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Choosing the Best Fleet Management Software

Online shopping is on the rise globally as governments implement stay-at-home orders or lockdowns due to the COVID-19 virus. This exponential growth of e-commerce is forcing businesses to find ways to make their operations more efficient and cost-effective.

Best fleet management software: choosing for your company

More consumers shopping online these days could mean higher profits for companies. But not all businesses can cater to large volumes of orders efficiently—especially without the right tools. A fleet management system is one technological solution that helps businesses manage dispatchers, drivers, and vehicles more effectively. But what, exactly, should businesses be looking for to find the best fleet management software for them?

What Is Fleet Management Software?

Fleet management solutions are designed to aid enterprises in managing their delivery fleets for optimal efficiency, performance, and costs. The right software should be able to manage and give visibility to all dispatchers, drivers, and vehicles within the fleet. 

For some businesses, this may mean managing their internal fleet. Others might be dealing with multiple outsourced fleets or various third-party contractors. A company has to choose a fleet management platform based on its own particular business needs.

In many people's minds, fleet management is synonymous with telematics. And while telematics can be a crucial part of managing your fleet, it's not the be-all and end-all. There's real value to be had in a solution that can cover the entire last mile delivery process from end to end. As we'll see below, this can include not just tracking your assets put planning and execution your deliveries.

When you're able to manage the entire delivery journey within one solution, you can avoid data and decision-making silos. You can get the right information exactly when you need it make smarter decisions throughout the entire process, and you can find new efficiencies that enable you to reduce costs and improve service to customers.

Choosing the Best Fleet Management Software for Your Company

Companies should choose the best fleet management software for them based on their individual needs. But there are some fleet management system features that businesses should keep in mind from the outset:

Driver Management Intelligence

A driver's role in last-mile deliveries can never be emphasized enough. Poorly performing drivers can cause significant delays, jack up operating costs, and negatively affect customer experience. As such, businesses need a way to gain oversight on their drivers regardless of whether they are internal or contractors. 

Software with driver management intelligence should have the following capabilities:

  • Scheduling drivers and deliveries
  • Calculating each driver's earnings
  • Tracking and analyzing the performance key metrics (like the number of completed orders, etc.)
  • Managing permissions

A fleet management system should have a centralized dashboard where fleet managers can manage vehicle capacity and driver schedules. The dashboard should also allow fleet managers to see updates on drivers on the road—all in real-time.

For some solutions, this can also include staying on top of scheduled maintenance for your fleet of vehicles.

Real-Time Visibility

Fleet management software allows businesses to manage fleets more effectively by tracking drivers in real-time. Without this degree of live, up-to-the-minute insight, it’s all too easy for fleet managers to lose control of their last mile operations. This can result in delays, lost revenue, and disgruntled customers. Because of this, GPS integration is a vital component of any fleet management software.

By tracking each driver, you give visibility into driver location and order status to all relevant stakeholders: shippers, fleet managers or dispatchers, end customers, etc. Ideally, your fleet management tool will enable real-time alerts so that dispatchers and managers can see potential exceptions before they have an impact.

Aside from the GPS for tracking, the best systems also have inventory management capabilities via a mobile app.

Again, having full visibility is now more important than ever. Given that many enterprises are expanding their delivery operations to either accept larger order volumes, there’s no sense in letting a lack of transparency disrupt your ability to scale.

Fleet Dispatching and Planning

Matching orders with drivers is not an easy task. Finding the best driver to handle a specific order requires factoring in several variables. That's why it's crucial for a fleet management solution to have fleet dispatch and planning capabilities. These fleet dispatching and planning capabilities might include vehicle management, route optimization and management, and cost considerations.

Route Optimization and Management

Businesses using internal fleets will also require software that can find the most optimal routes according to various constraints. A route optimization solution allows businesses to assign the weight of each constraining variable such as road conditions, vehicle breakdowns, and service time. Route optimization plays a crucial role in cutting down mileage and ensuring efficient fuel management. But it’s important to note that not all delivery routing software algorithms are created equal! 

For instance, delivery route optimization features that can't account for variable service time will inevitably produce inaccurate delivery ETAs. After all, a white glove delivery and installation is going to take longer than an over-the-threshold delivery. Your routing needs to account for that in determining time windows.

By the same token, your route optimizer needs to give you the ability to account for things like driver affinity, time window preferences, driver skill, vehicle factors, and much more. This way, you can be sure that you're assigning the right driver and asset for each job.

Here, it's useful to leverage AI and machine learning to power more accurate routes and delivery ETAs over time. By using delivery data accumulated from numerous previous delivery runs, you can improve performance over time and ultimately increase efficiency.

Vehicle Management

The right solution will manage vehicles efficiently and schedule deliveries according to the best-suited vehicle and its availability. Not all orders for delivery are the same; some may have special requirements. For example, some deliveries may require larger space (e.g. appliances or furniture), while other packages are temperature sensitive, requiring heating or refrigeration (food, certain medical supplies, etc.).

Beyond temperature and space requirements, the consignee's space for unloading is yet another factor to consider when assigning vehicles. Some end customers may not have sufficient space for a larger truck. In these cases, it's necessary for the business to assign a smaller vehicle to reduce unloading time.

Businesses should keep in mind that a great solution not only enhances driver performance, but optimizes vehicle assignments as well.

Cost Considerations

At the end of the day, many of the considerations we’ve been thinking about above already revolve around cost. After all, the hope is that increased customer satisfaction will ultimately contribute to your bottom line. Thus, the ability to track cost per delivery is a crucial element of the best fleet management software.

Of course, cost per delivery varies significantly. Some fleets charge extra for deliveries that exceed a certain distance, while others have a flat charge per mile. Fuel costs are a huge part of the equation, and they can vary week to week. As such, businesses should consider getting a fleet management system that considers the cost of delivery when suggesting a fleet assignment.

Driver Safety Features

Ensuring driver safety is obviously a top priority for any fleet owner or operator. Having solutions that safeguard delivery employees doesn’t just keep the driver safe—it also helps in reducing insurance costs. Ideally, your fleet management software should include or at least integrate with the following safety solutions:

No Go Zones: A solution restricting the travel of fleets in unsafe areas—such as roads struck by landslides or areas that are slippery due to snow—will help keep drivers safe. 

Telematics: This is a core feature for any operator who prioritizes driver safety. Telematics can help in tracking driver behavior in real-time. Managers need to be able to spot dangerous driver behavior such as speeding, harsh braking, and other data so they can provide necessary coaching or implement a data-driven, performance-based reward program.

Contactless delivery: Covid not only changed the way consumers shop—it also changed how people receive their packages. These days, packages are best left at the customer's door if possible. As such, it's best for businesses to capture contactless proof of delivery like photos, id verification, and QR code scanning. You can even take signatures online through an app rather than in person. 

Effective fleet management goes beyond managing vehicles and drivers. Operators must take other aspects of fleet operations into consideration: keeping drivers safe, finding the best routes, matching the best vehicles for each order, tracking drivers in real-time—these are just some capabilities that each fleet solution ought to offer. 

Fortunately for businesses, there are fleet management solutions that help operators and managers handle the day-to-day operations more efficiently and empower them to make data-driven decisions. With the rapid growth of e-commerce, it’s more important than ever for businesses to start assessing their needs and find a solution to match them.

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