Analysing vehicle requirements and usage are the first steps to right-sizing a fleet.
Improving vehicle utilisation has many benefits: it can reduce mileage and maintenance, cut emissions, reduce fuel usage, boost productivity and much more.
South Yorkshire Police, for example, has made capital savings of more than £1.3 million and revenue savings of £260,000 by removing under-utilised vehicles from its fleet.
“Primarily due to budget cuts, we looked at our vehicle utilisation and we wanted to know if we needed all of the vehicles we had,” says Sarah Gilding, head of vehicle fleet management at South Yorkshire Police.
“We wanted to know if any were under-utilised and, if they were, we wanted to know if we could remove them.”
Gilding identified vehicles that were covering fewer than 5,000 miles a year by looking at mileage records.
“Quite a number had been doing below that benchmark figure so we needed to analyse each of those vehicles,” she says.
“Sometimes there are valid reasons why you should keep vehicles that have been doing low mileages: they may be critical to operations, or it could be down to how the vehicles are being used and in what areas.
“We had a lot of conversations within the force to identify which vehicles were being under-utilised and which we could remove.”
The review led to the removal of 40 vehicles, around 5% of the fleet including 12 protected personnel carrier vehicles (saving £741,600 capital costs), a horse box (worth £150,000) and observation vehicles. The fleet now has 713 vehicles.
As part of the initiative, the fleet team created a pool of specialist vehicles that can be called on when needed to fulfil operational duties.
South Yorkshire Police’s driver services division also has vehicles which are hired out across the force to further increase utilisation.
The review took place in 2013, with Gilding using mileage reports for the analysis. The force currently has a tender out for a telematics system and she says this will make future reviews simpler to carry out.
“While we can get a mileage report for each vehicle at the moment, it’s a very manual process, whereas when we get telematics we will be able to see if a vehicle is being used only on a few days a week for a few miles,” adds Gilding.
“Telematics will give us a clearer picture than we have now.”
This technology can allow a fleet manager to easily capture the necessary data to establish exactly how a fleet is being utilised and where improvements can be made, says John Wisdom, European managing director of Ctrack.
“A mileage banding report can clearly present mileage and usage data to identify where assets are being under-used,” he adds. “For example, a company may want to pinpoint how many vehicles are being driven for fewer than 100 miles per month to see if it can reduce its asset base or introduce some kind of car pool facility for low-use or occasional drivers.
“A tracking tool can also verify whether vehicles are being used for the right activity and operating in line with an organisation’s company car policy.
“In addition to this, the data can be used to see where high and low usage vehicles could be swapped to protect residual values, reduce wear and tear, and keep maintenance to a minimum.”
Using data from telematics helped West Yorkshire Police reduce its fleet size by more than 20% and cut its mileage by more than 10%.
“In 2011/2012 we did 19.67 million miles: in the past four years the use of telematics has contributed to us being able to reduce this annual mileage by more than 2.3m,” says Steve Thompson, head of transport at West Yorkshire Police.
“During the same time, we have seen an improvement in our actual vehicle fuel economy, which is now averaging 35.7mpg from the 30mpg recorded in 2012. We originally started with a fleet of 1,200; now, for the first time, we’ve dipped under 1,000 vehicles, so we are getting better utilisation out of the existing fleet, which is saving us a lot of money.”
However, while reducing the number of vehicles on a fleet can result in significant savings, any utilisation review should not be focused purely on this, says Ashley Sowerby, managing director of Chevin Fleet Solutions.
“When it comes to improving fleet utilisation, the aim is not simply to reduce the number of vehicles in use, but to reduce waste around their overall use; to ensure that all the vehicles are being used to their maximum efficiency and potential,” he says. “Whether, for example, it’s ensuring that one fully-loaded lorry is sent on a trip instead of two half-loaded lorries; putting processes in place to make sure individual drivers are assigned smaller company pool cars; or even taking steps to ensure that low-emission pool vehicles are always available for use in low-emission zones, ensuring better vehicle utilisation can have a great effect in helping managers bring down the costs of their operation.”
Using telematics in a job dispatch capacity, or in conjunction with that kind of system, can also aid utilisation, says Wayne Millward, fleet consultant at Arval UK.
“Measurement of the length of time the vehicle is on the road, managing its uptime and working out whether strategies such as double-shifting can be used, all work very effectively,” he adds.
One company which has seen its productivity increase significantly since implementing a web-based planning and tracking telematics system is Kings Security Systems.
When a job comes into the company, its Aeromark system, which went live at the beginning of the year, seeks out the nearest available driver who has the right skill set to carry out the work.
“Since the implementation of the system, our customer response time has improved enormously, from 75% to 95%, increasing the number of calls we can do by 1.5 per day per engineer,” says Jacob Telemaque, the company’s fleet manager.
FOUR PILLARS OF EFFICIENT FLEET UTILISATION
1. Quantify key metrics
Before measuring your fleet’s utilisation, it’s important to make sure you are evaluating the right metrics. Ideally, you’re collecting data at vehicle level so you can spot vehicles or routes that are sending your averages up or down.
The best metrics to measure are:
- Miles travelled
- After-hours utilisation
- Drive time versus on-site time versus idle time
2 Analyse job history
The only way to assess your original plan and resulting performance is to review and analyse your job history. How does the planned compare to the actual? This kind of inquiry can be hard to do without capable software because the technology pulls data right out of the field in real-time and stores it in your system for later review across all your vehicles. With this knowledge, you can make
incremental changes that have a significant impact on fleet
3 Address last-minute re-routing challenges
The inevitable but unpredictable last-minute change can throw off a company’s fleet utilisation rate. If you have days where delivery plans change by the hour, or if your service delivery is dependent on customers whose demands change, you need to secure a system for handling these changes and rerouting drivers optimally.
Real-time routing can make or break your fleet utilisation and productivity rate.
4 Be prepared for changes
In weather and traffic it’s wise to have your fleet utilisation to include a plan for storm response. It should also include plans for navigating around traffic or road blockage issues, so you can continue to meet customers’ needs. The key here is getting weather and traffic information up-front so your drivers do not get stuck in a jam or severe storm.