As one popular saying goes, "You can't manage what you don't measure," and to go one step further, you can't improve what you don't measure. In order to get the most performance from a fleet, with the least amount of labor input and the lowest cost, tracking fleet data is imperative.
When managing a fleet of vehicles, it's important to have precise data at hand for a wide range of variables, and for a variety of reasons. For instance, tracking the fuel costs for the whole fleet might be a key figure to keep an eye on, but it's not nearly as helpful as knowing the exact fuel costs per day by the vehicle, route, or driver. And by closely monitoring the vehicle's service schedule, preventative and routine maintenance, inspections, and any repair work can take place when it will require the least amount of downtime.
Some of the most basic fleet data that can be collected and managed are fuel costs, operating hours, driver hours, preventative maintenance and repairs, miles per route/day/driver, and other operating costs such as licensing and insurance. Data for all assets and facilities, whether or not they are managed internally or contracted out, should be collected and tracked. Each of those categories can also be drilled down further, such as by vehicle and by contract or service period, depending on the reporting requirements, and can be broken out and analyzed separately or in aggregate.
All fleet data collection should have a layer of verification built into it, so that certain key indicators are double-verified, as are any anomalies, on a regular basis. For instance, fuel receipts and mileage should be reconciled with both the fuel supplier and the actual odometer readings, and any self-reported data from employees or contractors should be double-checked routinely.
Benchmarks can be used to correctly assess the progress, improvement, or degradation happening over time, and should be compared with other peer fleet data or industry standards. By knowing where your fleet stands in comparison with other similar operations elsewhere, areas where improvements can be made will be more easily identified, as will any processes or materials that are lagging far behind industry standards.
In order to ensure an ‘apples to apples’ comparison of data, fleet data should be standardized, using the same metrics within each category or subcategory. With a standard set of data points, and a regular and rigorous reporting schedule, fleet data becomes a trusted tool for decision-making and setting budgets, as well for both internal reporting and for client reports.
When it comes to fleet data, knowing which data to collect, and how often and in what format, is only the beginning. Once the data is flowing in, is verified, and being monitored over time, key plans for continuous improvement can be set and budgeted, and the efficacy of those changes can be tracked in order to make the most informed decisions for the fleet.