Customers expect timely deliveries of their online purchases, and that means delivery fleets are becoming necessary for many companies in the digital era. But, managing such a fleet comes with a litany of new responsibilities that can prove challenging to keep track of: Driver performance, vehicle maintenance, fuel costs and route optimization, to name a few.
These factors can have a particularly severe impact on small businesses, whose livelihoods are more vulnerable when it comes to unexpected costs. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of some of the biggest challenges for small businesses with delivery fleets, along with helpful tips on how to overcome them.
1. Preventing Fuel Waste
Fuel waste is one of the first potential issues that come with managing a small delivery fleet. Considering that fuel is among the leading costs for any small business with a delivery fleet, it’s important to take steps towards optimizing fuel consumption in order to reduce these costs to a minimum.
In most cases, fuel waste comes down to poor driver behavior. You might have employees who use a company vehicle for personal reasons, or who make unauthorized stops on the way to their intended destinations — and this makes for a lot of wasteful fuel consumption. Aggressive driving tactics like harsh braking and acceleration, excessive speeding and unnecessary idling, also result in significantly increased fuel expenses.
To tackle this challenge, you should first let your drivers know how important it is to avoid making personal trips with a company vehicle, and explain why aggressive driving and other driver behaviors might have a negative impact on the company as a whole. Then, you can implement fleet management software that includes a driver behavior monitor, to make sure they stick to your recommendations.
2. Maintenance and Repair Expenses
Proper vehicle maintenance is a major prerequisite for efficient delivery fleet management. Vehicle downtime caused by defects has a serious impact on the performance of the overall fleet, affecting your profits and potentially leading to loss of customers, thus inflicting long-lasting damages to your business’s reputation.
Perform regular inspections and make sure all vehicles are serviced as per the manufacturer’s recommendations, which may include tasks like oil and filters change, as well as tire rotation. This way, you would be prolonging the lifetime of your vehicles and preventing breakdowns or other serious defects that could incur high repair bills and substantial vehicle downtime down the road.
3. Employee Fuel Theft
In addition to unauthorized use of company vehicles, there are a few other ways drivers can hurt your business, with fuel theft near the top of the list. It’s sadly commonplace for companies with delivery fleets to discover that one or more of their drivers are stealing fuel in one way or another. Drivers can be very creative when it comes to stealing fuel, and this type of fraud can be very difficult to detect.
In recent years, fuel cards have become one of the most dependable and effective technologies when it comes to preventing employee fuel fraud. They are a very convenient and affordable solution that is really easy to implement, and they provide highly reliable results.
For instance, there are fuel cards that allow companies to closely monitor fuel expenses and make sure their drivers don’t fill up their own vehicles using company money. These cards provide detailed transaction reports, as well as specifically programmed alerts and controls you can use to detect unauthorized and suspicious purchase patterns. In short, fuel cards can help you discover fuel fraud at its early stages and stop it as soon as possible.
4. Optimizing Routes
Routing is arguably one of the most difficult ones to overcome. A lot of different and sometimes unexpected factors are involved, and it takes a lot of testing and adjusting before getting to the winning formula.
While there are routes that stay the same over long periods of time, with the same number of stops and the same sizes and types of deliveries, you can almost guarantee there will be some unexpected challenges that require interventions and rerouting.
Being able to factor in all the related variables in real time is key to determining the best route to a given destination. However, it’s extremely difficult to do manually — which is why it’s recommended to use delivery management software that will do this job for you. Delivery management software can track the location of all vehicles within your fleet in real time, with information on their remaining stops and estimated times of arrival, traffic data, as well as driver availability. Armed with this data, you will be able to make quick adjustments and reroute based on changing circumstances, ultimately reducing operating costs and improving customer satisfaction.
5. Fleet Safety
Statistics show the vast majority of traffic incidents are due to driver error. Ensuring that your drivers have good driving habits is a crucial element for improving fleet productivity and increasing your return of investment.
To reduce the risk of any of your drivers getting into crashes, you could implement a driver safety policy and closely monitor driver behavior to see whether it’s being respected or not. The policy should focus on motivating drivers to avoid aggressive or distracted driving, which are among the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents. It should also teach and encourage safe driving techniques, such as obeying traffic signals and speed limits, wearing a seat belt and sharing the road with bicycles and motorcycles in a safe manner.
Next, you could introduce incentives to motivate drivers to follow your safety guidelines, and penalties for those who don’t. This approach is considered one of the most effective ways of improving driver performance and minimizing the risk of crashes.
All these efforts will not only keep down costs associated with car accidents, but they will also help reduce your insurance premiums, which will have an immediate positive impact on your bottom line.
Managing a delivery fleet is no easy feat, but there are affordable techniques and tools that make the task that much simpler.