10 Biggest Challenges Faced by Fleet Managers

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Logistics is the backbone of the global economy – a sector that, in India alone, currently employs about 22 million people and is expected to touch $380 billion by 2025. However, it’s largely unorganised within the country and inefficiencies can creep in across the value chain. Fleet managers are affected the most as they try to optimise cargo movement, reduce costs, and scale up their businesses.

Let’s look at some of the common challenges faced by fleet managers:

1. Vehicle Procurement

One of the main concerns for fleet managers is identifying the life cycle of their vehicles and procuring new ones to cover any shortfall. This has serious implications on budgeting and capital availability, as the costs can rack up when one accounts for tax and insurance.

Identifying the load handled by network nodes and vehicle size are major factors, as the fleet manager must account for utilisation rate and any redundancies due to downtime. Driver training and availability of newer technology make this decision even more tedious.

Solution – Asset management systems provide you with all the information you require to decide on vehicle procurement. This digital logistics solution can monitor the condition of your assets and manage the entire vehicular life cycle.

2. Route Optimisation

The route that your vehicle uses is determined by a variety of factors, and not just the destination. Weather forecasts, road conditions, traffic bottlenecks, and even breakdowns must be considered by the fleet manager, as the chosen route impacts the entire supply chain.

An inefficient route can introduce delays, increase fuel consumption, and leave customers dissatisfied. If the fleet uses manual route planning or older software, it’s highly likely that those systems would be unable to account for real-time inventory and load management.

Solution – Updated fleet management systems can leverage sensors and tracking systems to give you complete visibility over your entire fleet. This can provide fleet managers with vital data that allows for instant adjustments in the route.

3. Maintenance

This is an unavoidable aspect of using any transport vehicle, as wear and tear is common to every piece of machinery. However, this can become troublesome for the fleet operator if the downtime at the workshop leads to any loss of potential income.

Problems arise when dealing with inventory and parts, which also determines the type of vehicles that you procure for your fleet. Inspections and guidelines are often not followed and could lead to ill-maintained vehicles that increase fuel consumption. Surprise breakdowns due to this lack of maintenance can cause further disruption.

Solution – Preventive maintenance systems and fleet management software can help in this regard, with sensors giving you real-time data on engine health and identifying the parts which are about to break down. These systems also give you an important piece of information – when to sell your vehicle for the best return on capital.

4. Drivers

Finding and managing skilled drivers is a significant problem for fleet managers, as they are one of your most important resources. Keeping track of damaging behaviours such as aggressive driving, hard-braking, hard-shifting, excessive idling, and safety control deactivation, can be troublesome.

In addition, distracted driving or hands leaving the steering wheel can lead to penalties and even accidents. Inadequate training programs are often to blame here, which require further capital and resource allocation.

Solution – Telematics is the answer for fleet managers, with GPS trackers and monitoring sensors giving you access to the cabin of the vehicle. Auto alert systems can help drivers follow the rules, but it’s also important to upskill drivers through gamified training programs.

5. Fuel Management

Managing vehicles includes managing the energy that those vehicles run on. There are various aspects influencing the fuel requirements of a fleet, especially when handling the international movement of goods.

Route optimisation, vehicle efficiency, maintenance levels, life cycle stage, fluctuation in fuel prices, driving styles, and vehicle idling, all of these affect the fuel usage. With newer technology like Electric Vehicles coming in, the fleet manager has more variables to deal with every day.

Solution – Utilise fleet management solutions that involve tracking software. These are built to optimise your fuel consumption by mitigating all associated elements. For example, data analysis can help with fuel efficiency by planning routes based on loading and unloading times.

6. Safety and Security

Most fleet operators are unable to efficiently enforce company-wide safety policies, as a lack of visibility prevents any kind of implementation. Many smaller players do not have such policies, which can make them fall afoul of regulations and laws.

Safety of goods is paramount, as non-delivery can lead to irate customers and a loss of revenue. Drivers are often untrained on dealing with hazardous situations and unsecured parking locations, which can lead to unsafe conditions.

Solution – Monitoring your vehicle and goods can increase transparency in the supply chain, while providing an opportunity for immediate intervention. Achieve this through sensors that can give you real time information, such as low brake-fluid alerts. Reports and data can help with policy adherence that is beneficial for your insurance policies as well.

7. Lack of Digitisation

Managing a modern supply chain with legacy infrastructure is a recipe for disaster, as reliance on manual processing with paper systems can introduce discrepancies into your operations. A lack of technology removes any chance of analysis or actionable insights, with inadequate data collection leaving you behind your competitors. However, there are large capital requirements for digital adoption and people are hesitant to accept new systems. These are aspects that a fleet manager has to deal with.

Solution – Find the right consultants and fleet management platforms that can help you with a phased shift towards digitisation. This has long-term cost benefits when done in a structured manner that leverages large volumes of telematics data.

8. Fragmented Operations

A big trouble for fleet managers is siloed operations, especially when geo-separated across state and international borders. Absence of tracking and communication can lead to cost overruns, fuel wastage and a lack of strategic decisions.

These disconnected operations can become a headache for any fleet operator who is trying to understand asset utilisation – which vehicle is required in which location.

Solution – Centralised dashboards that use sensors and IoT devices can provide instant transparency and visibility across your supply chain. Leverage fleet management or transport management systems for seamless communication.

9. Data Overload

A lack of data is one problem, but unstructured, excessive amounts of data can become a whole other concern for fleet managers. Not only does this require tech infrastructure to store, but it adds no value to your logistics operations.

Fleet managers need to process this data to make strategic decisions, as a lack of real-time information can add delays to the entire process and prevent them from being competitive in a global economy.

Solution – Automated data entry systems can feed into unified dashboards for a single window view. You can integrate sensor and tracking data from transport management systems and develop corresponding reports.

10. Compliance

Fleet managers must deal with road regulations, customs and tax mandates, state laws, international treaties and much more. Failure to comply with even one such requirement can lead to fines and penalties.

Compliance for fleets can also involve regular inspections for road safety, driver certification, vehicle age, road worthiness, environmental compliance, insurance paperwork, and even maintenance. All of these duties fall on the fleet manager. 

Solution – Utilise transport management and fleet risk management systems. These should give you immediate alerts and notifications on any changes in compliance requirements, while flagging any alerts from your sensors and tracking software.

Although challenges exist in operating a fleet, the digital solutions available for fleet managers can help create a robust supply chain ecosystem. You can find all of these and more, on the Bosch L.OS platform here.