20 October 2020

The vital process of fleet preparation

“Fail to prepare and prepare to fail” as the old adage goes, but it’s not just a saying when it comes to fuel logistics. It’s up to fleet managers to ensure their drivers and vehicles are ready for the road in every aspect possible, from legal compliance and health and safety, to fuel management and vehicle maintenance and inspection.There’s a lot to consider, even before a single vehicle leaves HQ.

Furthermore, the prolonged nature of the global pandemic means operators need to be even more aware than usual of current and future fuel logistics industry requirements, and therefore ready to deal with unexpected fluctuations in demand.

A fleet manager needs digital support to ensure a fleet is prepared for any eventuality, as we explore here.

Managing driver hours

In the UK, all employers of goods vehicle drivers must abide by drivers’ hours regulations set by the Department for Transport (DfT). Fleet managers must therefore plan routes and job schedules that ensure drivers work within the regulations, while also maximising the efficiency of their time behind the wheel.

The way to strike this balance is through automated job allocation and route planning and optimisation. As part of a fuel logistics management system, these features enable a fleet manager to enter a list of required drops and rely on the software to assign jobs and routes to their drivers in the most resource-efficient way, while also accounting for break times, consecutive hours off and legal shift limits. Drivers are able to achieve the optimum number of drops during their working hours, without losing any of the downtime that’s so vital for road safety and health and wellbeing.

This automated planning functionality also allows fleet managers to respond to changes in legislation, such as the DfT’s temporary relaxation of its drivers’ hours regulations earlier this year. Optimisation software enables instant adaption to longer working hours, automatically planning the extra time while saving hours of manual scheduling.

Keeping vehicles roadworthy

HGVs are built to be robust, but any vehicle that’s constantly on the move will require serious upkeep. Just as fleet managers have a duty of care towards their drivers, they must also ensure the fleet itself is maintained which, of course, links back to driver safety too.

Current government guidance states that every HGV should be subject to a daily walk-around inspection before a shift starts, as well as regular safety inspections and statutory annual tests. Drivers know their vehicles best, so it makes sense that they’re the ones who take on this vital duty.

Our fuel logistics software comes with a vehicle inspection app, which can be downloaded on any connected smartphone or mobile device. The simplicity and convenience of a digital inspection checklist to work through means drivers can run through daily inspections with ease, and automatically send back their findings to fleet managers via the system in real time. When it comes to more in-depth inspections and MOTs, fleet managers can set a maintenance schedule that reflects the realities of their operations, such as the age of their vehicles, the types of loads they transport and the distances they cover. Vehicles that regularly ship heavy loads over long distances will need more frequent maintenance checks and with digital reminders in place, these will never be missed.   

Getting the load right

Perhaps the most important part of fleet preparation is ensuring each vehicle is loaded with the correct amount of stock to be delivered. This is essential from the perspective of a business’s customers of course, but also in terms of fuel management, a central element of effectively running a fuel logistics fleet. Under or overloaded vehicles will cost an organisation in excess fuel (underloading due to having to drive further to make up the shortfall, and overloading since too much weight will increase fuel consumption), as well as potentially risking customer relations due to a failure to make accurate drops.    

Therefore, an operation’s weighing systems must work hand-in-hand with its management software, providing precise on-board stock monitoring and visibility from the moment vehicles are loaded. This way, fleet managers can confirm that each one is carrying the optimum load amount for fuel efficiency and order fulfilment before every shift. 

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