5 Unique Challenges of Managing a Small Fleet and How to Solve Them
When you’re running a small business, resources are often tight, and that means you need to maximize them as much as possible. Of course, anyone managing a small fleet is very well aware of this struggle. You want to save money while providing your customers with the best service you can. Therefore, every little effort that you make to improve your fleet counts. Every fleet is different, and small fleets come with their own unique challenges that desperately need solutions.
1. You have a million responsibilities—and the fleet is just one
In a small business, managing the fleet very well may not be a singular person’s job. Multiple people may be assuming various duties like checking cars for maintenance, making sure drivers are en route—whatever needs to get done. Often, the fleet manager isn’t just a fleet manager. When you have tons of other tasks to handle in addition to the fleet, crucial management tasks can fall to the wayside, especially if you’re also one of the fleet drivers yourself.
A solution to this problem is putting one person in charge as the fleet manager. That person’s duties and responsibilities need to be clearly defined so there is no confusion. Drivers need to be aware of this change and understand that they should be reporting to the fleet manager.
2. Drivers thinking low gas prices make it okay to waste fuel
Every fleet manager worries about getting the most out of the company’s budget for fuel. Lately, lower gas prices have meant that we can relax a little—but your drivers may be relaxing a little too much. The impact of wasted fuel is maximized for a small business that doesn’t have a large budget at its disposal. Your costs should be going down along with the lowered prices, so if they’re not, you know you have a problem.
Your drivers could be using their vehicles for personal trips in between their stops. It’s important to stress to your drivers that low gas prices do not mean they should be less mindful of how they spend fuel. It may be worthwhile to sit down and map out your drivers’ routes to determine the most direct routes—and how many miles they should be using. If drivers know you expect them to go straight to their destinations, they are likely to be more thoughtful about how they are using gas.
3. Making sure your drivers aren’t too tired to drive safely
It’s easy for drivers to get overworked when you have limited labor and jobs that need to get done quickly. Again, it may even be you who needs to take on extra jobs. However, not only is driving when tired a serious risk to your drivers’ lives—as well as to everyone else on the road—but there are plenty of government regulations intended to prevent exactly this.
This is another area where organization goes a long way. If you’ve already assigned one person to manage the fleet, tracing hours should be a lot easier. That one person can keep track of all drivers’ hours and make sure no one is doing too many shifts in a row without breaks.
4. If one vehicle breaks down, so can your whole operation!
When you don’t have many vehicles, you may not have a backup vehicle ready on a busy day. If any of your vehicles break down or crash, you can end up in a situation where your whole schedule is thrown off track and the level of service you provide your customers is impacted.
It’s important to have a schedule for regular maintenance of your vehicles, and everyone needs to adhere to this schedule—that means no more putting things off. Additionally, you need to educate your drivers so they can tell when a vehicle needs maintenance. Often vital signs are missed simply because of a lack of awareness. If drivers are educated about vehicle maintenance and attuned to the health of their vehicles, they can be prepared to report anything they notice. When these problems are reported, the fleet manager needs to take action in a timely fashion.
5. Holding drivers accountable when they hold you back
Dealing with driver problems can seem very personal in a small business. You need to make sure your fleet is generating revenue, and sometimes you’ll be dealing with drivers who are not performing to a high enough standard. However, if your fleet is especially small and you’re often a driver yourself, your close relationship with your drivers can make it difficult to be honest about issues.
Open communication is always key in business interactions. Your drivers need to understand that you are not trying to pester them by reminding them of the rules—those rules are meant for their safety as well as the well-being of the business. Building trust with your drivers will result in them being a lot more honest with you. Plus, the more make your expectations clear—whether by mapping out routes or having a documented process for reporting issues—the easier it will be to hold your drivers accountable for the problems you notice.
You don’t need a big enterprise and tons of vehicles to run a great fleet. The trick is to make deliberate efforts to improve the fleet you already have. With every step you take, you need to communicate with your drivers so they understand exactly why you’re making changes. With both organization and trust, you can utilize your fleet to its fullest potential, no matter its size.
Fleet data can help you make informed decisions. Download the free Using Vehicle Data to Improve Driver Performance E-Guide.