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Technology Tip

Technology Tip
Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Small Business Fleet Management Software

Small Business Fleet Management Software

Having long been a key tool for large companies and specialized delivery services, fleet management software is becoming more common among small and medium companies.

Thanks in part to cloud-based services and more affordable devices, companies of all sizes can take advantage of the many potential advantages fleet management software offer small businesses.

By providing business owners and supervisors with detailed information about how their vehicles are being used, fleet management software can help a small business optimize its vehicle performance and reduce operating costs while, equally as important, improving customer service.

Fleet Management Basics

Fleet management services come in different levels that provide varying degrees of information about a company's vehicles. At a basic level, designed for companies with a vehicle or two, low-cost smartphone or tablet apps provide information about a vehicle's operations that can be relayed to a web portal.

For more powerful services, an integrated GPS receiver can be plugged into the vehicle's OBD-II port (located near the driver's footwell) or mounted permanently behind the dashboard.

These devices will either transmit real-time data over cellular networks, or can send data via a wireless link when the vehicle returns to the workplace. With some inexpensive devices, data is stored on a memory card and downloaded manually.

Detailed Data

Vehicle management software can provide valuable insights to help companies improve vehicle use and reduce costs. Some of the most common metrics companies manage include:

  • Real-time location. Allows supervisors to see vehicles plotted on a map, choose the most efficient route to their next stop, and dispatch the nearest vehicle to an unscheduled service call.
  • Route planning. Scheduling too many stops can lead to late deliveries or service calls, while scheduling dispersed stops wastes fuel. Effective fleet management helps companies optimize routes and adjust to traffic, construction or other potential obstacles.
  • Fuel consumption data. Because fuel is typically the highest vehicle-related expense for fleets, it's important to understand not only fuel costs, but also miles-per-gallon data for specific vehicles.
  • Vehicle maintenance. Because vehicle breakdowns can result in lost productivity as well as direct repair costs, preventative maintenance is important. Fleet management software can track miles driven to help companies schedule oil changes, tire rotation, brake replacement and other important repairs.
  • Driver behavior. Tracking a vehicle can help companies identify instances of excessive speed or idling, deviation from routes to complete personal errands, off-hours (or unauthorized) vehicle use, or excessive driving. Similarly, monitoring vehicle use can help prevent undesired driver behavior.

Services can also provide detailed reports to help companies understand and improve the efficiency of their vehicle use. Data about miles driven, fuel consumption, costs and other metrics can be sorted by specific vehicles or drivers to provide important insights and identify opportunities for improvement.

Varying Costs

As the level of sophistication increases, so does the cost of fleet management services. Real-time tracking services that let companies see vehicle locations and send routing information to vehicles can cost about $30 per month per vehicle, while services without real-time location data can cost as little as $1/month/vehicle.

Some fleet management services offer additional services such as employee time tracking, integration with fuel cards, roadside assistance and others.

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