Many people come to us saying they have no way of tracking or managing their vehicles or the employees using their vehicles. Most have no vehicle sharing program. Some do share vehicles, but are doing it manually, with email, spreadsheets, and paper. And while many do track odometer or fuel burn, the majority have no idea of whether their vehicles are efficiently utilized or not, or how to go about getting data to support an answer.If this sounds like you, you may be wondering: “How do I quantify our vehicle utilization and prove that vehicles are being used if I don’t have the data to back it up?”
The good news is you can start simply. The end game is getting metrics that are objective, timely, show trends, and ultimately show what you are looking for. Our definition of right-sized fleet is having the right quantities and types of vehicles readily available at the right location at the right time.
Of course as a fleet technology solutions company, we don’t endorse using methods such as looking out the window the same time of day and counting vehicles, or putting pennies on tires or chalking tires to see if a vehicle has moved. But even rudimentary methods can be turned into numbers that you can work with.
If you're like many fleets, you do have odometer and fuel burn data. And that's a start. However, neither odometer nor fuel burn provide any insight as to whether vehicles are available to fulfill the mission of the organization. Having any metric is better than no metrics. The key is getting to start with a baseline number, and then add benchmarks.
Some less obvious places to look for clues to your utilization metrics are how much you are reimbursing people for personal vehicle use, how much you are spending on outside rentals, and even how many service calls for dead batteries you have made. All of these offer a glimpse at where money is being spent outside of your rental fleet.
When you do get some data to work with, how can you view it with expert eyes? Here are some expert recommendations:
- Don’t look at your vehicles across the entire fleet. At minimum, always look at each type of vehicle, where they are located, and whether or not they are accessible at the time people need them.
- A great utilzation metric to look at is number of vehicle request turn-downs. How often do you not have the right vehicle at the right time to do the job?
- Don’t rely solely on mileage. The number of trips a vehicle takes may be a better measure of usage because some organizations' vehicles don’t travel far, but are well utilized because they take multiple trips per day. Other organizations have far to travel, but are poorly utilized because the number of trips are few and far between.
- Always consider cycles in usage. Universities are a good example of organizations that have high peaks in demand during certain times of the year. You would not want to go into a university setting during winter break, for example, and analyze utilization and start eliminating vehicles. When break is over, you’d be in trouble.
- Take a closer look at fuel burn. Keep in mind fuel burn doesn’t account for idling. In fact, we’ve heard of reports where idling increases because the increase in fuel burn provides the perception that the vehicle is needed more often.
- Tackle data first by looking at vehicles by site. Then, drill down to usage by type of vehicle, then look at the usage of each specific vehicle. Issues should jump out at you. Do your 5-passenger SUVs sit idle all the time because no one is allowed to use them?
Former City of Norfolk Fleet Manager Facundo Tassara shared with us that when he was championing the idea of implementing the FleetCommander fleet management system to his city, his director almost squashed the entire project due to lack of metrics supporting it. Tassara says: “I told him, the whole point of the initiative is to finally get the metrics we need to understand how our fleet is being run. We had to change the mindset of the people. And we did.” Tassara, who left the City of Norfolk to join a private fleet technology company, recently visited his former co-workers. “I was greeted by the senior assistant to the City Manager who thanked me for putting the system in place. People there love it and they finally have the data they need,” Tassara tells us.
Our software solution FleetCommander offers a way to track vehicles and drivers online, and collect data automatically. In fact, we recently developed a new report that shows utilization based on odometer. For more information on that, or if you simply want to better understand your fleet utilization, listen to our Fleet Expert Q&A: Decoding Fleet Utilization Metrics.