All across the UK today, it’s almost possible to hear the squeals and squirms of a thousand and one businesses tightening their belts to such an extent they can barely breathe, let alone move. With competition having never been fiercer and the threat of going under never more real, it’s become a case of increasingly turning to savings and efficiency improvements as a means by which to progress with strength. And while recent slashes to petrol and diesel prices may have brought at least a little relief to those dependent on their business vehicle fleets, this is hardly the kind of thing that can be relied upon long-term.
Fleet operation has never been an easy balancing act to pull off in a financial sense – it’s long been a case of high spending allowing for high performance and anything to the contrary yielding the opposite. But at the same time, like in all other areas of business, there are ways and means by which to cut fleet management costs without necessarily impacting quality of performance on the whole.
For example, it’s natural to assume that outsourcing responsibilities to fleet services companies would mean paying an additional premium for premium service, but this isn’t always the case. The reason being that when you sign a contract with an external provider, you immediately eliminate the need for keeping hold of spare parts, spare vehicles and spare wads of cash to be used when and where things go wrong. In addition, you also tap into the kind of buying power than means cheaper parts, cheaper labour and cheaper overall tracking and management at the same time.
One of the most important habits of all to get into for the sake of efficiency and optimisation is that of accurate and constant tracking of all journeys made across the board. This is really the only way of finding out how much money you’re wasting while your vehicles are idling, what kind of MPG on the whole you can expect on a day to day basis, which of the so called quickest routes are actually the most efficient and so on and so forth. Some see tracking a way of spying on drivers – in reality it’s simply a way of spying on your business interests.
How can fuel cards bring savings to your fleet management efforts? It’s easy – by reducing the kind of manpower and time you’d otherwise have to pump into admin and accountancy. It’s natural to look for more hands-on ways and means to cut fleet costs, but at the same time you’d be surprised how big of a difference you can make behind the scenes. Long story short – the more complicated you make it for your drivers to buy fuel and then claim back the expenses, the more money you’re wasting on admin tasks. By contrast, use a centralised account with fuel cards for each driver and you’ll save masses of time and money.
There are so many in-house fleet managers these days who subconsciously believe that the best way of saving money is to pretty much run their vehicles into the ground and only ever spend cash on repairs when it’s absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, not only does this lead to massively inefficient running on a day to day basis, but it also means that when and where repairs are needed, chances are they’ll be bigger and far costlier than they need have been. It’s something of a constant and almost cliché call to the fleet managers of the UK to make sure their vehicles are kept in the best possible state of repair at all times, but is nonetheless a cry that’s 100% guaranteed to save any business money over the long-term.
Last but not least, it may seem a little on the inappropriate side to take life-long professional drivers back to the training room for a little driver-coaching, but setting rules in place for fleet operations could save the business a small fortune. Sure there’s a 70mph speed limit in place, but this doesn’t mean you can’t impose your own 60mph limit on drivers for better fuel-economy. Likewise, there may be a route home that’s an hour or so quicker than the other, but if the longer route saves a good deal of cash by using slower roads, feel free to make such routes mandatory. Statistics show that these kinds of minor changes can cut overall annual fuel costs by anything up to 30%, which can amount to a quite spectacular saving.