As a fleet manager, ensuring that you have the right assets for the job is critical. Vehicles aren’t cheap to acquire, plus the myriad of additional costs – maintenance, insurance, and fuel – can quickly add up. Fleet optimization is an important process to ensure your fleet is aligned to the needs of your staff and your organization.

What is fleet optimization?

The simple truth is that every fleet is different. The mix of vehicles that works for one organization may not be suitable for another.

Fleet optimization is the task of ensuring you have the right tools for the job. Say you have a fleet of four vehicles: two sedans, and two pickups. Your budget can comfortably sustain these four vehicles, but any additional vehicle acquisitions are out of the question.

After a while you start to hear that it’s incredibly difficult for staff to book a sedan. Furthermore, hardly anyone uses the pickups because they’re impractical for most staff. But they are necessary for certain situations.

You crunch the numbers and discover that the sedans are frequently booked, while pickups go days or weeks without use. Historical data further backs up your hypothesis. Armed with data, you can make an informed decision about how to optimize your fleet: replace one of the pickups that is hardly used with another sedan.

In a nutshell, this is fleet optimization. Making informed decisions based on usage data specific to the needs of your organization

The opportunity to pool fleet assets

The first step on the journey to optimize your fleet is to move towards a pooled fleet of vehicles. It may surprize you to know that many organizations still manage their fleets by allocating vehicles to individual staff members. This 1:1 relationship of vehicles to staff is extremely inefficient.

It’s nice having your own vehicle to use whenever you need it. But in reality, most vehicles are going to spend the majority of their time sitting idle in the staff car park. This approach to fleet management isn’t optimized at all.

Restructuring your fleet around the concept of vehicle pools provides several opportunities for optimization. It immediately removes the budgetary pressures of needing to maintain a 1:1 fleet size. Analysis of vehicle usage will provide opportunities to reduce the number of vehicles. Done correctly, it will still provide adequate transportation options for your staff. But gaining the necessary insights into vehicle usage might be tricky. Staff are unlikely to give up their personal vehicle in the name of fleet optimization.

That’s where the use of pool booking software can really help fleet managers with their optimization efforts.

Fleet optimization software

Adopting fleet booking software is the next step in achieving an optimized fleet; it provides the data that’s necessary to accurately judge how your fleet is performing and where efficiencies can made. It will also save you time too!

A software solution, such as Smartrak’s PoolCar booking solution, provides you with easy-to-access insights to ensure your fleet remains optimized.

Perhaps you need to make decisions about upgrading some of the vehicles in your fleet. With PoolCar you gain access to the data that supports cogent decision making, giving you the clarity to accurately assess which vehicles really are being utilized the most. It’s a revealing process, and the data may even surprize you.
Smartrak customers, using the data provided by PoolCar, have achieved fleet vehicle reductions of over 10%, with no adverse effect on operational capability. And when you factor in initial acquisition costs, ongoing maintenance, registration, insurance and running costs, that figure could be add up to a significant saving to your organization.

Alongside the transformative benefits of dramatically improved fleet visibility, there are also the administrative gains of transitioning paper-based booking systems to a digital platform. With easier and more accurate reporting, faster processes, automated data entry, and a reduced administrative burden you will discover that you have more control and are spending less time to gain it.

Fleet optimization hardware

But software is only part of your fleet’s optimization story. In order to truly optimize your fleet, you need to dive deeper into the vehicle’s utilization. You can achieve this through the integration of both software and telematics hardware.

Let’s say one of your staff book a vehicle for the day. They’re heading to a meeting across the other side of the city. They drive to the meeting and park, but the car doesn’t move again until the meeting is over. How high is the utilization of that particular vehicle?

From a booking perspective, the vehicle has been utilized for the whole day. It was checked out first thing in the morning and wasn’t returned until late in the afternoon. But if it’s sitting idle on the side of the street, there isn’t really any difference to any vehicles that are sitting idle in your organization’s car park. From a utilization perspective, the vehicle was only actively being used when it was being driven. This might be less than 10% of the overall booking period.

GPS tracking provides the ability to examine what your vehicles are doing once they leave your organization’s car park. We’re not suggesting you monitor their every movement, but it provides the data necessary to educate staff on transport alternatives.

Perhaps for all-day meetings, staff can use a rideshare service. Or maybe they could consider walking if the overall trip distance is under a few kilometres. By shifting staff to alternative modes of transport, you reduce the demand on the vehicles in your fleet. Having access to the necessary data gives fleet managers new opportunities to optimize their fleets and reduce costs.

Another hardware component option fleet managers can take advantage of to further optimize their fleet are key management solutions.

Key cabinets

By storing keys in a central location that is close to your fleet, you reduce the need for staff to take detours to collect and drop off keys. Smartrak’s KeyMaster key cabinet integrates directly into the PoolCar booking platform to provide staff with a seamless key access solution. It also ensures staff take the keys for their specific booking; they can’t accidentally take wrong keys.

Keyless entry

Another option is to remove keys from booking process entirely. Keyless Entry provides a unified entry method into fleet vehicles through either their smartphone or an RFID enabled device. After staff make a booking through the PoolCar booking platform, they head straight to the vehicle, where they unlock the vehicle either with the app, or by tapping their RFID card against the windshield. This unlocks the vehicle, allowing staff to access the keys that have been stored in the glovebox.

The future of fleet optimization

Digital technologies are providing fleet managers with new opportunities to optimize their organization’s fleets. One that Smartrak is excited about is the concept of Mobility and through that the explosion of Mobility as a Service offerings in the market.

Mobility as a Service or MaaS is the idea of shifting transport to an on-demand solution. Current examples of MaaS include rideshare and peer-to-peer car hire services. Individuals access a pool of vehicles throughout the community, rather than owning their own assets. This will become more and more commonplace and important as our cities continue to grow.

MaaS will be important in providing fleet managers with another set of tools to help staff get from A to B. This might mean that for short trips across the city, staff can pool together to book a rideshare service, and when driving long-distance, they might hire a suitable vehicle through the organization’s car hire account. What’s exciting is that fleet managers can make these decisions based on the needs of their staff, as well as the organization’s available resources and goals; an optimized fleet in two separate organizations will look completely different.

Fleet optimization. Isn’t it time you made it a priority in your organization?