Let’s face it. Every business is stretched thin. Gone are the days, if they ever really existed, that there were plenty of hands to do all the work that needed doing. Small business vehicle fleets are often neglected and not because they are unimportant, but because they use legacy tools and software that don’t fit today’s working environment. We all need to stay ahead of our competitors in today’s marketplace and running your fleet maintenance software in the cloud may just provide you with the edge to keep you at the front of the pack.
Whether you accomplish fleet maintenance management today via pen and paper, use spreadsheets or PC-based products every fleet and every fleet owner benefits when fleet management is migrated into the cloud and you can probably save money too.
Moving your fleet management system to a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud makes alot of sense for many reasons but some of the most compelling reasons are based on the power of the cloud. These pertain to many applications that sit on an enterprise PC including your accounting systems, HR systems and expense reporting systems. It makes sense that your fleet management system and vehicle asset management system should be deployed in the cloud as well.
Security and Reliability
One of the most important reasons to move into the cloud is the wealth of tools that outperform your standalone PC and offer better security and reliability. Cloud based systems have more sophisticated tools to protect against some of the worst problems that impact stand-alone systems and that translates into better uptime and performance. Some of the issues that plague stand alone systems but are solved in the cloud include:
- infection with viruses and malware
- system failures resulting in data loss and downtime
- incomplete or missing backup
Cloud -based SAAS systems come complete with 24×7 behind the scenes staff that manage these issues for you. Since many small businesses can’t afford a full-time IT professionals these types of problems can be easily overlooked or ignored. When you use cloud based systems these problems are handled for you by someone else as part of your standard fees.
Access and Updates
Easy accessibility is one area that cloud computing clearly excels over stand alone systems. By their very nature cloud based systems are designed to be accessible from nearly any device anywhere anytime. Security is handled by the cloud provider allowing you to worry about the analysis of your data and not about access issues.
Cloud based systems mesh perfectly with mobile workforces and provides teams with the capabilities to stay in touch with management systems while they’re on the road. Keeping mobile workers updated on the latest software is also much easier since cloud systems manage everyone’s system updates within the cloud. Check out Fleet Genius cloud software features.
Scalability and Maintenance
One of the most time consuming tasks that face any business is the responsibility of keeping the system infrastructure up to date. Updates to the PC operating system, disk management, networking and hardware deficiencies are often overlooked by small business managers who are already pressed for time. These systems issues only get addressed when they become a critical problem which can impact business operations. With cloud systems these issues are handled as part of the service contract. Updates to operating systems, scaling up for better performance and adding more storage all occur behind the scenes and can be set up to happen automatically. This frees up the business manager to focus on the management of the business.
Using a SaaS cloud based system to manage and track vehicle fleet maintenance can help you do a better job of managing your fleet. With someone else managing your systems infrastructure you’ll have more time to dedicate to managing your vehicles.
Closer management of your fleet vehicles will also result in improved vehicle performance, longevity and will also likely help you reduce your fleet’s maintenance costs.
Many small businesses assume that fleet management was designed to support larger enterprises only. They don’t realize that smaller businesses can enjoy valuable benefits too without spending a fortune on GPS tracking. In fact, since smaller businesses can be disproportionately impacted by issues that could be helped by a fleet management software it is in many businesses best interests to implement a small business fleet management system.
Small businesses can experience damaging revenue shortfalls and sudden vehicle expense shocks from unscheduled problems with their fleet vehicles. These problems arise when
- they have vehicle downtime due to poorly managed preventive maintenance programs,
- fuel card and fuel expenses aren’t tracked and abuse by employees goes undetected
- business insurance rates rise because drivers aren’t observing traffic laws or drive recklessly causing accidents.
Many cloud-based fleet management software packages offer affordable fleet management systems that can reduce or even eliminate these potential business shocks. Moving your system into the cloud from spreadsheets or a PC based systems provides maximum system availability, remote access from PCs and smartphones, 24×7 managed system backups and automatic updates to new system features.
Upgrading from fleet management by spreadsheet to fleet management in the cloud can be very easy to accomplish and can be implemented gradually. We recommend a step-by-step approach which doesn’t have to disrupt your business.
1) Migrate your vehicle maintenance to the cloud.
Preventive maintenance management is a part of every fleet management system. At a minimum these systems can track vehicle maintenance expenses making it easier to see expense trends in particular vehicles or groups of vehicles. Tracking expenses also provides an easy way to see the frequency of particular maintenance events making it easier to bargain for better rates from the service organizations that maintain your fleet.
2) Set up preventive maintenance schedules for your vehicles
Staying ahead of the preventive maintenance (PM) curve is critical to keeping your fleet operating at its best. Implementing maintenance schedules lets fleet managers and fleet owners predict vehicle service time outages and plan for that downtime without losing revenue opportunities.
It also helps guarantee that critical maintenance is performed on time. On time maintenance is the only way to extend the useful life of any vehicle and it also avoids more expensive unscheduled emergency maintenance.
3) Implement fuel receipt tracking
Make sure you select a system that lets you track fuel usage by vehicle. Tracking fuel receipts helps you track your fleet expenses better than systems without fuel receipt tracking. It also provides an opportunity for recording regular updates of vehicle odometers to push preventive maintenance systems schedules forward. A third benefit is the ability to track fuel economy by vehicle which can indicate vehicle mechanical problems well in advance of red engine light errors.
Having fuel cost data can also identify poorly performing vehicles that can be helpful in determining when to remove and replace a particular vehicle asset.
4) Track vehicle and driver trip information
Getting a better view of your fleet vehicle utilization patterns can help. The best way to do that is to track the usage of each vehicle. The good news is that you don’t need an expensive GPS fleet management system to do that if you choose a system that lets you enter trip information and schedules. You’ll still get valuable information about the use of your fleet and you’ll be able to see the history of vehicle use over time.
5) Implement OBD-2 fleet monitors to automate data collection
Automating the update of your new fleet management system can help improve its efficiency and reduce errors. It is also easier and less time consuming than chasing employees around for their vehicle use information and receipts. When you’re ready to automate the process you can install OBD-2 fleet monitors into the vehicles you want to monitor more closely.
OBD-2 fleet monitors offer significant benefits over legacy GPS systems because they are:
- more affordable than GPS tracking systems with cellular subscriptions
- include trip and data logging functions to capture vehicle usage and performance information
- perform and report engine diagnostics
- monitor driver performance and behavior that could affect your insurance rates
- identify unauthorized vehicle use
Regardless of the route you take to better control your fleet’s operating costs and manage its performance there are many opportunities to use cloud-based systems that will simplify the management of your fleet. You owe it to your business to see if one of the available systems will benefit your business.
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Implementing a fleet management system makes sense for small fleets as much as it does for larger fleets. The ability to track vehicle utilization and vehicle diagnostics helps keep fleet assets running smoothly. Unfortunately, many times GPS based fleet management systems pit employers against employees over privacy concerns.
Where an employee chooses to go during their breaks and meals or when they’re using the vehicle for permitted personal use shouldn’t be visible to organizational management. Striking the balance between employee rights and business requirements can be a thorny problem to resolve,
Luckily there are technology options for employers looking to implement fleet management systems but who are limited in their ability or willingness to deploy privacy invading GPS tracking,
Fuel cards vs OBD-2 monitoring
The easiest solution is to avoid using any tracking technology and rely on fuel receipts and fuel card systems to provide basic management information on vehicle mileage and fuel use. These systems are often inefficient and suffer from GIGO (garbage in- garbage out) issues. If employees don’t correctly record odometer readings the systems can become useless very quickly.
Unfortunately, for many fleet managers this basic approach doesn’t provide enough quality information to do a good job managing expensive vehicle assets. What to do?
Industry standard OBD-2 fleet monitors with powerful trip tracking technology can bridge the gap and provide the fleet owner with a wealth of management information without compromising employee privacy. OBD-2 is an industry standard and good monitors provide powerful data logging functions that record information about vehicle operations in real-time. They also tend to be 50%-60% less expensive than their GPS cousins many of which provide bare bones information at best.
Powerful OBD-2 features
OBD-2 fleet monitoring systems provide powerful metrics and KPIs found in GPS systems including:
- trip mileage tracking
- trip start & end date and time
- trip duration
- vehicle speed information
- fuel use
and more features that surpass GPS monitors including real-time engine diagnostics. Not only does this technology protect employee privacy it doesn’t require expensive installation processes or cellular contracts to operate either.
One of the most vexing problems that face businesses large and small is the problem of employee expense report fraud. With IRS expense reimbursement at more than $0.50/mile it can be very tempting for employees to pad their expenses here and there. Many employees don’t see this as theft but little more than ‘harmless’ expense padding as payback for their hardwork. However, the NY Times reported that employee fraud costs businesse about 5% of their annual revenues with 15% of that made up of mileage expense reporting fraud.
Many companies are unsure of how to put an end to this problem. While some expense types are harder to police, business mileage reporting is an easy and affordable to manage; reducing fraud can be accomplished with a solid expense reimbursement policy and a little bit of technology.
Simple trip monitoring systems can help alot by providing aregister of all drivers, trips, related mileage,and dates and times. These systems can be implemented with GPS or without GPS. Many companies find that employees reject trip monitoring systems that use GPS in their personal vehicles. OBD-2 based trip monitors capture accurate trip information without compromising an employee’s privacy thereby striking a more comfortable balance for employer and employee.
While most trip monitoring systems are sold as part of a fleet management system, some trip monitoring systems permit export of trip data to other systems like finance and accounting systems. These sytems can be used with or without the fleet management software product. Exporting data to the finance system simplifies the expense reporting process and allows for automated update of expense reporting.
Companies can use the same wireless plug-in tamper proof technology to track the unauthorized use of company vehicle after hours and on weekends.
If you’re looking for a fool proof method for minimizing employee mileage expense report fraud you should have a look at OBD-2 trip trackers to find some help. It could save you a bundle.