Fleet management, in its simplest terms, is managing a company's fleet of vehicles. Those vehicles can include cars, trucks, vans, mopeds, bicycles, whatever the company uses to get around in its daily operations, and the management duties can include functions such as vehicle financing, tracking and diagnostics, driver and fuel management, health, and safety. To help fleet managers do their jobs properly, many of them use fleet management solutions to help with everything from vehicle acquisition to disposal; it can include functions such as driver, vehicle, and trip profiling, dispatch, and vehicle efficiency. Fleet management services can be handled in-house by a special department or a firm can be outsourced to handle the responsibilities. It is up to these individuals to remove or minimize risks related to vehicle acquisition, improve efficiency and productivity while bringing down general transportation costs, and provide total compliance with government legislation and duty of care responsibilities.

The first and foremost fundamental aspect of fleet management is vehicle tracking. Where the trucks are, when the vans arrived at their destination, things like that. Many companies use GPS systems for this, yet others use a cellular triangulation system. Either way, the system can track a specific vehicle's current location, speed, and direction; additional components can be added to the software to include more specific information, such as vehicle mileage, vehicle speed and number of stops, unsafe driving behaviors, and idle time. The basis for the transmittal of information can be either terrestrial or satellite, and the locals and terrain intended to be covered regularly should be considered when companies choose a transmission type. Companies intending to travel to and in remote areas for extended periods of time should consider the satellite option. It can be more costly, but the terrestrial transmission systems can experience more frequent service interruptions in remote locations.

Another important characteristic is that of fleet security and control. Being able to secure a fleet vehicle and/or its cargo is important to a company, as losses of cargo, vehicles, and lives can be at stake. The most recent technology in this area is over-the-air, or OTA, protection. This allows managers and drivers to secure the vehicle while it is stopped or not in use and oftentimes the ability to disable the vehicle from a remote location safely during an emergency. GPS systems can also help in this aspect as management can easily see unexpected or prolonged stops or unplanned route deviations in real time. Efficient fleet security management can reduce insurance premiums and deductibles as well as prevent the need for costly replacement inventory and/or vehicles.

Effective route planning and scheduling increases efficiency and saves money. By planning each vehicle's routes carefully and following them closely on a regular basis the routing and scheduling of pickups and deliveries can be optimized, and with proper load balancing and stop assignment capacity overall utilization is increased, enabling companies to serve more customers daily with improved dependability. Having access to more information helps managers make more intelligent decisions and to act quickly in response to customer requests. More efficient routes save money by reducing fuel costs because more direct routes are used and fuel is not wasted, maintenance costs are brought down because the vehicles are being driven fewer miles over a set period of time, thus slowing down maintenance schedules and making that money stretch a little further, and funds spend on overtime payroll are reduced because drivers are spending less time traveling around en route to their destinations and more time making money. Well-organized route planning and scheduling increases asset utilization, improves the quality of customer care, and raises profitability margins, all at the same time.

Managers can use technology to streamline the delivery duties that drivers perform every day, again cutting costs and raising profits. By automating daily tasks such as delivery confirmations, the attainment of customer signatures and printing receipts, delivery drivers' time will be freed up and overhead costs will be brought down, increasing productivity. By using devices to conduct these tasks a two-way street is opened up. Drivers and delivery personnel will have immediate access to customer account, product, and order information while dispatchers will be able to quickly contact drivers to update routes, schedules, directions, stops, and other important information. Such systems allow inventory to be tracked faster and with greater accuracy, driver logs will be more exact, and instant feedback from the field is possible. There are devices and services on the market that can provide drivers with account history, vital billing information, and terms; automatic invoicing, printing of receipts, and electronic signature confirmation; onsite payment processing and returns management, even pre-and-post-trip vehicle inspections. Just imagine that!

Those who conduct fleet management operations have many different responsibilities; they also have a great many resources available to them. Devices that streamline operations and cut costs, software technologies that can track routes and help keep loads and lives secure, and tools to create the most efficient schedules: all help fleet managers do their jobs and keep their company's fleets and operations running without a hitch. These technologies and methods are becoming more advanced and readily available with each passing day. More companies are out there offering these services and tools, and every successful fleet manager should be familiar with the options out there so that he or she can make the best decision for his or her company.