At Fleetsu we are passionate about building working solutions that really ‘work hard’ for our customers. Using spreadsheets to solve problems is a great way to drive a quick solution, however when it comes to fleet management we are constantly told that the spreadsheet ‘solution’ has now grown into a problem.
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Guest contributor Paul Oliver shares why fleets should consider migrating to a more advanced fleet management system.
For many years, Microsoft Excel has been the favoured tool for small to medium size fleets to manage their motor vehicles. Indeed, there are probably some large fleets that use it as well. But I suspect we are now witnessing it’s replacement in a number of these fleets due to its limitations as a fleet management system.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Excel, it has a certain logic to it that I cannot find in Word, by comparison. For an ‘off the shelf’ product it is highly powerful and ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to database management, analytics and graphical presentations. It even comes with the cost of a Microsoft Office subscription, so the price is certainly right!
Most fleet reviews I undertake start with me requesting data on the fleet, and invariably what I receive from my client is an Excel spreadsheet with data provided in a multitude of formats. In most cases, important fleet vehicle data is missing but that tends to be one of the reasons for the review.
The First Limitation – Us
We need to firstly acknowledge that Excel is a spreadsheet that features calculation, graphing tools, pivot tables and macro programming capability. Accordingly, it has incredibly broad application across most organisations – it was never designed to be a fleet management system!
While some people may have had training, I suspect that most of us have learnt our Excel skills on the job. That being the case, we often lack the necessary skills to use the comprehensive range of functions at our disposal. So, I believe in the first instance we tend to be its biggest limitation.
Do we sit there each month entering or importing odometer readings to do some basic calculations on vehicle utilisation? If we do, is that an effective use of our time when the information could be available on demand?
For those that take responsibility for managing the fleet along with a range of other tasks, there is generally a lack of understanding of what information is important. One of the most common that I find is the age of the vehicle. Information that I receive will often show something like 2019 Toyota Camry – what does the 2019 relate to? Is it Model Year, Compliance Plate, Build Plate or First Registered Year?
In a recent fleet review I conducted, the answer to these questions received a range of responses and resulted in some overhauling of the database. It also revealed one vehicle listed as a 2019 (based on Compliance Plate) was actually built some 14 months earlier in 2018 – a sudden impact on its resale value!
For me to assess vehicle safety, starting with an ANCAP rating I needed to know the Build Plate Date. The same goes for CO2 emissions, fuel consumption, vehicle recalls etc.
The Second Limitation – Absent or Fragmented Data
Fleet data often comes to us from multiple sources – field card reports, internal accounting systems, telematics providers, poolcar booking systems, logbooks etc.
The first issue here is that it is difficult to harness the benefits of this data. To best understand fleet performance we need to narrow down the data repositories. Data integration is key to developing the necessary insights that enable informed decision making.
There are too many circumstances that exist where organisations are managing their fleet using systems that ‘don’t talk to each other’.
Similarly, many small to medium size fleets sometimes don’t capture data that is important in managing their fleets most effectively. Maintenance costs seem to be a good example – it’s hard to demonstrate that old vehicles are costing an organisation too much when these costs are not accounted for separately.
The second issue is the effort that some conscientious people will go to in ‘pulling together’ data from multiple sources. It just doesn’t seem productive!
The Third Limitation – Compliance
This is a broad area and depending on the fleet makeup there can be various things to consider. The first to consider is obligations under the Work Health & Safety Act 2011. Is an organisation meeting its ‘duty of care’? Providing safe vehicles, ensuring they are maintained, the drivers licenced etc.
If we have a carpool – do we know who is/was driving the vehicle at any specific moment in time? Do we know how they were driving – speeding etc?
When it comes to Heavy Commercial Vehicles do we have all the data that is the starting point for meeting National Heavy Vehicle Law sitting in a spreadsheet eg. Total Mass, Axle Mass & Towing Mass?
For all of these reasons (and the others that would not fit into this article), I see Excel gradually being replaced oy organisations implementing a more holistic fleet management system.
Ultimately, these systems have the capacity to enable improved decision making and cost management, enhance productivity and meet compliance obligations to drive improved Fleet ROI.