring uninterrupted monitoring control.

Fuel management

Fuel-efficient routes aside, fuel management is of paramount importance. Engine idling is arguably the most notable misuse of fuel; businesses seek to avoid it to reduce costs, and many US states have strict anti-idling laws in place.

In this regard, FMS solutions can produce automated alerts to notify managers of excessive idling. At the same time, remote fuel tank monitoring capabilities can inform fuel management decisions to reduce unnecessary costs. Through access to a vehicle’s Engine Control Module (ECM), telematics can help produce actionable fuel management reports.

Vehicle maintenance

An equally significant factor in fleet management lies in proactive vehicle maintenance. Vehicle maintenance modules can employ the asset management data that FMS collects to notify managers of routine checkups and urgent diagnostics. Through remote diagnostics tools, FMS can allow managers to identify which fleet vehicles should be prioritized for maintenance. Finally, such data can help produce accurate Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs) in accord with FMCSA regulations.

Driver profile and behavior monitoring

As the active users of vehicles, drivers themselves require their due attention by any effective fleet management system. In this regard, driver management modules allow managers to create accessible, organized driver profiles. Notably, such profiles typically include licensing information and medical information. Through such profiles, managers can receive automated alerts about license renewal periods, as well as monitor drivers’ mandatory medical tests.

Furthermore, driver behavior can yield fleet management benefits as well. FMS solutions explore driving habits by using a built-in accelerometer to measure g-force, most notably identifying aggressive driving behavior. In this regard, Chevin Fleet reports that skilled, prudent drivers can reduce the risk for accidents and thus reduce fleet costs.

Digital documentation

Finally, an essential feature of an effective fleet management system arguably lies in digital documentation. Through the typical FMS compatibility with mobile devices, drivers can consolidate electronic client signatures, proof of delivery, and other relevant documentation. Similarly, managers can consolidate such data as customer invoicing, inquiries, and other administrative documentation into a central FMS database. Document templates offer accessible document editors that can streamline fleet management, reduce operational costs, and optimize one’s workflow.