Growing demands on fleet operators mean that avoiding time-sapping procedures is more important than ever.
Fleet managers are under constant pressure to do more with less and technology can be a way of easing the administrative burden.
Suppliers in the fleet industry are all making the switch to digital services, dovetailing with Government departments like the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), in order to cut down on paperwork and improve efficiency.
According to research from LeasePlan, 88% of business decision-makers are suffering from ‘admin overload’.
Those at medium-sized companies (between 251-1,000 employees) claim to spend an average of 92 minutes on admin tasks every day. Small companies (up to 250 employees) claim to spend an average of 76 minutes on admin each day.
Here are some of the ways technology can help cut administration across four key areas in the fleet market.
Allstar, the biggest fuel card provider in the UK, is currently upgrading all its cards to chip and pin.
The biggest immediate benefit of this for drivers is being able to pay at the pump 24/7. Another benefit is the ability to restrict purchases on the fuel card to stop drivers from buying incorrect or premium grade fuel at forecourts.
However, chip and pin could soon be obsolete. Paul Hollick, managing director of TMC, predicts that physical fuel cards will be a thing of the past within the next 12 months. He believes that plastic cards will be replaced by contactless payments through apps on smartphones like Apple Pay on iPhone.
Tracking fuel use through cards and having that information in real-time in a central place can do away with messy receipts and paperwork.
Danwood Group, a print services company, runs a fleet of 400 company cars. Geoff Wray, Danwood head of fleet and facilities, recently changed its fuel card supplier to Barclaycard Fuel+ in association with TMC.
The company had outgrown its manual, spreadsheet-based mileage reporting process to the point where administering fuel expenses took up 25% of Wray’s time every month.
It was not possible to check hundreds of spreadsheets closely to verify whether trip records were accurate and complete.
The Barclaycard+ chip and pin card captures proactively-audited, HMRC-compliant business mileage records through an online reporting portal, GPS-enabled smartphone app and customers’ telematics data feeds.
TMC combines the data from each driver’s fuel card transactions and journey records. Outputs include a monthly payroll data file for private fuel deductions, VAT optimisation, benefit-in-kind fuel analysis and a suite of management reports.
Wray says: “The new way of working has freed up a week per month or 40 hours that were previously committed to processing manual mileage reports.”
Telematics systems can be used to simplify job dispatch to automating fleet activity and performance reporting. These systems have become increasingly ‘smart’ with processes such as mileage registration for expense claims now automated through smartphone apps.
Nickie Hunt-Mason, Masternaut enterprise sales and development director (Europe), says: “Telematics can help cut down on admin not just through paperwork but by helping to make sure that an admin headache doesn’t even happen in the first place.”
It’s this area of real-time diagnostics that companies like Masternaut and manufacturers like BMW are introducing to fleets in order to have a direct link to fault codes and problems with cars.
Sophisticated telematics software can also track and automatically transfer information needed by insurance companies in the event of an accident.
Hunt-Mason says: “A real trend we’re being asked about by clients is the ability to try and pull every management system together and get everything on to one screen. Everything needs to be monitored at a single glance.”
Masternaut works with fleets with an average of around 1,000 vehicles. Companies with that many vehicles are still paring down their fleet department to just one or two people, says Hunt-Mason.
She says each driver can save around two to three hours a week by having their mileage claims automated through telematics tracking.
“Fleet managers shouldn’t be spending more than 15 to 20 minutes a week checking in on their management information with these systems in place,” adds Hunt-Mason.
TomTom Telematics has recently launched Webfleet for Sales Cloud, an app that integrates the company’s telematics platform with salesforce. The app allows automatic trip reporting and simplified appointment management.
Jeremy Gould, TomTom Telematics vice-president of sales Europe, says: “Obligatory vehicle checks can be made through telematics-enabled tablet devices, for example, at the start of each day or week, with the results instantly updated in the back office to ensure maintenance schedules are up to date and that duty of care responsibilities are met.”
Mileage capture systems
Mileage capture is often used alongside telematics and fuel cards. One of the biggest areas it can help in cutting admin is by reducing the amount of chasing a fleet manager has to do to get drivers to update documents.
Paul Hollick, managing director of The Miles Consultancy, says: “Technology on mileage capture can really help fleet managers get to a 100% compliancy figure by locking fuel expense payments behind compliance with policy. We can lock that payment behind up-to-date checks on licence, MOT, tyre tread depth checks and valid business insurance. Drivers will always get those compliance elements done because, if they don’t, they don’t get their fuel expenses back.”
TMC’s Visa To Drive is an optional extension of TMC’s online mileage capture, audit and control system.
Fleet managers log into a control panel, which gives them access to a suite of real-time reports on drivers’ status. Drivers are automatically prompted to provide mandates, declarations or documents as needed, when they log in to report their business mileage.
Fleet management software
Fleet management software can act as the engine room of a fleet, helping managers to process the huge amounts of information flooding in from drivers and their vehicles. Software helps to sort and organise fleet data into a structured system to access, filter and audit information, with automated reporting to help quickly interrogate data, while alerts and notifications on areas like MOTs and servicing can be automated to make sure nothing is missed.
Ashley Sowerby, managing director of Chevin Fleet Solutions, says: “Starting with the initial purchase, lease or rental of the vehicle, managers are having to track monthly repayments, technical specs, renewal dates, MoT dates, servicing dates, depreciation, tax, P11D and insurance. If you have anything but a small fleet, replying on paper, spreadsheets or whiteboards is almost impossible.”
Chevin’s latest technology integrates with a company’s finance software to automate the movement of data between systems. For example, fuel receipts and procurement costs stored in the accounts system for tax returns. This can remove the need for manual rekeying of information.
Martin Evans, managing director of Jaama, adds: “We remain amazed at the number of fleets that continue to manage via spreadsheets or antiquated software.”
Jaama’s Key2 software links with Government departments and agencies as they increasingly embrace digitisation including the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and HMRC.
Evans says introducing mobile apps for drivers to ‘self-serve’ information can also help. A fleet relying on paper forms to collect information from 200 drivers collecting data on three to four different processes every day could mean 16,000 sheets of paper with Sowerby estimating “months” of work.
A big development is being able to get electronic consent for licence checks. Jaama is adding compatibility with the DVLA’s V5C suppression service. This means V5C registration documents can be suppressed, and requested on demand, rather than fleets having to store them physically on site.
Matt Goodstadt, managing director of fleet software provider Civica, puts the potential for technology to save time on admin into perspective.
“On a typical fleet review on a business with around 500 vehicles, I would say we can reduce the amount of time spent on administration by 20% and save in the region of £200,000 if you’re looking at it in cost per hour for that work to be done,” he says.