As businesses adopt new technologies to optimize their operations and therefore cut costs, they are able to invest in larger fleets. With larger fleets, the importance of efficient fleet management has never been as important as it is now.
Fleet managers play a critical role in a logistics business, they are responsible for interpreting data that an increasing number of systems throw at them and coordinating this information amongst their drivers. Managing a fleet is not only a day to day task but also involves big picture planning and scheduling. This is important to keep the business operating profitably while creating a safe environment for its drivers.
The role of dispatch software in optimizing fleet carrier management cannot be overlooked. Dispatch software allows fleet managers to effectively monitor any hazardous behavior as well as provide route updates, fuel consumption reports and meet statutory requirements.
We will explore this dynamic relationship between the fleet manager and dispatch software that is changing the industry for the better!
The Fleet Manager
The responsibilities of a fleet manager are extensive, some of the important ones include:
- Vehicle dispatch and route optimization – to optimize dispatch schedules and plan efficient routes.
- Fuel utilization – reduce fuel usage by combining optimum cargo handling with route optimization.
- Order fulfillment – checking if the right cargo is being dispatched, ensuring delivery deadlines are met, reverse orders are fulfilled efficiently.
- Monitoring and improving driver behavior and safety – driver documentation and medical checks are in place, monitoring road behavior, providing training programs to improve driver performance.
- Setting and tracking KPI – making sure big picture understanding is in place with stakeholders and drivers, ensuring SOP is followed and KPIs are met.
- Understanding and communicating compliance – ensuring statutory regulations like HOS regulations and IFTA fuel tax are followed by having the right telematics devices like ELDS installed in all carriers.
- Asset acquisition, utilization, and maintenance – Looking for asset acquisition opportunities, managing resources efficiently to minimize labor costs and asset downtime.
The skills a fleet manager must possess are varied including strong problem solving skills and decisiveness. Some of the most important skills include:
- Technological understanding – Understanding and implementing new telematics hardware and software in a smooth manner.
- Ability to read and inference data – making inferences and decisions based on data insights from technologies installed in carriers and other information like weather forecasts.
- Problem solving – managing feedback from drivers and unexpected issues that may arise during a trip.
- Adaptability – ability to multitask and manage deadlines.
- Knowledgeable – stay on top of industry trends, statutory policy developments, driver management, etc.
A useful dispatch software gives fleet managers end to end visibility into fleet performance and provides important insights that the manager can effectively use. This includes visibility at a unit level – carrier insights like speeding/braking patterns, fuel usage, HOS as well as big picture insights – scheduling, route optimization, etc.
The most important thing to look for in a dispatch software is a 360-degree view of operations, one that helps managers make critical decisions. When looking to implement such software, businesses must look at these critical functions to make sure they have a holistic view of their fleet.
The ability to track a fleet in real time is an extremely useful feature. Fleet managers can actively track their carriers and make sure they are sticking to their schedules. They can also check for alternate routes that might be available to drivers in case of unplanned congestion on the original route like an accident causing traffic to build up.
Fleet visibility is also helpful in the customer service business where on request service carriers can be deployed effectively by the manager by locating the closest serviceable vehicle. This way they can reduce service times drastically.
Dispatch software enables an end to end preventative maintenance programs to service your vehicles effectively. Routine maintenance checks can be scheduled while keeping delivery deadlines in mind. Apart from this, statutory pre and post trip checks can be easily tracked.
Spare parts inventory can also be tracked using dispatch software. If you have multiple maintenance centers, then a database keeps track of which parts are available where. This is helpful for technicians to easily locate spare parts, thereby swiftly and effectively servicing your fleet.
The FMSCA has worked towards implementing stricter norms in the commercial transportation industry. Maintaining Elogs for HOS compliance, maintenance checks for on road inspections and IFTA tax laws are some of the few statutory requirements.
Dispatch software eliminates hours of paperwork and helps you avoid expensive fines with IFTA, ELD, and DVIR.
Fleet owners and managers know the safety of their assets is of prime importance. Hence, they should look for dispatch software with a wide range of safety specific solutions built into the platform. Some driver specific features include – driver scorecards, behavioral analysis, in-vehicle notifications, etc.
On a larger scale, dispatch software can also offer live weather updates on routes which the carriers may be on. With this information, drivers can be asked to locate a rest spot for an overnight hiatus in case weather conditions are hazardous to drive in.
Reporting & Analytics
The ease of access to data from multiple carriers through a dispatch software is something no other tool can replace. Archiving data for future use is an important need. Dispatch software can be used to create complex reports on the success of previously completed trips that can be reviewed by the business and altered accordingly.