To be a successful transport manager takes a particular set of qualities: not just attention to detail and diligence, but flexibility, strong analytical skills and the ability to switch between different tasks at a moment’s notice. The nature of the job means that transport managers have to be able to analyse and resolve problems in lightning-quick fashion.
With all of this in mind, we have highlighted the five biggest problems facing transport managers, and we will also consider how transport managers might address them.
1. Handling technological change. The fleet management profession has changed almost beyond recognition since the turn of the millennium. The introduction of telematics systems, in particular, has put a previously-unprecedented amount of information at the disposal of transport managers: from real-time routing and vehicle performance to driver behaviour. The introduction of new technologies shows no signs of abating, however, and it is incumbent upon transport managers to integrate these new technologies effectively. With new technology comes access to a wealth a valuable performance and safety information. Data from telematics solutions, scheduling applications and workflow management systems are now critical to business operations, and the challenge facing fleet managers is ensuring that the right data is reaching the right people. Our advice is to stay focused, and look to measure and improve the critical few metrics that will move the needle in performance.
2. Keeping drivers on board. The process of technological change – and other changes to the way fleets are run – is a fast-paced and complex one. This makes it all the more important to keep drivers informed and up to speed with the implementation of new changes, so that the process of doing so is as smooth and simple as possible. When drivers are inadequately informed about the introduction and use of new technologies, this risks causing unnecessary disruption as well as potentially breeding resentment among the workforce. The better you inform your drivers about what’s going on at work, the more valued and important they feel – they are part of a team and therefore need to be kept informed about any changes that are being made. This could also have positive repercussions for driver retention, a major issue for fleets at the moment. Transport managers must therefore work to ensure their acceptance and support for new changes.
3. Maximising driver safety. Driver safety is a paramount consideration for transport managers, and a crucial component of employers’ overall duty of care for their members of staff. Transport managers also feel a strong personal sense of responsibility in ensuring that their drivers are looked after and that their safety is cared for. Fleet tracking systems provide transport managers with detailed information on how their drivers conduct themselves on the road, providing hard evidence of risky behaviour where this occurs. This in turn allows transport managers to debrief drivers one-on-one, and devise training programmes tailored to address the specific shortcomings of individual drivers. Addressing these particular problems can significantly enhance the safety of drivers as well as other road users. Telematics also greatly simplifies maintenance processes, thereby reducing the risk of mechanical faults which could otherwise pose a risk to road safety.
4. Enhancing productivity and making the best use of assets. As we’ve already noted, managing fleets of vehicles comes with an array of challenges. The larger the fleet, the more challenging managing it tends to be – especially considering that assets are so often dispersed over wide geographical areas. With this comes an increased risk that fleet assets are not being deployed as efficiently as they might be, and this can have serious negative implications for productivity. The introduction of vehicle tracking software has been crucial to improving asset utilisation, providing detailed and accurate information on how vehicles are being used. This in turn allows fleets to identify potential savings, and deliver real improvements to overall efficiency.
5. Ensuring rigorous compliance. Fleets are subject to a vast array of rules and regulations, from a wide range of different bodies – HMRC, DVLA, HSE, and so on – and keeping on top of them is a task to challenge even the most accomplished and experienced transport manager. The complexity of modern fleet management has a morass of regulations to match. However, fleet management systems have made the process of fleet compliance and risk management far simpler than it otherwise would be. These offer a comprehensive range of tools to facilitate simpler fleet compliance. This not only helps keep your fleet on a sound legal footing (avoiding the potential complications of compliance breaches) but also offers a variety of other benefits, including improved road safety and efficiency.
Most transport managers are already making highly effective use of technology to stay one step ahead of the various challenges and problems they face. This provides quite clear proof, then, that however serious these challenges might be, they are not insurmountable – and the ingenuity of transport managers combined with fleet tracking systems are both helping to deliver positive results across the board, in safety, reliability, efficiency and – ultimately – profitability as well.