Fleet management guide

Fleet Management Guide

For operators of commercial fleets, going about managing those fleets in the right way is absolutely crucial. That’s because fleet management impacts a business’ profitability, staff, and customer base.

In this guide, we’ll cover off the key aspects of fleet management to help operators stay on top of the best practices used in industry. We’ll specifically touch on subjects including:

What is fleet management?

Fleet management involves the coordination and organisation of a business’ vehicle portfolio and drivers. This includes not only company-owned cars or vans, but also grey fleet vehicles which are owned by employees but used for work purposes.

Exactly what a fleet management model should look like differs from company to company, and can depend on the number of vehicles managed and the infrastructure and systems in place. However, there are some universal truths to effective fleet management that apply to all businesses at any given stage during their lifecycle.

Some of these key components include:

  • Monitoring operational cost.
  • Ensuring vehicle safety and compliance.
  • Vehicle maintenance and repair.
  • Employee management and training.
  • Managing operational efficiency and optimisation.

A good fleet manager should be able to keep a legal and safe operation running, engage and motivate workforce, and do so while making cost savings wherever possible.

The role of the fleet manager

The job of the fleet manager is to oversee both the wider strategic movements and the day-to-day operations of a business’ cars, vans, or trucks. Fleet managers have a wide range of responsibilities and so need to be versatile in their skillsets and able to dabble in everything from accountancy to strong communications and the ability to multitask.

Some of the key responsibilities of a fleet manager role include:

Controlling costs

Ensuring operating costs are kept as low as possible is a primary task of the fleet manager. This can include getting a good deal on initial purchases or rentals, as well as keeping ongoing costs down, which could be achieved through improving fuel efficiency or managing the use of services like fuel cards.

Overseeing vehicle maintenance

Keeping your fleet on the road is vital to the success of any business. This means ensuring cars and vans are regularly serviced and checked for any faults. The latest smart technology can alert you to any potential issues before they become a problem, allowing you to plan your schedule and reduce the risk of a breakdown.

Ensuring driver safety

As well as ensuring your fleet is mechanically sound, a good fleet manager should also be keeping an eye on driver behaviour. Tools like telematics systems can keep a full log of their actions, and show you if they were speeding, for instance – or if any harsh inputs have been made on the steering or brakes. This information can enable you step in with training or advice where necessary.

Driving a car with closeup of dashboard

Tracking vehicles

It’s essential that you know where your vehicles are at all times. GPS tracking tools give you a complete picture of your current situation and let you make changes. For instance, it can show you if drivers are taking inefficient routes between jobs and therefore help better plan your operations. What’s more, it can quickly alert you to any unauthorised vehicle use or track down a stolen car.

Ensuring compliance

It’s also up to the fleet management team to ensure their vehicles are road legal and that drivers are meeting their requirements. However, this doesn’t just include keeping MOTs and insurance valid. You should also be tracking any mileage claims for expenses and tax purposes and ensuring drivers aren’t breaching working time rules. This also covers ensuring your drivers are fully licensed for the vehicles they operate. And you’re keeping a record of any issues such as penalty points.

How to improve your fleet management

The most efficient and profitable fleets are likely to be those with the best managers at the helm who can provide structure and processes that are easy to follow, while also ensuring communication with drivers is clear.

Our tips on the key areas in which most fleets could look to upgrade include:

1. Accessing real-time information

The first thing any fleet manager needs in order to work effectively is full visibility of their cars, vans, and drivers. This means having access to real-time data that can show them, at a glance, the location of each vehicle and employee, their current status, and whether they are experiencing any issues.

The most effective way of achieving this is by implementing an effective telematics system. This system connects to a vehicle’s computer and uses a range of sensors to feed data back to a central computer detailing everything a vehicle’s location and speed to driver inputs. Real-time data is also a pre-requisite to many of the solutions we’re about to cover, so if you don’t have it, you could be working with one hand tied behind your back.

2. Implementing GPS tracking

A key part of any real-time information solution will be instant details of your fleet’s locations via GPS. This can be vital if you need to dispatch an employee to a certain destination, as you can see at a glance who is available and best-positioned to respond.

However, it can also be used to help record mileage and hours spent on the road, divert drivers away from areas of congestion and even provide customers with real-time updates on when they can expect your employees to arrive.

3. Improving route planning

GPS tools can also be used in combination with other tech solutions to improve your firms’ route planning. This isn’t just about finding the shortest way from A to B. It should also take into account factors such as expected fuel consumption along the route and the distance to the cheapest filling stations.

For example, if a vehicle is spending a lot of time stuck in traffic with the engine idling, this results in greater fuel consumption and higher costs. With good route planning tools, this can be avoided.

4. Monitoring driver behaviour

Being able to keep an eye on how your employees are driving is also essential. First and foremost, this improves safety. If fleet telematics data shows frequent speeding, or sensors detect harsh control inputs, you can step in to address this. You can even generate league tables that show your best and worst-performing drivers, highlighting who you need to speak to most urgently.

Dashboard view of person driving a car down motorway

This can also help reduce fuel consumption. By monitoring inputs such as acceleration and braking, you can educate employees to drive more smoothly as well as safely. Indeed, almost half of businesses (49 per cent) using telematics have seen a reduction in speeding incidences and fines, while 55 per cent experienced a drop in fuel usage.

5. Reducing your fuel costs

While better route planning and driver monitoring can help improve your fuel consumption, you should also make sure you’re not paying over the odds at the pump. To do this, it pays to have a suitable fuel card for your usage.

There are a wide range of products to choose from, so it’s important to get this right. It may be the case that the cheapest option isn’t very convenient for your firm. You also need to consider whether you’d benefit from cards with wider motorway networks, for example, and which brands have locations nearest your most common routes.

6. Predictively scheduling maintenance

Breakdowns can be a major headache for fleet managers. Beyond the direct costs associated with fixing vehicle problems, having vehicles off the road unexpectedly also hurts the firm’s productivity. You can avoid this by using the data taken from telematics systems to predictively schedule maintenance. These tools can highlight potential issues and allow you to step in before they turn into serious problems.

7. Automating your expenses

Admin work is often among the most time-consuming parts of a fleet manager’s job. Working out details such as mileage claims, expenses, fuel MPG and other details are essential but tedious activities. But with the right fleet management systems, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Closeup of people calculating expenses with receipts and pen and paper

Being able to calculate these figures automatically, based on data recorded by the telematics system, doesn’t just free up your time. It also ensures the data is accurate and can highlight any unusual events – such as vehicles doing significantly more miles than expected – for investigation.

8. Setting up security alerts

Spotting and cracking down on unauthorised vehicle usage is also essential. For example, you can set up alerts that let you know if a vehicle is being used outside normal office hours. You can also establish geofencing to warn you if a car from your portfolio travels beyond a certain area.

This isn’t only useful for identifying any employees using company assets for personal use, but it can also help you quickly track down any stolen vehicles – using GPS tracking to guide police precisely.

9. Tackling fuel fraud

Another major concern for many fleet managers is the risk of fuel fraud, such as employees filling personal vehicles using a company fuel card or making claims for miles they haven’t done. Telematics can help spot issues with expenses, while a good fuel card can also help by ensuring vehicle locations match fuel card usage, for example.

10. Managing your vehicle inventory

A good fleet management system can also help keep track of your vehicle inventory. This allows you to better plan ahead for replacements, get alerts when services or MOTs are due, and prepare your finances.

You can also see at a glance details such as the types of fuel used, which will be important to know when selecting a fuel card, and can factor into future buying decisions. For instance, if the majority of your fleet is petrol-powered, you may want to consider phasing out any remaining diesels to simplify your operations.

11. Procuring the right fleet vehicles

It’s crucial that your vehicle portfolio is properly equipped to meet the needs of your business, and there are a lot of considerations you could make around whether to bring new vehicles on board, or upgrade existing cars and vans. A good starting point is to analyse the fuel they’re currently using, and gain visibility over all car running costs.

Procuring the right commercial fleet vehicles

From there, you can factor in market movements such as the growth of electric vehicles when making judgements on how to go about upgrading your fleet over the coming months and years.

Fleet management software solutions

Many of the efficiencies fleet operators can look to make stem from using the latest and greatest technology in market to automate, track and calculate ways to improve performance.

To recap some of the key pieces of commercial fleet technology we’ve mentioned in this article, the essential software includes:

  • A thorough telematics system, such as our Tele-Gence service – which can help businesses take control of vehicle management.
  • A mileage tracker system, such as our MileageCount service.
  • Fleet software for automating vehicle checks. This can be done through our My Drive Safe mobile app service.
  • Software to cheapen maintenance costs. The team at Fuel Card Services can help fleet operators get access to pre-negotiated maintenance rates at thousands of garages across the UK.
  • Software to help drivers with their daily operations. For example, our My Drivers Club app can help drivers find their nearest fuel pumps with ease.

Having a good technology stack behind a fleet operation can also prove an attractive prospect for new drivers and partners, who may be accustomed to enjoying these benefits when offered by rival businesses.

Why is fleet management important?

In this article, we have covered what fleet management is, an overview of the fleet manager role, and helpful software solutions, but what is likely to be the impact of upgrading your fleet management processes today?

Some real-world benefits you could see within your fleet include:

  • Improved employee productivity.
  • A reduction in fuel costs – which could have a significant impact on your bottom line.
  • Saving time by controlling your fleet online and eliminating administrative tasks.
  • Reduced mileage claims.
  • Automated reporting dashboards.
  • Improved driver safety and security.

If you want to know more about how Fuel Card Services could help you and your business, you can get in contact with our fleet management experts today.

Car driving in snow with winter tyres

Seasonal vs all-season tyres: which is best for your fleet?

The choice to fit your fleet’s vehicles with either seasonal or all-season tyres can be a tough one. All-season tyres provide many practical benefits, whilst their seasonal counterparts offer improved safety and performance when used correctly.

Which set of tyres are likely to be best for your fleet? Read on, and we’ll help you make the decision.

Advantages of seasonal tyres

Winter tyres

As the name suggests, seasonal tyres need to be used during different weather conditions. During the winter months when temperatures fall below 7°C, you should fit your vehicles with winter tyres. These improve the performance of your vehicle in snowy and icy conditions, and excel at clearing away snow and slush to increase your grip with the road.

Additionally, the material used to make winter tyres stays soft during colder temperatures, whilst all-season tyres might tense up and be less flexible.

Summer tyres

Once seasonal temperatures exceed 7°C, your vehicles should be fitted with summer tyres. They are designed to get more mileage out of your vehicle in warmer temperatures, and they excel on dry roads. Their tread patterns and compounds mean they are perfectly soft and grip the dry roads well, making handling even more efficient.

What are the disadvantages of seasonal tyres?

Whilst both winter and summer tyres provide the best performance, they come with certain practical disadvantages.

Of course, the main con being the fact that you’ll need to regularly change the tyres on all your vehicles. This can come with extra costs if they are fitted by professionals, and there is the matter of storing the tyres you’re not using.

Furthermore, it isn’t something you can avoid. Using summer tyres during winter for example could actually put drivers in danger. According to Kwik Fit, a vehicle fitted with summer tyres will take almost twice as long to come to a stop from 40km/h when driving in snow compared to a vehicle fitted with winter tyres.

Advantages of all-season tyres

Alternatively, you might decide to fit your vehicles with all-season tyres. This means you can keep your tyres on your vehicles whatever the weather! Of course, you’ll have to change them when they are no longer suitable; maintaining regular safety checks on your tyres is important regardless of type, and they must be changed when you find your tyres have been worn away.

Where all-season tyres excel is their ability to offer a safe, stable drive regardless of the weather. They combine elements of summer and winter tyres to create an all-rounder. Of course, this comes with a slight compromise on performance. Summer tyres are best for summer, winter tyres are best for winter, but all-season tyres perform more than adequately in either scenario.

car driving on road with summer tyres

Which tyres are best for your UK fleet?

It can be difficult to decide which set of tyres would be ideal for a fleet, and this is especially true for UK fleets.

Fleet managers might want to consider that UK weather never tends to get too extreme. Whilst it is certainly unpredictable at times, we don’t often find our roads entrenched in snow, or experience abundant heatwaves. Therefore, you might want to opt for all-season tyres, given that the benefits gained from winter tyres may not be as noticeable here as if you were driving in a colder country. After all, using seasonal tyres is actually a legal requirement in some territories!

On the other hand, the forward thinking fleet manager might want to consider the effects that global warming is likely to have in coming years. UK weather is likely to reach further extremes such as more storms, more snow, and an increase in scorching heatwaves. Seasonal tyres would be able to give your vehicles a needed performance boost in such adverse weather. If you are operating in the northern regions of the UK, winter tyres might already be an obvious choice for you.

How can Fuel Card Services help?

Changing tyres and other maintenance tasks can be an expensive and often time consuming job. With a service plan like MyService.Expert, you can schedule your maintenance at thousands of main dealers and independent garages with pre-negotiated rates. Maintaining your vehicles has never been easier!

Get in touch with our experts today and see how we could keep your fleet running smoothly, whatever the weather!

Checkign tyre depth

Tyre Safety Guide

Every commercial fleet operating in the UK should have a robust and comprehensive policy for ensuring that their vehicles are only ever driven with safe tyres. What exactly constitutes a ‘safe’ tyre, though, can be a complex formula with many components.

Whether you’re operating with HGVs, LGVs, or standard estate and saloon cars, this article is designed to help you identify the key components of tyre safety and make you aware of the legal limits that drivers should be adhering to.

Why is tyre safety important?

Before we get started, though, here’s why meeting safe tyre standards matters. Firstly, the livelihood and wellbeing of your drivers should be paramount to any organisation. Having a happy and healthy workforce means you can take on more work, rather than having to plug the gaps caused by avoidable tyre accidents.

What’s more, proudly advertising your business as one that treats driver safety as a top priority could also make your organisation stand out from the crowd in the jobs marketplace; giving you an edge when prospective employees are looking for a new place of work.

Tyres themselves are tangential to vehicle safety, and worn out or old tyres directly limit the amount of control your drivers have over their vehicles. In fact, poor tyres can increase stopping distances, reduce fuel economy when tread is low, and become more prone to tyre blowouts.

Fundamentally, having drivers operate with tyres that are below safe standards can have a range of negative impacts on safety and cost, and the only real downside of replacing tyres is the initial cost of new tyres. This is well worth doing, especially considering there is a legal element to this equation.

Tyre safety laws

There are a few different important laws governing tyre safety for commercial vehicles in the UK. One crucial piece of guidance to be aware of is the official ‘vehicle safety and maintenance guidance’, which is frequently updated with information around conducting safety checks and MOT inspections.

There are also helpful guides around how drivers can carry out safety checks, which is essential given it’s a legal requirement that drivers conduct a walkaround check before setting off on any journey, which must include checking the:

  • Lights
  • Tyres
  • Wheel fixings
  • Bodywork
  • Trailer coupling
  • Load and other equipment

Beyond this, laws exist to ensure that individual drivers communicate with their employers around safety matters. Any defects should be communicated in writing, and many employers may look to use software to streamline this process.

At Fuel Card Services, part of our work is to empower fleet operators with software to achieve exactly this goal, and our MyDriveSafe.Expert service enables drivers to report any defects via a mobile phone app which links through to a central database that managers can access.

Tyre

What makes your tyres illegal?

Diving deeper into tyre safety, then, what are the key regulations to be aware of? Well, the main components of safe tyres are:

1. Tyre pressure

Tyre pressures make a difference to fuel economy as well as driver safety. If your driver’s tyres feature a pressure of around 30-40PSI, then they’re likely to run smoothly on the roads and require less power.

Conversely, low pressured tyres of anywhere downwards of 20PSI can be a genuine danger to the safety of your driver and other road users. These tyres are more susceptible to blowouts and can destabilise a vehicle.

The exact recommended limits for tyre pressure vary from vehicle to vehicle, and drivers should always have access to and check the manufacturer’s handbook to gauge recommended PSI levels. Conversely, over-pumping tyres can have a negative effect on performance by causing uneven tyre wear.

As a fleet operator, it’s key that you ensure drivers check tyre pressure frequently. Officially, this should be checked on a weekly basis. However, if this proves impractical, it’d be unwise to leave tyre pressure unchecked for any longer than one month.

2. Tread depth

The legal tread depth limit on any tyre in the UK is 1.6mm, control over the vehicle can be severely limited. Tread serves to grip the road as a wheel spins, thus making turning easier – and drivers can actually feel the difference between high and low levels of tread.

Fleet operators should ideally be advising drivers to change tyres when tread drops below 3mm, and failure to adhere to legal limits can result in substantial fines both for individual drivers (who can also incur points on their licences), and the organisation.

3. General tyre health

Through regular spot checks, drivers should be able to gauge whether tyres are in good condition. Any signs of tyre bulging should result in immediately replacing tyres, and this is also the case if the structural integrity of the tyre has been damaged through debris or vandalism.

It’s also a legal requirement of fleet operators that any non-roadworthy vehicles are taken out of service, and operators must implement a system to make this happen.

Taking tyre safety seriously

Ultimately, there’s no questioning that tyre safety should be a top priority for fleets, which is true both from a driver safety perspective and a cost-saving perspective. Newer tyres with better technology and safe pressure and tread levels require less fuel to power, and becoming a brand that showcases its good safety policies can stand individual operators out from the crowd in the eyes of potential new recruits.

How can Fuel Card Services help?

At Fuel Card Services, we take driver safety seriously. That’s why we offer a range of commercial fleet services that are designed to improve driver safety and provide cost savings. Services include:

  • Tele-Gence; a smart telematics system that’s tailored to your business’ unique needs. This software can improve safety for your drivers and security for your vehicles.
  • MyDriveSafe.Expert – which allows drivers to carry out vehicle checks on their mobile phones. This data then feeds back into a manager’s portal, enabling you to check that vehicles are safe to drive and that legal requirements are met.
  • MyService.Expert – we offer an online, pay-as-you-go system that gives you access to pre-negotiated repair and maintenance rates at thousands of UK garages, meaning any faults can be resolved quickly without breaking the bank.

If you think these services could benefit your operation, get in touch today and see how we could help you.

Petrol pouring into tank

What happens when you put the wrong fuel in your car?

So, you’ve put the wrong fuel in your car. It’s a surprisingly easy mistake to make that plenty of drivers have made. In fact, What Car? suggests that someone puts the wrong fuel in their car every three and a half minutes in the UK!

If you have put the incorrect fuel in your tank, acting quickly and effectively to resolve this issue is essential- as failure to do so could cause lasting damage to your vehicle. So, what are the next steps?

The impact of misfuelling your car engine

The most important thing to do when you have misfuelled is to not start the engine under any circumstance. Starting the car when it has the incorrect fuel in the tank could cause lasting, costly damage. The AA suggests that you remove the keys from the ignition immediately.

How much can it cost if you’ve put the wrong fuel in your car?

If you haven’t yet started the engine, the cost of having a specialist drain the fuel tank will be around £190, but if the engine is ignited it could be closer to £5,000.

You should try and get the car to a safe spot if possible. At a petrol station, put the vehicle in neutral and push the car to a safe place; you should of course get someone to assist you.

Once your vehicle is in an appropriate location, call your breakdown provider immediately. They’ll have specialists available to drain your car’s system and make it safe to refuel again.

The impact of different fuel types on different car engines

Different types of fuel have different properties and can have varying effects on a car engine. Watch out for:

Putting petrol in a diesel car

It’s incredibly easy to put petrol into a diesel car due to the size of the nozzle, however it’s unfortunately also incredibly damaging to do this. What’s absolutely essential is that if you’ve made this mistake, do not start your car’s engine.

Symptoms

If you were to start your engine, you would likely hear a loud knocking sound when accelerating. That’s if your vehicle even starts! If it does, you’re unlikely to get far – and it’ll quickly become clear to you that something is critically wrong.

That’s because diesel acts as a lubricant that helps the fuel pump work as it should. Petrol, however, will increase the friction in your diesel engine meaning the fuel pump is going to meet some heavy resistance and become damaged. You could be looking at having to replace the fuel pumps and other components, or even replacing the entire engine if the petrol is allowed to wreak enough havoc on your vehicle.

What if I have only put a small amount of petrol in my diesel engine?

If you’ve put an absolutely miniscule amount of petrol in your engine, there is a chance it could run smoothly without you noticing the impact. However, our recommendation would always be to have your tank properly drained. The risk of paying to have an engine repaired is pretty substantial, so paying up a small fee to drain an engine is probably a wiser decision in the long run.

Putting diesel in a petrol car

You’ll struggle to fit the diesel nozzle into a petrol car, so the chances of this happening are much less likely. However, there are some instances where this accident can happen.

Putting diesel in a petrol car also causes less damage to your vehicle. The diesel fuel will actually just clog up the system rather than causing any lasting damage.

Symptoms

You may quickly become aware that you’ve misfuelled your car as your engine starts to misfire – and there’s a good chance your vehicle won’t start at all. However, once the fuel is drained from the system, you can put petrol back in and everything should work as normal!

E10 in an incompatible vehicle

In 2021, the UK transitioned from E5 to E10 petrol. This fuel contains 10% renewable ethanol, whereas E5 only contains 5%. This has helped the country take steps towards reducing CO2 emissions – it’s the equivalent of removing all the petrol vehicles out of North Yorkshire!

However, some older cars are not compatible with E10. It’s estimated that around 600,000 cars on UK roads will not accept it.

Luckily, putting E10 in an incompatible vehicle shouldn’t cause too much damage. If you were to do this repeatedly, your vehicle’s internal structure could suffer due to the bioethanol’s corrosive properties.

You can also mix E10 and E5. Therefore, if you end up with E10 in your incompatible vehicle, get some E5 in there as quickly as possible.

Filling fuel tank with blue fuel can

How can drivers avoid misfuelling in future?

When drivers put the wrong fuel in their vehicle, it’s usually because they just aren’t paying attention! This is easily done after a long day of work or an early start to the day.

Remember that the colour of the hose and nozzle isn’t always consistent. If you’re at a fuelling station that you aren’t familiar with, don’t just pick up the hose that is the colour you are used to using. Be sure to read the signage properly – the pump should specify whether it is petrol, diesel, or something else.

The AA suggests putting a reminder on the inside of the fuel cap to double check that you are using the correct pump.

As with driving, try and minimise distractions. It’s easy to be in autopilot whilst refuelling, but you don’t want to look up from your phone only to realise you’ve had the wrong hose inserted into your vehicle!

How can Fuel Card Services help?

You never know when an accident such as misfuelling is going to wreak havoc on your vehicles. It is therefore vital that you have some form of maintenance plan in place. That’s where MyService.Expert comes in.

With MyService.Expert, you can simplify your business’ vehicle maintenance with pre-negotiated rates at thousands of main dealer and independent garages, all across the UK.

A proper service plan means less downtime and simplified admin.

Get in touch today and find out what we could do for you.

managing fleet maintenance

The ultimate fleet maintenance guide

While it would be nice if commercial fleets could operate year-round without fault, that isn’t the core goal for experienced fleet operators. Instead, what’s useful is to understand the range of challenges your fleet is likely to encounter, and how to either take precautions to avoid them or prepare suitable countermeasures that can be used reactively to minimise downtime.

That’s why we’ve created this fleet maintenance guide, which will cover:

What is fleet maintenance management?

Fleet maintenance management describes the process of proactively and reactively resolving issues facing a commercial fleet, with a view to keeping vehicles operational. There are many reasons why this is important, including that:

  • Having more vehicles available for use could enable you to take on more contracts.
  • Driver safety is drastically improved by a proper fleet maintenance protocol.
  • Well-maintained fleets may prove less expensive to run in the long term, given they’re less likely to incur severe damage.

The person responsible for maintaining a fleet can vary from business to business. For larger companies, a senior role is normally allocated to overseeing this entire process. Most companies either build in-house teams to handle key aspects of the maintenance process or look to outsource specific services such as tyre repairs or MOT checks to external providers.

Overall, there are a range of different skills needed to maintain a fleet. Software innovations play a huge role in this dynamic industry, and so developers may be needed to code and improve systems, while logistics is obviously key – not to mention the practical skills needed to actually conduct routine maintenance work on expensive, complex LGVs.

Tips for managing fleet maintenance effectively

With this complexity in mind, here are our maintenance tips that we feel could really make a difference to operators.

1. Document the ‘what’, ‘when’, and ‘how’ of fleet maintenance

It’s not only important, but a requirement of every fleet operation that you are able to resolve technical issues when they arise. A more effective approach to maintenance, however, could be to document virtually every issue that your vehicles are likely to face, as well as how to resolve them.

Lean on the internal expertise in your business to get a full picture of what is likely to go wrong with your vehicles. From more standard issues such as tyre punctures or diminishing tread depth, to the rarer, more expensive issues such as a vehicle totalling or a blown head gasket – you only stand to gain by documenting your business’ official approach to these challenges and conferring with your team.

In terms of how best to do this, a simple database of errors including fields such as the contact details of providers that can help, projected costs, and dated, historical records of similar issues could be game changing; improving your ability to react to new issues quickly.

2. Invest in the right fleet maintenance software

For many fleet operators, there is a lot of data to monitor at any one time. It’s useful not only to keep an eye on the maintenance of your vehicles, but also track their routes and mileage. While this could be done with manual methods, it’s often more cost-efficient and practical to invest in a software solution that can help your team focus on the more strategic elements, while automatically collecting data.

At Fuel Card Services, we have developed an answer for this problem. Our fleet services include:

  • MileageCount – a system for automatically recording and reporting on your vehicles’ mileage claims. This could remove some of the manual reporting tasks your drivers may be assigned with, meaning less admin work and more vehicle uptime whether you’re operating an owned, leased, or grey fleet.
  • Tele-Gence – our smart telematics solution. This fully customisable solution helps cover all key aspects of your fleet operation; monitoring driver performance, fuel cost management, and equipping your vehicles with the right cameras and equipment to improve safety.
  • Expert – an online vehicle repair and maintenance portal that can give you access to pre-negotiated maintenance rates at thousands of leading UK garage dealers and independent providers. This solution centralises the billing and cost-analysis process behind every maintenance operation; better equipping your team with the right insights to make strategic decisions.

Having the right technology stack in your business could not only help you save costs, but it could also prove to be an attractive prospect for drivers. Putting driver safety at the heart of your operation is key and combining this with tech that reduces each driver’s admin load could give you an edge over competitors.

Man managing fleet on tablet

3. Build a healthy relationship with your drivers

There’s no shortage of companies that will advocate building strong employee-employer relationships, but have you considered that strengthening relationships with your drivers could have knock-on benefits for vehicle maintenance?

If your drivers are proud of their vehicles, confident that you’re equipping them with the best-in-market technology to do their jobs effectively and feel that they’re able to communicate with you openly and honestly about issues facing their vehicles, then you’re increasing the chances of having issues flagged early on and resolved quickly.

For example, have you considered the potential benefits of equipping your drivers with an easy-to-use fuel finder app that can help speed up their search for a local filling station? Or even speeding up their routine safety checks with a similar type of app?

Making smart choices around improving your operation and sharing your thoughts and priorities with your drivers could help them feel more supported and emotionally invested in your company, which is likely to yield benefits in a variety of ways.

Why vehicle maintenance matters

Vehicle maintenance should be a top priority for your business, and the first and most obvious benefit of a good plan is vehicle and driver safety. Badly maintained cars may be more prone to failures on the road that could lead to serious accidents. Some areas to look out for include:

1. Using a vehicle maintenance planner

There are clear financial benefits to keeping your fleet well-maintained, and the best way to manage this at scale is with a robust maintenance schedule. Having a good schedule reduces the risk of breakdowns or other issues that can force a car off the road unexpectedly- and this type of unplanned downtime can be very costly for firms. It also may mean they have to alter schedules and risk disappointing customers.

So, taking the time to create a vehicle maintenance planner – preferably one that’s digital, features some level of automation, and can be shared with all relevant parties, could streamline your process in the long run.

2. Getting light vehicle maintenance right

Even simple things like making sure your tyres are the correct pressure can improve fuel economy, and therefore reduce running costs.

Therefore, you need a clear plan for what levels of fleet vehicle servicing you’ll look to conduct at different touchpoints with drivers. This must ensure that every vehicle you operate has its own service schedule that’s planned well in advance.

Don’t leave it to the last minute or arrange this on an ad-hoc basis. Factors to consider when creating a maintenance schedule include:

  • The vehicle’s age
  • Frequency of use
  • Mileage
  • Operating conditions

3. Stay up to date on the latest laws

It’s also essential to familiarise yourself with the current laws around vehicle maintenance, as employers may be liable for accidents that occur on the road if they fail to adequately protect drivers. Research suggests that some fleet operators may currently be at risk of incurring considerable fines due to inadequate maintenance programs.

With the importance of proper maintenance processes underlined, how should you actually go about implementing a maintenance program?

Testing vehicle fluid levels with dipstick

How to conduct service checks

We’ve touched on what vehicle maintenance is and why it matters – but what should a good maintenance programme look like on a day-to-day basis? There are a wide range of checks that need to be performed. Knowing what these are and how frequently they should be done is a vital step in keeping your fleet moving.

For everyday checks – remember FLOWER

Firstly, you must be performing a range of regular checks on your vehicles. Ideally, these should be done every day before setting off, but they should at least be done on a weekly basis or before any long journey. The best way of handling these is to have drivers take responsibility for their own vehicles, so it’s vital they’re trained on what to look for and how to report the results.

There are a few key areas that should be focused on here. The AA suggests these can be easily remembered with the acronym ‘FLOWER’, which consists of the following:

Fuel

Does the vehicle have enough fuel to make the journey? If not, make sure you know where you can use your fuel card to fill up. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked, and running dry can cause big problems – especially in the winter or for diesel vehicles.

Lights

Are all the bulbs working? Brake lights, indicators and headlights are especially vital. Therefore, have someone walk around the vehicle to make sure they not only work, but can be easily seen. This means clearing away any debris or mud that could obscure them.

Oil

Check your dipstick to ensure your oil level is between the minimum and maximum marks on the stick. If not, you could be running the risk of serious engine damage. This is also a very common problem, as the RAC notes one in three vehicles it’s called out to have dangerously low oil levels.

Water

Make sure your screen wash reservoir is topped up regularly. This is important year-round, but especially so in winter when grit, snow and mud can all smear your windscreen. Even in summer, bugs and pollen can hamper your view, so don’t run the risk of an empty water bottle.

Electrics

Aside from your lights, you should also check other electrics such as your battery. Make sure the connections are clean and tight and use a battery monitor to check its health. It’s a good idea to keep a set of jump leads in each vehicle – or at least on hand at your site – if you have a flat battery. The most common cause of this is leaving lights on, but this issue can also occur if the car hasn’t been used for a while or is used mainly for very short trips with lots of stopping and starting.

Rubber

Making sure your tyres are in good condition is also essential. This involves several steps. Firstly, make sure they’re set to the right pressure as specified in the vehicle manual. Using a pressure gauge is a good idea for this. Then, check the tread depth meets minimum requirements. The treads should be at least 1.6mm deep – that’s about the size of the rim on a 20p piece if you’re not sure. Finally, check the tyres for any other signs of wear or damage, such as cuts, splits, or bulges.

Check the tread depth of a tire

If the daily checks spot any issues with these components, they should be immediately flagged up for maintenance or repair before the car is sent out on to the road.

Conducting longer-term checks for vehicles

A timeframe should also be laid out for more comprehensive servicing, or this could be conducted once a vehicle surpasses a fixed number of miles. This should go into more depth on a range of maintenance issues, including:

  • Coolant
  • Air filter
  • Spark plugs (for petrol vehicles)
  • Brakes
  • Transmission fluid
  • Serpentine belt

Keeping your vehicles in good working order is an essential part of any fleet manager’s job. While some of the day-to-day work can be delegated to individual drivers, it’s still vital that you have a clear plan in place. This means undertaking frequent checks of key systems and a regular vehicle service schedule for more comprehensive car maintenance.

We hope this guide has helped to develop your understanding of fleet maintenance and give you some ideas around how you could fine tune your operation.

How can Fuel Card Services help?

At Fuel Card Services, we specialise in fleet maintenance and have developed a full suite of tools that you can use to become more cost-effective in your operations. Every good fleet management operation requires a desire to both protect drivers and profits, the right people in place, and the right technology to make an efficient operation possible.

To see how we can support you with the right technology, including advanced telematics, view our range of fleet services today, and get in touch with one of our friendly experts for a tailored quote.