Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Why are fleet metrics critical to your bottom line? Why should you pay attention to them?

Take the example of a downtime report. Do you have an adequate snapshot of what units are down and when you can expect each vehicle back in service? If the unit will not be available by a certain time, can you slip seat one of your operational units? Do you have the personnel to do this? Perhaps even you will need to be the slip seat driver in certain circumstances. It goes without saying that it is difficult to supervise and operate your business from the driver’s seat of one of your vehicles.

The establishment of adequate fleet reports based on your fleet’s metrics might prevent some of these unfortunate scenarios. What if you could have prevented that breakdown in the first place?

A common excuse is I don’t have time. You need to establish the doctrine of you — or preferably, one of your staff members — initiating and maintaining the reporting on these sets of data, and then use them to sharpen both your operations and personnel’s behavior.

 Here are some fleet metrics you should be taking a closer look at:

- Labor hours and overtime report: It’s not just the mechanical aspect of trucks and equipment that need to be closely monitoring. If you’re spending overtime regularly and not in your peak season, then perhaps you need an additional unit.

If one particular driver is taking too long to do his route, you need to investigate if that’s because he/she is goofing off or if there is simply too much work for that driver and unit? Does the driver use his time efficiently? Are your routes sized to your customers’ orders? Do you have to deliver your goods and services the same day or the next day? Can you take your incoming orders and batch them by route, spreading the deliveries out by time and day needed at destination?

- Downtime report: In addition to the above notes, a downtime report will bring to your attention those vehicles that are past their useful lifecycle. This will help you plan for their replacements. Maybe you’re saying, “But I only have 18 vehicles in three operating locations. Why do I need this?”

Questions to ask yourself include: Are you in each of your operating locations every few days? Are breakdowns and units out of service for other reasons (e.g. unit is operational but not equipped with an electronic logging device and has been put out of service by the Department of Transportation)? Does your maintenance provider/shop offer this information? Does your maintenance provider advise you or your fleet supervisor when a repair will be delayed due to shop overloading or delayed parts?

What if your maintenance shop is so overloaded that your broken-down vehicle takes from three days to a week to get into their shop? Do you believe the shop supervisor will call you to tell you the wait time for the problem to be diagnosed, much less repaired? One time, I was able to review a downtime report and ascertain that a truck in New England was not scheduled to come back into service after a five-day period of downtime. When I investigated with our operational personnel, I found out that this particular vehicle had not even entered the shop to be diagnosed. When I called the shop, the shop manager told me that the unit was 54th in line to be repaired.

Your operations personnel and line management should be on top of these types of issues, but in some cases, they are not. By getting involved and supervising, you will shorten the downtime and reduce/eliminate the rental cost associated with this breakdown. This will have a positive effect on your bottom line.

What if one or more of your units are down for safety reasons but you are unaware that’s the reason? Many units have been returned to service because they are needed — and/or your fleet supervisor has requested the return of the unit — but the safety issue has not been corrected. For example, the driver’s seat belt doesn’t work or the four-way flashers are inoperable. Do you only find out about this when it’s too late?

- Repair work order report: Do you have a summary of monthly repair orders? Once again, these repairs can have a direct negative impact on your bottom line. You should work to reduce repairs and associated downtime. When viewed over a period of time, such as one year, this report can give you a strong indication of your weakest units and those that need to be replaced. Remember downtime costs money in many ways.

- Unit damage report: This report will identify the type of damage your fleet is experiencing, the associated costs, and the drivers that are at fault because they were careless or distracted. Monitoring and correcting bad driver behavior should be a top priority.

Recently, I was visiting a small fleet. One of their units was down because the driver had driven into tree limbs and damaged the front corner cap. The operations manager immediately sent this driver and a helper to a local rental company; they were back with a replacement truck in less than an hour. Problem solved for the moment, right?

Wrong. The driver drove the replacement truck into the same trees in the same spot. Taking the time to correct bad driver behavior can be less expensive than the costs associated with the above example, not to mention having two units down due to carelessness and having to pay to repair a truck you don’t own.

- Rental report: This is vital in tracking the length and frequency of your rentals and their associated costs. Closely monitor these costs and review them with your staff. While I understand the need for rentals, have you considered buying or leasing a new unit instead? Then your oldest unit — that is still within its operational lifecycle — can be used as a spare. Sometimes this solution is more economical than calling a local rental company each time you have something as common as a “no start” in the morning.

- Efficiency report (scheduling, dispatching, and route management): Let’s capture these statistics on your delivery vehicles: your deliveries, miles driven, and number of stops. There is more data that should be included in this report; however, these metrics should help identify your best delivery vehicle/driver combination. A deeper dive into these stats will identify which routes need to be amended. You will also be able to take an initial/embryonic look at which chassis specs perform best in each location and on which routes.

- Fuel consumption report: This one can be easily compiled and identifies those unit numbers that are consuming too much fuel. If you are doing wet fueling, your provider can give you this report on a weekly basis. By paying attention to this, you can easily find those fuel losses that you are experiencing. Then the question becomes: why?

I once found a driver who was filling up with a fuel card and having his wife in her diesel engine park close enough to have her tank fueled at the same time. By paying attention to high consumption as an average at this operational location, this was discovered. It pays to pay attention to this type of metric.

You may think that if you’re doing wet fueling, it’s foolproof for theft. Beware of fuel tanks being filled on your property by the provider that are not fleet units. This can and will happen. A fuel consumption report can identify something that is not right, even if you are using wet fueling.

- Tire replacement and retread report: Tires are a significant cost and a large percentage of your overall fleet expenses. You can save money by identifying replacement tires by unit number, size, type (new or retread), tread, mileage interval since last replacement, vendor, cost per tire, etc., and reviewing this data on a regular basis.

How often do your drivers curb your tires? Are there chronic offenders among your drivers? If you use a fleet/tire provider, what percentage of invoicing to your fleet is for tire failures termed “curbed” — meaning caused by the driver? By paying attention to tire metrics, you will learn a number of things, such as the best tread designs for each of your regions and operational terrain. You can also learn which of your drivers are the most careless and aggressive.

Choosing the appropriate tire for that unit can also save you money. This includes choosing tires with a cut-resistant sidewall to prevent some of the “curbing” damage.

Each one of these metrics can impact your fleet’s bottom line in significant ways. Pay attention to the data — it will tell you what you need to know if you collect it, review it, and use it for cost-saving, coaching, and discipline purposes.

About the Author

Les Smart is president of Smart Fleet Management, a small and medium fleet consulting company. He can be reached at