As customers move to purchase more online, retailers and logistics providers are looking for more efficient and cost-effective ways to deliver goods to the end customer, and at lower cost. Fleet management software is one tool that can help you manage drivers, dispatchers and vehicles to reduce overhead and increase efficiency. But every business has a different makeup of fleets, and may require different capabilities from its fleet management software.
We’ve assembled the 7 key features that every business needs from its fleet management software – even if they don’t realize it.
What does fleet management software do?
Fleet Management software relates to technological tools that help businesses manage delivery fleets for optimal performance, efficiency and cost. These management systems should include fleet software for managing drivers, dispatchers and vehicles for your entire fleet. Some businesses may need to manage a single large internal fleet, while others may manage multiple third party contractors or crowdsourced fleets as well. Your choice of fleet management software must be in line with your business needs.
7 features that every fleet management software should have
Driver management capabilities
Full integration and an open, scalable software
Fleet dispatch and planning software (including vehicle management)
Driver performance and retention solutions
Driver safety and telematics software
When businesses look for technology to better manage their fleets, their primary objective is often to know what’s happening, where, in real time. You need vehicle tracking (or GPS tracking per driver) in order to know where each order is, whether it’s with your fleet or with a contractor’s driver.
Some of this visibility comes from fleet tracking that provides visibility into driver location to all relevant stakeholders: dispatchers or fleet managers (including an external contractor, if it’s their driver), shippers, and the end customer.
The best fleet management systems will also include mobile inventory management capabilities. If not, there should be an integration between the two systems.
Visibility becomes especially important now that many businesses are scaling their delivery. Profitability will only come from growth if you can manage that growth well. Look for a cloud based software system that ensures your control and visibility does not diminish as you extend your geographic reach, add more vehicles, or onboard more fleets.
Driver management capabilities
Whether your fleets are internal or external, you need complete control over your drivers to ensure that deliveries are happening on time, that SLAs are being met, and that delivery is running optimally.
Driver management capabilities include:
– Calculating driver earnings for your entire fleet
– Driver and delivery scheduling
– Tracking and understanding performance benchmarks and KPIs such as number of orders completed
– Permissions management
Any fleet management solution should include centralized dashboards for fleet managers with real-time status updates for delivery in progress, as well as for managing driver schedules and vehicle capacity, and measuring driver performance (an important element in driver compensation. Business intelligence is an essential part of this process, so robust reporting tools should be included as well.
The driver and delivery scheduling software must be updated in real time, in order to help dispatchers or fleet managers optimize driver and vehicle management.
Full integration and open, scalable software
One reason many businesses fear new technology is the concern that it will displace existing systems. It’s important to identify fleet management software that integrates seamlessly with your existing solutions across the supply chain. Ideally, data from your transportation management system, external fleets, WMS and other systems – across every touchpoint and interaction – should be consolidated and managed from a single platform to ensure the optimal visibility, and give leadership the insights they need to make better decisions regarding resources and teams.
Just as new fleet management technology must work with your existing systems, it must also be flexible enough to be readily adaptable to your specific business needs and the reality of your fleet operations.
Look for open and scalable technology that can be customized to meet your fleet management needs. For example, if you want dispatchers to be able to enter specific data about each delivery run, or customize the criteria for how many orders will go on a single delivery run, an open fleet management technology should enable this level of customization.
Similarly, the best fleet management solutions will be scalable and allow you to easily increase the number of fleets, drivers and orders at any given time. This is particularly important around peak seasons, but is also a critical factor in how quickly you will be able to launch new delivery services or options, or expand into new regions.
A powerful fleet management platform that supports scale will enable the following:
– Rapid integration with and onboarding of new fleets or contractors
– Rapid expansion through new area codes and pickup/dropoff locations
– Quick launch of new premium services, such as same-day delivery, installations or assembly.
While most businesses start looking for fleet management solutions to solve specific problems around efficiency, it’s important to keep one eye to future opportunities for growth and expansion, and choose technologies that will support your future growth.
Fleet dispatch and planning software
The heart of a fleet management solution is helping you decide which orders go to which fleet, and when. But it’s much more than that.
Vehicle management – delivery scheduling must also be based on vehicle availability, and knowing which vehicle is best suited for each order. For example, some deliveries may require vehicles with refrigeration or heating, or vehicles that can handle an item with unusual or unusually large dimensions.
Another element is how much space the end customer has for unloading vehicles near their location; if they do not have space for unloading a larger truck, it makes sense to dispatch a fleet with smaller trucks that can unload near the customer’s location to reduce the unloading time.
Vehicle management is as important and driver management, and vehicle-related factors must be taken into consideration when assigning a fleet to an order.
Optimized routing and route management – If you only use internal fleets, you will need software to decide the best route based on a variety of constraints. The best route optimization solutions will be customizable, allowing each business to decide the weight that different constraints should have on the route planning – for example, cost to deliver, vehicle capacity, road conditions, driver breaks, etc. This, too, requires software with a real-time data sync in order to accurately apply the constraints and come out with the optimal route per vehicle.
Cost – Does the dispatcher know in advance the cost per delivery for each fleet? Some fleets charge per mile, while others may include a surplus charge for deliveries above a certain distance. A good fleet management system will automatically take cost of delivery into consideration when suggesting fleet assignment (though, again, it should be able to customize the priority of this variable based on your other business needs).
Driver Breaks – Some countries require fleets by law to allow drivers a certain amount of break time each day, or restrict their working hours to a specific amount. Make sure that any fleet management solution you use automatically includes these breaks into the scheduling, to make planning faster and easier for dispatchers.
We’ve written extensively on technology for dispatching and optimized routing; for more information, read our article on evaluating dispatch software.
Managing Crowdsourced Delivery
Thanks to the boom in online sales, brands are turning to delivery at faster rates than ever. For many, crowdsourced delivery is the simplest option – after all, restaurants have been using fleets like doordash, postmates and uber eats for years as aggregators and later, with some, as DaaS (delivery as a service) providers.
As for retail, less than a tenth of retailers (9%) use crowdsourced delivery now, but one in four plan to do so in the next twelve months – and fully 90% of retailers expect to use crowdsourced delivery to handle orders by 2028. This is especially useful for managing peak delivery seasons.
Make sure that whichever software platform you choose integrates with crowdsourced providers, so that you have the same level of visibility into crowdsourced fleet performance as you do with other third party and internal fleets.
In order to reach the optimal fleet performance and efficiency, you need to acquire as much data as possible – on both macro and granular levels. For example, knowing which fleet delivers more quickly can help you decide whom to dispatch – but so does knowing whether that speed is due to faster time on the road, or time on site, or time back to base (e.g. a warehouse or store). Look to a fleet management system which can apply historical data to machine learning in order to track time to base, time on side, vehicle unloading time, and other factors.
By better understanding where the gaps in fleet efficiency are, businesses can both address these issues and make more informed decisions about planning deliveries. The benefits of machine learning software don’t end there – besides improving efficiency, speeding up delivery times and improving the reliability of delivery estimates will improve the end customer’s experience and increase brand loyalty.
Driver performance and retention
In the trucking industry, driver turnover and retention is a well-known issue and expense. A 1996 study of trucking companies found that the average quit rate for drivers was 27%. Fast forward to 2018, where driver shortage is still a huge concern; 69% of surveyed executives said driver recruitment was their biggest challenge (and over half listed retention as another challenge).
Given that onboarding skilled drivers can take as long as six months, the cost of low driver retention is clear. Improving driver retention rates will significantly impact a businesses’ bottom line, and is therefore a critical component of any fleet management software that you evaluate.
Look for software that is user-friendly and easy to onboard, and that includes as much automation around delivery flows and task management as possible. Drivers should be able to see clearly when they need to scan items, collect signatures, and perform additional services like white glove deliveries.
It also helps to have fewer technologies to deal with – for example, using the same equipment – a mobile phone or tablet – to scan and log items, review routes, and confirm delivery. This functionality will improve performance around deliveries and services, but it will also make your drivers’ lives easier and be a competitive advantage over other potential employers.
Driver Safety and Telematics Software
Besides safeguarding the people performing your deliveries, safety technology can also lower your insurance costs. Look for fleet management software that includes, or is integrated with, the following driver safety solutions:
Telematics – The most important safety feature vehicles can have are safety-conscious drivers. Telematics solutions use vehicle tracking to monitor speed, how often a driver breaks, and other data that can be used to rate how safely someone drives. This information can be used for gamification, giving drivers rankings for how safely they drive, and using it to encourage a healthy competition around safe driving habits.
No Go Zones – Restrict fleets from traveling through (or to) unsafe areas. These can be temporary (e.g. a slippery frozen road or one struck by landslide) or constant.
Hands-free driver app – Use a mobile app that automatically reverts to a hands-free setting when a vehicle is in movement.
Contactless delivery – both internal and external fleets should be tasked with leaving packages at doors where relevant, and utilizing contactless methods of proof of delivery such as uploading photos of the delivered item.
Fleet management is about more than managing fleets and vehicles, and must take a multitude of factors into consideration. We hope this post helps you better understand the capabilities that you are looking for in a fleet management software.
Bringg’s delivery orchestration software helps businesses scale up and optimize their delivery and fulfillment operations for faster time to market, more efficient operations, and improved shipper/consignee experiences. To learn more about our out-of-the-box and enterprise solutions, visit bringg.com or get in touch with one of our representatives here.