Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

How to Cut Costs Without Hurting Driver Morale

July 2010, by Staff

Click here for a pdf of the print version that appeared in the July/August issue of Fleet Financials.

Although cost reduction has always been a part of successful fleet management, it isn't a pleasant task. Smaller vehicles, smaller engines, more controls on driver behavior, personal use charge increases - there are few actions a fleet manager can take to cut costs that drivers find pleasant.

But driver morale, their enthusiasm and focus in doing the job, shouldn't be ignored when fleet cost-cutting is on the table. It's easy to brush it off as "it's their job," however, as a practical matter, the morale of employees behind the wheel of a company vehicle is no less important than of those behind a desk in the office. Cutting costs without hurting driver morale can be accomplished with good communication, careful analysis of the options, and driver involvement.

Where the Money Is

There are a number of common targets for fleet cost control: vehicle selection (downsizing), powertrain specifications, safety training, alternative-fuel vehicles, personal use - the list is long. 

Most fleet managers, however, are aware the vast majority of fleet costs, and thus the most fertile targets for cost savings, are contained in two cost categories: depreciation and fuel. Though certainly savings can be had in other categories, the initial focus for savings efforts is usually one or both of these two categories.  

Achieving cost savings here, as in all categories, will often depend upon the overall status of the fleet operation. In some cases, much excess cost has already been wrung out of the fleet via efforts going back years. In others, the fleet hasn't had the focus, perhaps no full-time fleet manager, and quick and substantial dollars are available. In either case, actions taken can have a profound effect on drivers who must bear the brunt of any changes.

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