Understanding odometer and hour meter information for any desired period of time is important to get a grasp of their utilization picture. Historically, odometer or hour meter data was the key metric for utilization. In fact, it is still used in many fleets today and it is of great value to capture and use if it is available to you.
But there are many other points of data fleets use to get the full picture of what vehicles are being used, for how long and how far, which vehicles are not being used, and specific to cost savings, where waste is happening.
Number of Hours/Days Used or Idle
One of the most valuable metrics relative to monitoring utilization is generally some type of metric that shows how often a vehicle is being used or is otherwise unavailable to other drivers. Conversely, if the vehicle is not being used, it is not-in-use or idle. As straightforward as this sounds, there are two very different ways to interpret when a vehicle is “in use.” These include:
- The vehicle is in use by a driver, i.e., in possession of keys and/or vehicle.
- The vehicle is actually moving or idling as measured by GPS or other telematics devices.
Looking at the same situation from two different perspectives results in a different view relative to utilization. One view of the vehicle’s use reveals the vehicle is in use for 8 hours. Another view shows the vehicle was only used for 4 minutes. Make sure you are capturing the metrics that are important to you.
Collect data with the fidelity that you need to make decisions and changes to your fleet. In fleets with short duration trips, for example, understanding hour by hour utilization of each vehicle may be important as the same vehicle can be used many times per day. If the data were to be limited to presenting utilization only by the day, a true understanding of the number of vehicles required to fulfill the fleet’s mission may not be presented.
In most fleets, the ability to view day-by-day utilization is sufficient to understand the fleet’s utilization. Some Fleet Management Information Systems can present statistics to show the actual number of vehicles that were used in each period versus the maximum number of vehicles in use at any given time. The “Max in Use” line graph depicted in the figure below shows the minimum number of vehicles that could have been used to achieve the fleet’s mission if the coordination of vehicle use was optimized.
Vehicle utilization statistics, in general, are very valuable. But it’s difficult to understand what fleet changes need to be made without considering vehicle class, location, and other important attributes. Knowing that you have a situation of under-utilization is good. Knowing which class of vehicle is contributing to that under-utilization is great.
Fuel consumption closely mirrors odometer or hour meter data in its utility. It is often an easy-to-capture metric if electronic data capture of fuel records is enabled.
Idling can impact fuel metrics significantly. Idling represents a different type of utilization yet is equally important to understand.
Differing classes or types of vehicles (e.g., gas, hybrid, electric) will provide metrics which can’t be compared “apples to apples.” Reporting should differentiate vehicles by class.
Number of Trips
Counting the number of trips a vehicle has taken is a simple metric to capture via technology or even manually. While this metric is good for comparing relative use across a fleet or across vehicles from one time-period to the next, rarely does it provide the insights necessary to determine whether the right quantity and type of vehicles are available.
The value of capturing the number of trips may increase if there is a per-trip chargeback available. That is, if the number of trips metric can be used to cost-justify keeping a vehicle, this metric increases in value.
“Trips Turned Down” (unfulfilled vehicle requests)
This metric will leave a lot of fleet managers scratching their heads as it is rarely captured in fleets. Understanding the number of requests for vehicles that could not be fulfilled is one of the more powerful metrics relative to utilization in a shared fleet environment as it is a clear indication of how many vehicles were actually needed. Every time a vehicle is unavailable when needed, there is potential that necessary tasks are not being completed or, more likely, a more expensive mode of transportation is being used to meet the demand for vehicles or equipment.
When there are vehicles not-in-use yet requests for vehicles are being turned down, it is a clear indication that the mix of vehicles, i.e., classes of vehicles, at the location is not aligned with the organization’s needs. Analyzing the utilization of each class of vehicle at each location will highlight the type of changes that may need to be made to the fleet. Solutions to the problem may include changing driver behavior to use vehicles that are more readily available in the fleet, moving vehicles from one location to another to meet demand, or selling under-utilized classes of vehicles and acquiring the high-demand class of vehicles.
Requests turned down due to a lack of availability of the desired vehicle need to be clearly differentiated from requests turned down because a driver isn’t authorized to drive, or a trip was cancelled, etc.
If a fleet never has a request turned down, it is an indication that the fleet likely has too many vehicles. The key is to have an alternative if vehicles are not readily available and to analyze the cost-effectiveness of using alternative vehicles versus modifying the composition of the fleet. Common alternatives include outside rentals, use of personal vehicles, a ride sharing service or public transportation.
This metric is generally associated with centralized motor pools. However, even with intra-department sharing of vehicles that leverage a check-out and check-in system, this data can be captured.
There is more to understanding fleet utilization than just these points, but it’s a start. For some fleets, putting the spotlight on utilization and seeing where it truly is, versus where they thought it was, can be a shock. It is, however, necessary to make sure you are getting the maximum value out of vehicles while minimizing overhead (and not paying that overhead on unused or minimally used assets).
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