By Ed Smith, President, Agile Fleet
Having a right-sized fleet is essential to fulfilling the mission of your organization. Whether you are a community college with 15 vehicles or a large government, utility, or commercial enterprise with tens of thousands of vehicles, understanding and managing fleet utilization should be a top-of-mind thing that is at the core of right-sizing initiatives. Why? Because utilization metrics tell you about the size of your fleet relative to your needs.
The size of your fleet directly impacts the ability to complete your mission, and, it has a significant impact on your organization’s financial bottom-line. Too few vehicles and you can’t get work done. Too many vehicles and you’re burning money needlessly. The key is to have the “right” utilization when it comes to your fleet.
What is a right-sized fleet? We have been involved with fleet right-sizing initiatives for almost twenty years and have worked with many types of fleets. While every fleet has some unique characteristics that change the importance of each component of utilization, the quantity and use of vehicles is not the only variable to focus on. We recommend you focus on four key components of a right-sized fleet, namely:
1. The right quantity – Do you have the right quantity of vehicles, i.e., not too many and not too few?
2. The right location – Are the vehicles available where they are needed? If you have vehicles but they are not affordably accessible at the location where the work or the drivers are located, then vehicles are effectively not available. Alternatively, if a seldom-used class of vehicle is accessible just a short distance away, perhaps that class of vehicle is not needed at each fleet location. This is also where we can take asset criticality into account. There are some pieces of equipment that are so critical to supporting an organization, that they are needed at several locations, regardless of use (think of a firetruck or other emergency response equipment).
3. Right type / class – Do we have the right type or class of vehicle? If I have ten box trucks available yet have a need for more small passenger vehicles, I really haven’t fulfilled the need for small passenger vehicles.
NAFA Fleet Management Association agrees that not only the overall fleet, but every vehicle in it, needs to be right-sized for their primary mission. When procuring a new asset, you should ask: Are the engines large enough to perform the recurring tasks but not oversized. Can the task be accomplished with a two-wheel drive vehicle instead of a 4-wheel drive vehicle? Can we get by with four radio speakers instead of six? Can we use the tread plate platform on the liftgate instead of the extruded aluminum? A component of right-sizing is choosing the right class of vehicle and upfitting just enough of the vehicles to do the job.
4. The right time – Do drivers have access to vehicles when they are needed? Are vehicles available after hours or on weekends? If access to vehicles requires access to a motor pool office or an outside rental office that is closed, needs go unfulfilled. Your drivers need access to vehicles at the time the job needs to be done.
But what about the number of miles driven, hours operated, trips taken, hours billed, and other benchmarks we are often required to reach each month as part of a fleet utilization program? These are important. But at the end of the day, these metrics are tools for helping to understand the right quantity, location, class, and accessibility of vehicles. Are you collecting those metrics? At Agile Fleet, we have the tools to help you efficiently collect your fleet metrics for fleet right-sizing.
If you want to delve deeper into best practices for your approach to right-sizing, we invite you to download the utilization e-book we co-authored with NAFA Fleet Management Association: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Fleet Utilization & Achieving the Right-Sized Fleet . I can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org; 408-213-9555 x 555, feel free to reach out to me directly. We’ve helped hundreds of fleets solve their right-sizing challenges, and we can help you too.