If you are running your own fleet of vehicles, especially if you are managing them yourself rather than using contract hire or a fleet management service, you need to keep on top of your information.
You need a good diary system (to remind you when to replace vehicles and to renew vehicle excise duty, motor insurance and MoTs).
You also need full service histories, fuel consumption information and so on. A good system will help you to identify abuse by drivers and garages, make it easier to make warranty claims and identify when a vehicle needs servicing.
You could keep this information in a manual filing system.
Some of it is already captured in your accounting system and if your fleet is small you can probably keep a simple record card for each vehicle.
However, manual systems are not ideal for collating, comparing or rapidly accessing large quantities of data, and accounting systems do not hold information in ways that are useful to a fleet manager.
So at some point it will become useful for you to use specialised software to help you run the fleet.
There are several packages available, costing from a few hundred pounds – designed to help the busy manager of a small fleet to organise their day – up to hundreds of thousands of pounds for a system that will manage a large complex fleet.
Some suppliers can also provide you with useful vehicle data such as new and used vehicle prices and predicted maintenance costs.
When selecting fleet software these are a few things to consider:
- Decide what you need before you start talking to possible suppliers.
- Distinguish between the things you need and those that would be nice to have.
- Check their offerings against your ‘needs’ list.
- Make sure that there are no misunderstandings between you and the supplier as to the meaning of technical phrases/jargon.
- Consider sending out an invitation to tender, outlining your requirements and asking them to respond point by point. Tell them the responses will form part of any contract you may subsequently sign.
- Check their references. Speak to existing clients – are they happy?
- Check their financial clout. They may have great software but if they are unlikely to be around to support you or develop the software you would be better off looking elsewhere.
- Meet their staff. You will be relying on them, possibly for many years. How experienced are they?
- Make sure the system will cope with your growth plans.
- n If you operate in several countries, consider whether you need the system to handle several currencies and, if so, make sure it can do so.
- Consider whether you like the technology they are using.
If you take your vehicles on contract hire, or engage a fleet management company, you may be able to get much of the functionality you need through online access to their systems.
Do bear in mind that this is their system, not yours, so if you have several different suppliers your information will be scattered over several systems, and if you change fleet supplier you will lose access to these tools and this data.
The next step in the development of your relationship with your contract hire or fleet management company is to use their internet-based e-commerce system.
An increasing number of contract hire and fleet management companies now offer internet-based e-commerce systems.
These include quoting, management reporting, vehicle ordering and disposal, extension processing, facilities to change driver details and cost centres, and more.
(The article is an abridged version from Managing Your Company Cars in Nine Easy Steps, published by Eyelevel Books in association with Daimler Fleet Management).
- Fleet News readers can buy the book for a special price of £12 (retail price £15) by logging on to www.tourick.com and entering promotional code 1598.