Some things in life are easy—like rolling down the interstate with a fresh cup of coffee in your hand, your favorite Toby Keith album on in the background, and familiar voices streaming in through the CB radio.
Managing a fleet, on the other hand, isn't easy. In fact, most of the time, it’s complete chaos. Every now and again, you may even question why you even left the big glorious rig in the first place, trading it for a life in management.
When you boil it down, running a fleet of vehicles is all about managing risk. It’s one of the hardest things that a fleet manager like you has to do. From keeping drivers in line to ensuring documentation stays in order, there are countless responsibilities on every manager’s plate.
And in high-stakes trucking, the pressure can at times seem insurmountable.
Some simple “hacks” can make fleet management easier. Just because you’ve been doing things one way forever doesn’t mean you need to keep on moving in the same direction.
With that in mind, here are some of the top ways that you can reduce risk in your fleet.
As any manager will attest, success starts and ends with the people that you hire. Because so much is at stake, you’d be wise to follow your gut when figuring out who should get an offer.
Chances are there’s a reason you’re uncomfortable with a particular applicant during the interview process. For the best results, hire people that you feel you can trust. After all, you want these people to behave when they’re on the road. Your team needs to follow on-road hours, respect traffic laws, and complete jobs in a timely manner. Otherwise, business will suffer.
Always remember this: It’s okay to be picky about who you hire. And don’t be afraid to ask for referrals, either. Use LinkedIn and see if you have any mutual connections with a candidate. Try to get a sense of where the driver has worked and analyze their track record.
At the end of the day, your company’s reputation is on the line. That being the case, it pays to be thorough about who you trust to carry your customers’ sensitive cargo.
In the past, managers had virtually no visibility into what driver behavior was like on the road. Performance reviews usually came in the form of speeding tickets and late deliveries.
But in the digital age, it’s much easier to monitor driver performance using on-board telematics systems. Telematics can provide a variety of critical insights about a driver’s habits—like hard braking and speeding. Drivers can access these metrics, which helps them understand their driving patterns and why they're risky.
Very simply, telematics can ultimately reduce accidents and prolong the life of vehicles. These are great things.
Because of these benefits, telematics is surging in popularity. In fact, the telematics solutions market is on track to reach $62.5 billion by 2025. More fleets are using these systems to manage their drivers, so it's absolutely something to consider.
One challenge that fleet managers constantly struggle with is mitigating damage when shipping cargo. Drivers can encounter a lot of hazards on the road, from potholes and blowouts to accidents and slippery conditions. Such hazards can cause cargo to shift or fall, damaging items during transit—and putting a dent in your bottom line.
The best way to reduce damage is to be strict about blocking and bracing procedures. Instruct dock supervisors and warehouse managers to enforce proper loading protocol at all times. While you’re at it, hold them accountable during the loading process, too.
Treat safety as a top-down initiative, and instruct all drivers to remain in compliance. This may seem like a small change. But this will go a long way in reducing careless and expensive errors.
And ultimately, team members respect managers who do their due diligence to ensure their safety and compliance. This is not an area where you want to slack. Failure to help maintain a safe working environment could cause your retention rates to plummet. And the last thing you want to do is have to hire a whole new crew because you dropped the ball.
Transporting high-value cargo requires lots of caution to ensure that items arrive safely at their destination. In this case, using a dedicated full truckload (FTL) shipment may come in handy.
By taking this approach, a driver will make only one stop on his or her route instead of several. As a result, there will be no interference in the cargo area during transit.
This means boxes will have less of a chance of shifting or falling, as there will be no intermittent unloading. In addition, the weight of the truck will remain consistent throughout the the trip. Add it all up, and it’s a much safer way to transport cargo.
Fleet maintenance needs to be a top priority. It’s something that shouldn’t fall on drivers to handle. Maintenance crews need to take responsibility for ensuring all vehicles receive proper inspections and repairs. That’s just the way it needs to be.
The good news is that modern onboard telematics systems can combine with automated scheduling assistants to alert maintenance crews when vehicles are due for repairs. For example, onboard sensors can alert crews about fluid levels, electrical malfunctions, and brake issues, among other things.
By automating vehicle maintenance, fleet managers can take active measures to keep trucks operating at a high level. At the same time, they can avoid sending suboptimal vehicles out for long-haul deliveries.
Occasionally, items will come back reported as over, short, or damaged (OS&D). In other words, too many or too few items may ship to a customer. Or they may arrive in a manner that's inconsistent with the terms specified in the original shipping agreement.
While OS&D is unavoidable in some cases, it needs to be properly managed so customers can receive the right items in a timely manner. Otherwise, they may look to solve their problem elsewhere.
In a busy warehouse setting, OS&D can be difficult to manage. For this reason, some warehouse teams use a dedicated OS&D clerk who works with dock supervisors and transportation crews to collect and process OS&D claims. This individual can provide proactive OS&D support, identifying problems and working to prevent them from becoming repeat issues.
The trucking industry is now going through digital transformation. In fact, according to one study, nearly two-thirds of logistics executives expect technology to deliver significant productivity gains.
One of the most important trends taking place is the steady migration away from paper-based management systems. Now, fleets no longer have to rely on slow and risky paper reports when signing shipping documents and filing OS&D claims. Instead, they can transmit these items seamlessly through a mobile device.
By using mobile applications, teams can process paperwork instantaneously. This, in turn, results in a stronger overall customer experience (CX) while significantly reducing risk.
Vector offers custom digital workflows for digitizing forms and streamline processing. To learn more, check out Vector’s custom workflows.
This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.