It’s common knowledge that a primary goal of all fleet management teams is to reduce the amount of capital spent on vehicle fuel. Whilst cutting fuel costs seems simplistic in theory, the problem is the majority of organisations will not strategically analyse how they can efficiently reduce their fuel spending. Here are four helpful tips you can implement in your operations to make noticeable savings.

It doesn’t have to be your Fleet!

Often organisations become so fixated on how they should best arrange their fleet to reduce costs that they don’t consider other alternatives. Rather than applying typical fuel reduction techniques such as dispatching smaller or more fuel-efficient vehicles, fleet management teams should seek alternative transport solutions. A common example of this could be employing the services of a local courier if your transport needs are small parcel deliveries within city centres.

Pre-Plan Fleet Journey’s

Leading fleet management teams will always question the importance of every fleet journey. Taking the time to carefully pre-plan each of your fleets journeys can often result in findings that will significantly reduce the amount being spent on fuel. Costs are cut on fuel when organisations take note of details such as not travelling in busy traffic periods or only sending one vehicle out to two closely located destinations.

Invest in Driver Education

Educating your fleets drivers on the importance of “smooth driving” is one of the easiest ways to save dollars being spent on vehicle fuel. Avoiding harsh acceleration and heavy breaking when making a journey will not only improve fuel savings by up to 10 percent, but also significantly slow the process of wear and tear of the car and tyres.

Manage Fleet Travel Distance

It is essential that Fleet Managers understand that first and foremost, the purpose of a fleet is to serve the needs of the business. Continually questioning the rational of the fleet system being used to reduce the distance driven during fleet journeys is the most effective way to save money from fuel use.

The dangers of driving on Australian rural roads are hard to ignore when you consider more than half of the nation’s road fatalities occur on either rural or remote roads. With two-thirds of the Australian population residing in metropolitan areas, it’s difficult to understand why this epidemic receives such limited attention.

Four Horrific Facts about Australian Rural Highways:

1. Every year at least 700 lives are lost on rural roads, with thousands more injured.

2. Urban road crash rates are decreasing at a much faster rate than rural crash rates.

3. (In the Year 2000) The risk of dying in a rural compared to an urban crash was 4.2 times higher.

4. Rural road crashes make up under half (48%) of road fatalities, despite more than two thirds (69%) of the Australian population residing in metropolitan areas.

What can be done?

The increased legal travel speeds on rural roads are a major reason why crashes often lead to more serious injuries or death on rural roads. Additional, characteristics that are typically associated with a rural vehicle journeys such as unsealed roads and extensive travel times also drastically contribute to the risk of a crash. Fleet management teams should take it upon themselves to educate drivers on the importance of slowing down, taking their time, and understanding the dangers of these roads.

Releasing drivers of tight and times unrealistic timeframe pressures for deliveries or meetings would remove the “rush factor” and allow drivers to focus on driving safely. Another action organisations can take is to implement fatigue management policies so fleet drivers are not driving vehicles on these unsafe rural roads whilst feeling fatigued.

Recent studies have found that an astounding 30% of hospitalised rural drivers said they were distracted immediately before the crash. It is imperative that organisations can do everything possible to ensure that they are not causing any of these distractions.

The fact of the matter is that it is impossible to remove all the dangers associated with driving on a rural road. It is, however, the responsibility of the organisation and fleet management teams to ensure they have done everything possible to make sure the journey is as safe as possible.

Unique Fleet Management Challenges for Utility Companies

Fleet management functions at utility companies are regularly placed under immense pressure. The nature of their business means they do not experience periods of downtime on a weekly basis to catch up on fleet-wide maintenance. Utility companies are responsible for providing power to a plethora of users whose livelihoods are dependent on the power supply; utility crews operate 24 hours a day 365 days of the year. Ranging from health institutions to homeowners and data centres, energy consumption is generally evenly divided among commercial, residential and industrial sectors which comprise of a diverse customer base incomparable to many other industries.

Unique to utility companies is the challenges their fleet management face in relation to their working conditions. Typically, power outages are triggered by adverse weather conditions with wind, heat, ice, and snow is the most common causes of power outages.

Regularly dealing with adverse weather conditions sees utility companies place an even greater emphasis on the safety of their fleet. Ensuring fleet vehicles are adequately maintained they need to be thoroughly inspected to help identify any underlying mechanical issues. It is impossible to detect early symptoms of any planned or unplanned maintenance issues if fleets are not regularly inspected. Here at Smartrak, we save you the hassle of traditional, paper-based daily vehicle inspection reports.

Empowering your utility company fleet with Smartrak

Traditional vehicle inspection reports via a trusty clipboard, pen and sheet of paper may be suitable when business is well-paced and weather conditions are tolerable. But fleets are regularly placed in situations where they face hazardous weather conditions, exhausted staff, overtime hours, and power outage calls coming from all corners of their service territory.

Despite predicaments such as this, the strict department of transport requirements cannot be waived. Daily vehicle inspections quickly become the last priority on the minds of under-the-pump drivers, and the once all-reliable paper forms can easily be inaccurately signed off or lost. This can lead to equipment problems being overlooked, resulting in operations managers facing unplanned downtime at their busiest periods.

When vehicle breakdowns do occur, filing through old driver vehicle paperwork amid routine shift changes and staff callouts to jobs can be a nightmare. Paper-based fleet management requires a tedious process to be finalised, which often means that simple preventative maintenance issues are not instantly addressed leading to more serious equipment failures. The impracticality of daily vehicle inspection routines means that even when they are efficiently and accurately completed they are still largely ineffective.

Dynamic utility fleet management with Smartrak around

On the flipside, let’s assess how Smartrak’s products could assist fleets in the same scenario of emergency condition challenges. To begin with, vehicle drivers can immediately disregard having to fill out tedious paper-based daily vehicle inspection routines. Smartrak allows each driver to have their own individual mobility device and software so that fleet managers can accurately monitor who performed the inspection as well as when and where it took place. Smartrak allows for inspection history to be immediately filed providing fleet managers with an up-to-date record. From here repairs can be efficiently prioritized to ensure small technical problems don’t escalate into larger more expensive ones and vehicle availability is always at an optimal level.

Smartrak allows fleet managers to customize vehicle inspection forms based on varying situations. After long trips on unsealed roads, for example, tyre checks may need to be performed more frequently to prevent delays. Colder temperatures in winter often mean sharper monitoring of hydraulic fluids is required and a minimum vehicle engine warm-up time is needed. Smartrak allows fleet managers to quickly communicate important messages such as these to drivers in a timely and proactive way.

Smartrak gives far greater control to managers over what vehicles are inspected and when the inspections will occur. The new technology allows drivers to communicate in real-time with fleet managers sending photos and comments over any potential issues they have detected.

Real-time and reliable data from fleets to headquarters

A key benefit that Smartrak provides is that managers can stay connected with their fleets widely dispatched assets at any given moment. This means managers are instantly alerted the moment any potential problems or issues are detected. Automatic communication between an organisations headquarters and their dispatched fleet allows fleet managers to provide immediate solutions the moment issues arise, rather than letting down customers and delaying repair times

In summary

Smartrak provides a digital platform to document all vehicle checks and safety compliance. Smartrak’s Mobile Forms help protect utility companies from being exploited as they will always be able to produce relevant safety and inspection documents on demand, keeping everyone honest.

Correct Staffing

Having an efficient and planned pool vehicle system in place plays a vital role in ensuring an optimal number of vehicles are available at any given time. The benefit of having software that communicates between the pool vehicle system and staff’s mobile phones is that each employee becomes responsible for managing their own transport reservations and allows the software to manage the rest!

Efficient Workers

A key benefit of vehicle pool systems is that they allow an organisation’s staff to focus their efforts and attention on the important tasks they need to complete. Companies gain the edge over competitors through minimising wasted staff time, making manual (paper based) vehicle reservations at reservations desks, and all the hassle and administration that goes with it (not to mention the paper work!).

Smartrak’s software systems have become so advanced that they now automatically maintain all the data on vehicles. This includes when they have been reserved for, when they are returned and when they are booked in for maintenance!

Flexible Servicing Schedule

Smartrak is committed to providing the best possible customer service for all our customers. To ensure this commitment becomes a reality, our comprehensive self-help documentation is available 24/7, and our support team respond quickly to new enquiries to ensure that your business or transportation is not deterred by an unresponsive pool vehicle.

Connected Software Systems

Smartrak’s Fleet Servicing solution provides highly accurate real-time data, automated alerts and customer service schedules to help stay proactive in the maintenance of your fleet. Not only does this save the time and effort of manually checking, but it reduces the costs and risks of a long-term breakdown!

Accurate Pool Size

Smartrak's PoolCar Pool Booking solution takes the headache out of having to continually restructure the optimal size of your company’s vehicle pool. This adaptability put an end to paying for excess or struggling with too little across your fleet.

Real-time Reporting

Smartrak’s products are all enhanced by real-time pre start check-ups and servicing features that allow pool vehicle users to identify if there are any problems with the vehicle before or during the trip, keeping your fleet admin staff up to date on your fleet’s condition!

It is important to have a clear understanding of where your fleet management budget dollars are being spent. Like a personal weekly budget, having a strong grasp on where costs can be cut can strengthen your financial position for the long term.

Similar to most of the important budgets in our social or professional lives, fleet management budgets are multidimensional financial plans that must cover several important facets of fleet management.

10 Essentials in a Fleet Management Budget

Staff Costs- Labour

Accurately calculate how much is being spent on the labour going into repairs. This includes the costs of both technicians and overhead staff.

Maintenance Costs

Keep up to date with market prices and know how much your organisation is spending on maintenance. This will increase your ability to negotiate better prices and enhance your buying power.

Asset Utilisation

Track and manage your fleet’s peak utilisation and minimum utilisation requirements to ensure your fleet matches it’s ideal size and type.

Fuel Costs

Which of your assets are the most/least fuel efficient?

Recurring Costs (Insurance, replacement, etc.)

Be sure to include all appropriate monthly costs to allow for accurate tracking.

Commercial Charges

Are there opportunities to perform more outside work in-house (to reduce costs and delays) or to send work out (maintenance providers) so you can focus on the tasks you need to perform?

Vehicle Pool Rentals

Consider leasing out fleet vehicles that are under-utilised or note being used (a common practise for large fleet organisations).

Everyday Expenses (Car washes, tolls, etc.)

Remember to consider fees that aren’t just shop-related

Mark-up Costs

On top of all the previously listed costs associated with fleet management, you may also need to add mark ups to recover these expenses.

Asset Depreciation

Accurately measuring the costs of asset depreciation must be considered when calculating revenue.

It can be an onerous job, managing an organisation’s fleet. The work never seems to end; with a vast array of responsibilities that include tracking many varied vehicles, ensuring vehicles are always operating effectively, and carefully controlling the access staff have to the fleet. Fortunately for Fleet Managers, technological advancements in recent years have resulted in the creation of successful key management systems that can address many of the difficulties associated with being a fleet manager in an organised and audit-able way.

Keeping staff accountable

A primary benefit of having an effective key management system in place is that it provides absolute clarity and assurance over vehicle usage. Key management systems have become capable of doing more than just carefully monitoring which vehicles are currently being used or are available. Key management systems are now being widely used by organisations to protect their fleet from being exploited by staff. Managers are now able to quickly access records to investigate when the key to a vehicle was removed, by whom, and when they were returned. This information is valuable if a vehicle is returned damaged, defaced, or with a mileage higher than expected.

Tracking your assets

As a Fleet Manager, it can be extremely stressful trying to manage company assets that are continually changing location. Having a centralised system in place to carefully monitor this in a simplistic and organised way gives a lot of control back to the fleet management team. The ability to accurately track every key in your fleet with an accessible and up to date system provides fleet management with consistent and reliable knowledge of which vehicles are in use, and where they have been returned to.

Stops keys from getting lost

Having a system in place to accurately track every key of your fleet minimises the risk of suffering the financial strain of misplaced vehicle keys. Replacing vehicle keys can be very expensive, particularly for modern vehicles which are paired with modern electronic key fobs. On top of the financial costs, losing a vehicle key raises several security concerns before the re-keying process is completed. Having your fleet’s keys controlled and stored in a key management system allows fleet management teams to quickly track any lost keys, and drastically decreases the risks of the issues listed above.

Manages servicing solutions

It is the responsibility of an organisations fleet management team to ensure the entire fleet is properly maintained, and in a state for optimal use. This can be very exhausting process to manually manage in fleets spread across various locations, constantly being taken out at different times by different people. Class-leading key management systems can manage this for you. Key management systems allow drivers to make notes of any issues they have with a vehicle in an organised and easily accessible system.

Key management systems give Fleet Managers the opportunity to effectively manage and monitor all of their fleet’s keys. Ranging from consistently knowing the location of company vehicles and keys, minimising the costs of replacing misplaced keys, protecting company assets from theft and exploitation, to properly ensuring your fleet has adequately maintained key tracking systems are invaluable for fleets and organisations of all sizes.

Smartrak is exhibiting at the Safety 360 Conference 2019 in New Zealand.

Hosted at the Vodafone Events Centre, Auckland, on the 26th and 27th of March, the event will be focusing on a range of health and safety topics including, leadership and culture, hazardous substances, occupational health, and health and wellbeing. We invite you to attend the conference and can find Smartrak at booth #42 to discuss our lone worker and fleet safety solutions.

More information on the event can be found here: https://www.conferenz.co.nz/events/2019-safety-360

Downstream New Zealand is a must-attend event that offers insights into current energy sector challenges and opportunities. The event brings together industry professionals and influencers. Downstream aims to set future direction for the industry as it is changing at a rapid rate.

Join Smartrak in attending the event. We will be presenting our current industry solutions and showcasing our all-in-one integrated enterprise platform. Smartrak will also be facilitating Industry roundtables which highlight the importance of support, safety and the welfare of our people working in high-risk environments.

More information on the event can be found here:

https://www.nzdownstream.co.nz

Melbourne, Australia, FEBRUARY 7, 2019 – Smartrak, a company focused on fleet asset management, logistics, and lone worker safety solutions, today announced they have acquired the assets of Lingo Systems Pty Ltd, the developer of a range of mobility solutions collectively known as PoolCar. The acquisition helps extend Smartrak’s offering in mobility, particularly pool vehicle management, electronic key cabinets and vehicle keyless entry. Smartrak is part of the Volaris Group of companies, which provide specialized, mission-critical solutions to vertical markets around the world.

Pool vehicle management has many challenges including vehicle availability, key security and access, cost recovery, driver vetting, policy compliance and journey management. The PoolCar solution suite helps to address these challenges by providing a comprehensive platform to manage drivers, vehicle reservations, keep track of vehicle assets, preventative maintenance, and management of keys. Most recently, PoolCar introduced a new, advanced, keyless entry solution to facilitate a seamless user experience to vehicle access and sharing, featuring RFID, Bluetooth and Smartphone access to vehicles.

Kurt Lingohr, Lingo’s founder and CEO, transitions to Smartrak in a new role solely focused on technology and continued development of the product roadmap for the PoolCar solution suite. “My passion is in innovation and the user experience,” said Lingohr. “Joining up with Smartrak enables us to accelerate our vision for the future of mobility solutions and work closely with customers to put that technology to work. There is no doubt in our minds that the future of the fleet management industry is at a cross-roads and joining forces with Smartrak gives us wings to meet current and future customer needs of a changing landscape.”

“PoolCar is a great addition to the Smartrak offering,” said Troy O’Connor, CEO, Smartrak. “We’re excited to be able to add this complementary platform to our growing portfolio of solutions. Having Kurt on board to help ensure PoolCar’s continued development, means we can continue to innovate in this area and bring additional solutions to market.”

The PoolCar mobility solution counts more than 180 customers among its client base across 14 countries, concentrated mainly in Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Key markets include State Government, Councils, Not-for-Profit, Universities, and Healthcare. Notable customers include Queensland State Government (QFleet), West Australian State Government, Griffith University, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Monash Health, Western Sydney University, Northern Sydney Local Health, St. Vincent’s Health, Central Land Council, Edith Cowan University, Aurecon Group, CustomFleet New Zealand (Auckland Council), Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, Converga, and others.

About Smartrak

Smartrak creates technology that enables the public sector, utilities, and emergency services to manage and protect their most valued assets (people, vehicles, and assets). Smartrak provides visible and actionable, location-based insights on these assets, so that customers can deliver on their promises to the communities they serve; safely, productively, and cost-efficiently.

About PoolCar

With offices in Mornington (VIC, AU) and Boston (MA, USA), PoolCar offers a suite of mobility solutions that address the challenges of pool vehicle management. PoolCar’s portfolio features innovative products including KeyMaster® electronic key cabinets, Rolln, an advanced keyless vehicle access solution, and the award winning PoolCar SaaS pool vehicle management software.

-end-

In a previous article – How satellites help when there is no cellular coverage – we discussed the benefits and restrictions of using a satellite modem and weighed them against the requirements of the role, the risks being managed and mitigated, and other aspects of aligning business process and procedure to compensate. This article walks through the concept of self-managing the risks in more detail, based on the end user’s own knowledge and understanding of their territory.

Over time, as well as looking at the information available from communications partners, staff can identify geographic areas where cellular reception is going to be problematic. Using the Smartrak platform, you can then set up geofences. Geofences allow a variety of locations to be mapped and have a range of attributes – speed limits in a depot, hazardous roads, areas of risk, etc.

By simply defining the areas with poor cellular reception that your staff travel through, you can create a system for your team, manager, OH&S, etc, where staff are, or their last known location. If they need to be contacted and can’t be reached, you can run a report that shows the last known position, or that, that position was entering a geofence that was designated as ‘entering a black spot’. If they are overdue, the right people can be alerted to the fact that they are in a specific area and direct assistance accordingly. This is not as effective as having an emergency device that is satellite enabled, but it allows a better outcome than doing nothing and hoping for the best.

It’s a simple process: the geofence records entry time into the zone then the exit time, effectively keeping staff movements visualised in the system. For example, if they entered the zone at 7:45 AM and emerged at 8:10 AM, their event data (change of direction, speed, etc) is captured and cached in the AVL and will be uploaded on reconnection with the cellular network. If a staff member missed an appointment or their manager was expecting a call from them as per protocols for lone drivers, you can see that they would normally exit 20–25 minutes after the 7:45 AM entry. If they have been over an hour, then they may have broken down or had an accident. At this point, assistance via other staff or emergency services can be considered or instigated.

In the previous article, we discussed the in-vehicle solution as well as the portable versions. My preference is for the portable unit as it is a separate secondary device that can be used in emergencies and also if I am away from the vehicle. It is important to involve all stakeholders to ensure the right combination of hardware is defined and aligned to your processes and procedures.

Over time, this use of the platform enables users to build and maintain effective and detailed information layers for their territories. It also allows the data to be used in evaluation and reporting (services such as route optimisation, vehicle off-road and many others via Business Intelligence tools), all adding value to the ecosystem that is a client’s business. Outcomes for our clients can be in determining changes in process, procedures and practices. It can drive changes to solutions, such as defining internal costs for carrying out services, which can be analysed to ensure on-charges to their customers for these services are covering costs and not costing your business and leading to unsustainable practices.