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.
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, reducing fleet delivery costs. But what, exactly, should businesses be looking for in fleet management software?
What Is Fleet Management Software?
A fleet management solution is a tool 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, while 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. That said, there are some features of fleet management solutions 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. Underperforming drivers, after all, can cause significant delays relative to delivery windows, 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 are contractors or third-parties.
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.
One of the primary benefits of fleet management software is that it 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—resulting 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.
Aside from the GPS for tracking, the best systems also have mobile inventory management capabilities.
Again, having full visibility is now more important than ever. Given that most enterprises are expanding their delivery operations to either accept larger order volumes, include more geographic locations, or both, 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, which is 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 lets enterprises customize by allowing 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 fuel expenses—but it’s important to note that not all routing algorithms are created equal!
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, making it necessary for the business to assign a smaller vehicle to reduce unloading time.
Businesses should keep in mind that a great solution not only manages the drivers, but optimizes vehicle assignments as well.
At the end of the day, many of the considerations we’ve been thinking about above already revolve around cost. After all, when you do your best to delight your customers, the hope is that that satisfaction will ultimately contribute to your bottom line. Thus, the ability to track cost per delivery is a crucial element of the right fleet management software. Of course, cost per delivery varies a ton, as some fleets charge extra for deliveries that exceed a certain distance, while others have a flat charge per mile. As such, businesses should consider getting a fleet management system that considers the cost of delivery when suggesting a fleet assignment. This capability is necessary especially when the solution does not offer robust customization options that allow businesses to assign a weight for each delivery constraint.
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 exceptionally slippery due to snow—will help keep drivers safe.
Telematics: This is a must-have 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: The coronavirus 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. Even signatures can now be taken 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.