In the world of logistics, you can always work harder, but a good fleet manager is constantly looking for ways to work smarter. Velocity is our game. Velocity is what our customers have come to expect. Time is money, and we need to stay organized and keep the trucks moving.
Technology is the key to optimizing every aspect of your fleet management operations as fuel prices increase and capacity tightens. But technology is constantly evolving, and it can be hard to stay abreast of recent innovations. Today we'll shine a spotlight on four essential fleet management integrations that will simplify your life.
- Smart fuel
- Document imaging
Let's take a deeper dive into these topics.
1. Transportation Management Software
Everyone agrees that saving transportation costs is the number-one reason companies invest in TMS. But with so many TMS platforms and add-ons on the market to choose from, the question becomes, "Where does the wise money invest?"
First of all, let me mention that if you've identified the need to onboard (or update) your TMS, there's no better time than now to make that change. Keep in mind that there's no perfect technology and no ideal moment worth waiting for. Tech is iterative. In other words, it continuously improves on past versions.
Thus, a better approach is to just jump in and get acclimated today. Keep in mind that the end game is creating more streamlined workflow and fleet management integrations that will make your life easier.
Right-Size Your TMS
That said, the biggest recommendation everyone can agree on is this: Select a TMS that's sized correctly for your company.
It really doesn't matter which logistics niche you serve. Whether you're part of a massive, mid-sized, or small business, there's a TMS solution for you. Many review sites cover the TMS options available.
Along with company size, I look at two other key features when comparing TMS platforms:
- Watch out for "freemiums." Often a "free" TMS requires in-app purchases to unlock premium content.
- Make sure the platform is compatible with the other system features you want now or in the future.
For these reasons, I prefer a larger TMS that has partnerships with other software platforms and add-ons. Just as you probably learned back in kindergarten, it's important to play well with others. A TMS that integrates well with other software tends to become popular for that reason.
Whatever the inner workings of your business are, a good place to review TMS products (of all sizes) is Trimble's TMW.Suite. I like TMW.Suite because of the versatility and scaleability of its offerings. Also, Trimble's a large company with well-regarded, customizable TMS platforms. These platforms integrate with the key add-ons I'll talk about next.
(Pricing for TMW.Suite isn't publicly available and depends on your product selection.)
Another name in the fleet management TMS space is RTA Fleet Management, which is part of the McLeod network. RTA's software ranges in price from $63 to $105 per month, per user.)
Fleet managers know that trucking is a business of pennies. You have to know your costs, keep them as low as possible, and make a little margin.
An organized fleet manager knows where all equipment is located, when the maintenance intervals are, and how to minimize risk exposure. An effective fleet manager knows the drivers, their qualifications, and the freight. A savvy fleet manager always keeps profit and loss in mind, capitalizes in the moment, and squeezes the most revenue from each penny spent.
Once you've invested in TMS, the next fleet management integration to consider is a trustworthy global positioning system with a smart fuel platform. I combine these two features because they work hand in hand, but I'll cover smart fuel in more detail later in this article.
GPS technology will eliminate a lot of manual processes and greatly improve the visibility of your fleet. Sure, some old-fashioned drivers may not like the Big Brother aspects of GPS. It can be a hot topic, but I believe the more forward-thinking drivers understand the value proposition GPS offers.
Transparency is good for everyone. And once your drivers realize they won't need to interrupt their podcasts as often for check calls, they'll get on board. Another time-saver of transparency is granting a customer access to your TMS and allowing them to check their own freight remotely through GPS.
A good GPS can help you manage not only route optimization and your drivers' hours of service, but also asset utilization. GPS can also contain costs by helping you organize a preventive maintenance schedule. The precise miles that GPS records can help simplify your asset management by removing a significant amount of guesswork.
It goes without saying that your GPS platform should integrate with your TMS.
If you're looking for a recommendation, I'm fond of PC Miler because of two reasons.
- It integrates with Trimble software, so that keeps things simple.
- It's been reliable forever. Ever since my earlier days of slinging freight, I've always found PC Miler reliable and accurate.
(Pricing for PC Miler is a one-time cost of $995.00 per user.)
3. Smart Fuel
Without a doubt, the cost of fuel is one of the biggest concerns on a fleet manager's mind. As such, you might want to consider a smart fuel platform. Smart fuel software crunches a lot of numbers for you, including:
- Remaining fuel level and current MPG of your trucks
- Current fuel prices, fuel discount savings, and driver amenities at specific truck stops
- Calculate the cost of out-of-route miles for specific truck stops
- State tax implications, terminal fueling policies, and tank-fill policies
I think of smart fuel as a natural evolution of GPS technology. With GPS, you know where your drivers are. And it makes sense that you should know exactly how much fuel they have. If you know those two things, you can plan when and where they should refuel. But really, there are two sides to the smart fuel game:
- You have a negotiated discount. In this case, you want to ensure your driver knows the location of the ideal chain or fuel provider stops on the route. This will allow him or her to use your negotiated discounts.
- You don't have a discount. Here, a smart fuel platform can become a valuable price-comparison tool. Find a smart fuel platform with a feature that allows you to compare fuel prices for providers that are on your driver's route.
As you can see, this information becomes a literal wealth of knowledge for a fleet manager concerned with his or her profit and loss and conserving each fuel dollar. In real terms, even if you don't have a fuel discount yet, you'll be able to negotiate one once you're armed with your fuel-usage data.
Trimble's Expert Fuel product showcases how smart fuel works. It's another example of a fleet management integration that will simplify your life and save some pennies.
(Expert Fuel pricing is not publicly available.)
4. Document Imaging
The world is going paperless, and information is getting digitized. That said, certain aspects of the logistics remain on paper. Of course, I'm speaking of delivery paperwork. Sometime in the next decade, the industry will go entirely paperless. But until then, global commerce is documented on bills of lading and proofs of delivery.
Paperwork such as BOLs and PODs are a notorious bottleneck. In the past, after a driver delivered a load, they had the fork truck driver or someone else sign their paperwork at the consignee location. Then the driver would either hand in the paperwork upon returning to the office or mail it back. Eventually, fax machines arrived, and then in-cab scanners became popular.
More recently, a host of telematics platforms have come to market. These platforms all strive for one goal: eradicating the problems related to poor document transfer.
The bottom line is this: Poor imaging and unreliable document transfer will delay invoicing.
Fortunately, serious advances in document imaging have happened in the last two years. Vector now offers imaging software.
With Vector "perfect scan" imaging, once a driver delivers a load, they now simply take a picture with their camera phone and click Send. The Vector software reads and scans the contents of the printed page—including handwriting and barcodes. Even crumpled and torn documentation of all sizes can be digitized. The resulting document integrates all the delivery information into your TMS, which saves your back office from time-consuming data entry.
In short, with Vector five steps are condensed into one, and the route between load delivery and customer invoicing has never been shorter.
(Vector's pricing is unavailable to the public.)
We've covered just a few fleet management integrations that will simplify your life and improve your profit and loss statements. By adopting some of the tech in this article, you can also improve your customer experience—and ultimately build your business.
Move with intent!
This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.