Financial Data
Updated 06 Jun 2020


Why and how to become an efficient truck fleet manager

Key insights on running a transport fleet amidst rising input costs and greater competition.


21 March 2018  Share  0 comments  Print


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The increasing cost of fuel, amplified traffic congestion and idle-time, heightened wear-and-tear, and growing frequency of delivery trips because of customer pressure are just a few of the challenges that today’s fleet managers have to deal with.

Commercial vehicle expert and contributor toForbes, Brian Sodoma says, “A poorly performing delivery fleet is a challenge for any company – but for a small business, it can cause a challenging trickle-down effect.”

He explains that factors such as sub-standard truck service and upkeep schedules and unsatisfied drivers leaving for other jobs are adding to rising costs for transport businesses. 

Gain control over your fleet

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Global research and business advisory firm, Forrester, suggests that trucking businesses in particular embrace digital technology (telematics) to improve their fleet operations.

“Learning which routes are profitable and which ones aren’t needn’t be a trial-and-error affair, especially if you’ve been in business for a while,” says Phoenix Zhang, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

Related: Managing costs without affecting customer relationships

Here are three ways you can run a better fleet if you introduce some technology into the management of it:

1. Determine your sweet-spots

Using telematics, you’ll be able to determine more efficient ways of running your truck fleet. Zhang says telematics makes it easier to identify multiple pick-up points, multiple drop-off points, non-stop routes and highly-repeatable routes.

“Avoid the long-distance, one-way, multi-day trips,” Zhang says. “Those are going to lose you money and not be cost-effective.”

A South African perspective on finding optimal ways of running your truck fleet

Con Conradie, country commodity manager: Fleet for SABMiller, says through telematics the company’s trucks are scheduled to take a particular route and that whole route has been timed –  from the moment trucks leave the depot to when they stop at a delivery point.

“Each vehicle has a slot at the outlets they deliver to and the vehicles have mechanised forklifts. We even levelled the pavements and widened the doors at our depots so that there would be no delivery delays,” he says.

2. Leverage the right fleet optimisation tools

The term telematics is a broadly applied one in the transport sector, which makes it difficult to determine the exact technologies that it comprises. Tracking devices installed in trucks are just the tip of the iceberg in today’s digitally-charged environment.

“Fleet optimisation applications can help a fleet manager create efficient routes and find ‘continuous-move opportunities’ for trucks and trailers, so they don’t sit idle for long periods,” according to Zhang.

Related: 5 Supply chain trends to watch for in 2018

Consider how you can use the technology to reduce fuel wastage through idling or times when the truck is driven without a load. “Efficient fleets experience between 20% and 30% of their total fleet kilometres driven as empty mileage. “A lot of fleets can run 40% to 50% capacity; those are way too many empty loads,” Zhang adds.

South African perspectives on fleet optimisation tools

Greshan Mandy, CEO of Nature’s Choice says they have a contract with a driver-monitoring company: “We use their monitoring software and we also installed cameras in vehicles to monitor it and the driver in real time.”

Nature’s Choice previously made use of logistics sub-contractors to move its products to retailers. “Courier costs were becoming exorbitant and we were being impacted by the labour strikes in the transport industry. We made a decision to bring transport in-house and we are now saving around R300 000 per month,” he explains.

3. Achieve efficiency amongst drivers

Fleet management software can also aid the tracking of driver behaviours, helping you to identify drivers that tend to rapidly accelerate, brake too late or habitually idle adjacent to highways at length. Monitoring your fleet through a digital mechanism will not only save on fleet operation costs, but it can also help you train safer drivers.

While drivers might think that the addition of a telematics unit to their truck is way for you to ‘police’ them (also an alternative use), fleet experts say that you can use digital tracking technology as a carrot instead of a stick by incentivising drivers based on ‘good’ driving scores. Incentives could help you retain good drivers.

Ultimately, using telematics in a strategic way could help you lower the company’s fuel, fleet maintenance, accident and insurance costs.

South African perspective on driver efficiency

Dorian Charalambous, managing director of DSC Transport explains that his company sends its drivers on advanced driving courses. “We also ensure all our drivers are allocated to a specific vehicle, which has reduced our insurance costs,” he adds.

Bryan Verpoort, Head of Corporate and Business Insurance at Standard Bank, says telematics can help transport businesses save money: “There is a change in the insurance industry with the introduction of telematics to monitor routes, weather conditions, time-taken, and price accordingly.” He advises fleet managers to use digital technology to build up a long-term track record to help their insurers identify the positive way in which trucks are being run. 


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