Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

Moving Fleet Management to the Driver Level

March 2008, by Staff

Most often, discussions of fleet management revolve around policy, process, technology, and reams and reams of data, as experts debate the most effective ways of managing a multi-million-dollar asset the manager seldom sees. The human element in the equation, the driver, is usually relegated to a supporting role.

The fact is, and always has been, the driver is the one common element in nearly every aspect of fleet management, and if given the opportunity, has a greater impact on success than any other ingredient. Savvy fleet managers today are using technology and processes to push fleet management down to the driver level.


Technology Aids Compliance

Managing a fleet of hundreds or thousands of geographically dispersed vehicles depends on the collection, warehousing, and mining of reams of expense data. Such data is generated in a number of ways:

  • Driver expenditures for fuel, maintenance/repair, tires, and various miscellaneous expenses such as tolls, parking, and car washes.
  • Vendor fee payments for various fleet management and administrative programs.
  • Vehicle lease payments or capital expenditures for purchase.
  • Accruals for depreciation, physical damage, insurance, and the like.

Aside from accounting activities (e.g., accruals, lease billing payments), fleet vehicle drivers have a direct hand in nearly all other actions that result in data generation and, ultimately, the success of fleet management.

In the past, it was with as much frustration and helplessness as anything else that fleet managers dealt with drivers in getting them to follow policy and procedure. Many such attempts involved phone calls and other communications, threatening and begging drivers to toe the policy line. But the swift rush of technology, as well as the laser-like focus on cost reduction, have given the fleet manager new tools and new authority to make it easier (and the penalties for noncompliance more severe) for drivers to provide accurate, timely data.


Defining Terms

So what, exactly, does it mean to "move fleet management to the driver level?" Certainly it doesn’t have anything to do with polling drivers on what the proper replacement cycle should be or inviting their participation in strategic decision-making. Perhaps fleet "management" is a misnomer; fleet "administration" might be a better term.

This distinction between management and administration is important. Management is a strategic activity, involving gathering data and making decisions that determine the allocation of company assets. Administration is the gathering of process and its tactical application toward achieving strategic goals.

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