The trucking industry is in the middle of a period of significant change. New regulations, tighter margins, and increased competition all present challenges. At the same time, new technologies offer tools that allow us to navigate the changes and turn challenges into opportunities. Choosing the right fleet maintenance software gives you an advantage in a competitive market.
What should you look for in fleet maintenance software? Whether you’re an independent owner-operator or in charge of multiple hubs spread across the nation, fleet maintenance software should make record-keeping and reporting efficient, offer accurate tracking, and empower confident planning and prediction.
One of the biggest challenges in selecting fleet maintenance software for your business is comparing and contrasting all of the features of the many options that are available to you. In this article, we’ll discuss the features that you should expect from any fleet maintenance program and the benefits they can deliver for your business.
Key Features of Quality Fleet Maintenance Software
It’s hard to overstate the impact of technology on the trucking industry over the past decade or so. Waxing nostalgic about the good old days can be fun for those of us who remember them. Still, the fact of the matter is that learning to use the tools that technology offers us now can pay-off by increasing efficiency and improving profitability.
For large fleets, technology has made it possible for a few people with laptops to do the work that would have taken a room full of filing cabinets and a whole department just a couple of decades ago. Small fleets and independent owner-operators can take advantage of the same resources by way of the many free and inexpensive fleet management options available.
When choosing and implementing a fleet maintenance program, the goal should be to get better record-keeping, reporting, tracking, and prediction as returns on a smaller investment of time, effort, and overhead.
You need to consider what a software package offers in terms of asset management, maintenance management, and information management and how these features will lead to better results for your business. You have the right to expect decreased downtime, reduced costs, and improved safety. You need information that improves performance and increases profitability.
The First Feature to Look for is Asset Management
Asset management is a fundamental feature of any fleet management software. No matter how large or small a fleet you’re responsible for, you need to be able to control the critical aspects of the assets that make up your business from acquisition to divestment.
The best options available will offer functions that allow you to build a customizable database, create codes, and group your assets. All of this will lead to increased efficiency and improved results in areas like:
- Technical Specifications
- Location Assignment
- Use History
In addition to these key features, quality fleet management software will make it easy to add and close files as assets are added to or eliminated from your fleet. The reduction in clerical work frees up time and resources for projects that have a more significant impact on the bottom line.
Think of the asset management capability of any fleet management program as the foundation that it lays for the other features it offers. By offering an accessible, shareable, and searchable hub for the information about your fleet, it lays the groundwork for functions that make it easier to get better results from your operation.
The Second Feature to Look for is Maintenance Management
It’s hard for a fleet to turn a profit when it’s sitting still. It can be just as challenging to keep a fleet healthy when it’s always in motion and to generate a profit. But if you don’t take a pro-active approach to maintenance, it’s only a matter of time before your profitable fleet will be sitting still due to breakdowns.
It can seem like a catch-22, a truck that’s out of service for maintenance isn’t generating revenue, but a truck that’s generating revenue has to be taken out of service for maintenance eventually. The key is to manage these competing demands by making maintenance as efficient as possible and scheduling it in ways that minimize the impact on operations.
Even for a single truck, it takes a lot of coordination to strike the right balance. Getting the coordination right takes the information. Making that much information manageable gets a lot easier when you let technology do the heavy lifting for you.
Heavy-duty truck repair software will help you manage crucial tasks such as:
- Scheduling: You should be able to easily schedule repairs and maintenance while avoiding conflicts, minimizing downtime, and avoiding the high cost of emergency road-side service.
- Tracking: Annual inspections and other routine requirements can be hard to keep track of, but failing to get them done can result in out-of-service units as well as fines and fees.
- Projections: Knowing when a unit is going to be due for service and how much downtime to anticipate is crucial to keeping your operation profitable and never missing a load due to maintenance-related scheduling conflicts.
- Record Keeping: You can eliminate one of the most labor-intensive parts of your maintenance program with software that helps you go paperless.
- Reporting: Another benefit of paperless record keeping is efficient reporting between departments and to outside agencies.
- Warranty Tracking: If you’ve ever found a costly problem a few thousand miles or a few weeks after a warranty expires, you know how frustrating it can be.
The Third Feature to Look for is Information Management
Paperless record-keeping is an essential feature of fleet maintenance software and one that pays off in numerous benefits for shop management. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the advantages a software program can deliver to your company’s bottom line. Make sure that everyone can access the information they need from wherever they are.
Back in the days of filing cabinets and paper records, you not only needed more people to manage information but also required them to know what they were looking for and where to find it. Fleet maintenance software allows you to sort and compile data into reports that will enable you to make informed decisions where you once had to rely on a “best guess.”
Once entered, the data is available to anyone at any time. You’ll save time and effort getting the information into the system and then save more every time you use the system to put together a report that helps you make an informed business decision.
Any good fleet maintenance software will make it easier for you to gather, access, share and act on important information. The best options for the trucking industry will incorporate industry-specific elements like VMRS Codes and offer customizable solutions for your business’s unique proprietary needs.
The Fourth Feature to Look for is Results
It’s essential to perform due diligence before you select a fleet maintenance software program. It’s just as important to continue evaluating its performance over time. All of the high-tech bells and whistles in the world won’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things if they don’t deliver measurable results for your bottom-line.
You should monitor the results that you’re getting from your fleet maintenance software to determine whether it’s delivering results in critical areas like:
- Decreased Downtime: Are your trucks spending more time on the road and making money even as you make progress toward your preventative maintenance goals?
- Reduced Costs: Are preventative maintenance and timely repairs helping to reduce the number of high-dollar fixes?
- Improved Safety: Has better record-keeping and reporting led to safer operations and full-compliance with Federal regulations?
- Bottom-Line: At the end of the day, the most critical question to ask is whether better information has led to increased profitability for your business.
Checking all of the boxes and meeting all of your fleet’s needs in every area is a pretty tall order for any fleet maintenance program.
Some packages emphasize asset management and deliver everything a fleet manager needs. Other packages emphasize preventative maintenance and perform well on heavy-duty shop management or heavy-duty truck repair. Then some packages emphasize information management and help to coordinate with outside parties like heavy-duty repair shops.
It is tough, if not impossible, to find a single software solution that performs everything that you need in each of these areas. Even when you think you’ve found the right package to implement for your fleet, you still have to monitor its performance and troubleshoot the problems that pop-up. Nobody wants to spend all of their time tracking the tracker or monitoring the monitor.
Taking A Different Approach to Fleet Maintenance: Maximizing the Benefits for Your Business
No matter what role you play in the trucking industry, you probably have a healthy skepticism toward any fleet maintenance software that claims it can solve all of your problems and make everybody’s life easier. We’ve heard those same claims, and we’ve been disappointed before, so we feel your pain.
The biggest problem facing the software industry, when it comes to designing a fleet maintenance program that delivers on all fronts, is that there is just so much to manage. It is impossible to be everything to everyone. Fleet managers, drivers, owner-operators, maintenance managers, and third-party service providers all have unique needs.
Most of the fleet maintenance software programs available today make a big mistake in seeing the many roles within the industry and the unique needs that each role has as a challenge to overcome rather than as a resource to take advantage of.
The software offerings available to the trucking industry are all designed to move information into the hands of a central decision-maker from their subordinates and partners and move information outward from the primary decision-maker to assistants and partners.
What if software turned the skills, knowledge, and experience of every professional in the industry into an asset? That would make it easier for them to work together to get the best results in the shortest amount of time and at the lowest price?
We know how much a fleet manager has on his or her plate. Staying on top of a fleet that is in motion can be like herding cats—only those cats need to comply with regulations on drivers’ hours, receive regular oil changes, and operate at a profit. It doesn’t matter if you manage a large fleet or a small one—a small fleet just means you have to do more with less.
No matter how much power a software package gives you to gather, organize, and analyze information—it can’t free you up from the day-to-day decisions of the business if everything runs through you. Wouldn’t your time be better spent focusing on planning and projections – your vision for how the company will grow and prosper in the future?
You hire qualified professionals to drive your fleet, repair your fleet, and provide the services and supplies that it takes to keep your fleet running. Wouldn’t life be better if you had a tool that empowered those professionals to take some of the responsibility off of your plate and solve problems collaboratively?
Trucking is one of the last industries in America where you can be your boss, earn a comfortable living, and enjoy a high quality of life. But new regulations, tight margins, and increasing competition make it harder and harder to manage. It takes a lot of skill to haul loads safely and a lot of organization and focus on managing your schedule.
You deserve to keep as much of what you earn through your hard work and skill as possible. Every penny saved is truly a penny earned.
When you lose profits due to fines for paperwork that didn’t get filed or pay for repairs or sit at a garage for too long, those losses hurt. Looking for ways to prevent these problems in the future, it can feel like your only option is to spend 84 hours each week driving, and the other 84 doing paperwork, networking, and marketing.
Back in the good old days, a CB radio was all you had to work with when you needed useful information in unfamiliar territory. You would think that with all of the technological advances we’ve seen, there would be a tool to help you tap into the best info available and make the best decisions for your business.
We know that maintenance managers take a lot of pride in keeping every unit in their fleet safe, compliant, and profitable. We also know how hard they have to work to make that happen on a tight schedule and a tight budget.
You probably know your fleet, your inventory, and the market for parts and supplies better than anyone else in your organization. Yet, all too often, by the time you get approval to act on an opportunity to save time or money and get better results—the window has closed.
The drivers and trucks in your fleet are only making money when hands are on steering wheels. For you, it’s a matter of getting your hands dirty on the routine maintenance and critical repairs that keep drivers and trucks working for the benefit of the company’s bottom line. The more time you have to spend researching and attending meetings, the less you can get done where it counts.
When you own or work for a business that caters to the trucking industry, your part of that big family. You want to offer your customers the best options available in the goods and services they need at the best prices possible. Not only does your business depend on it, but it’s why you enjoy doing what you do.
When your customers spend their time cruising along at 65 mph driving back and forth between the coasts, it can be hard to know what they want and need. Even when you get that figured out, you have to face the challenge of letting them know what you have and where and when they can get it.
FleetPal is the CB Radio of the 21st Century – Use it To Get Better Results for Your Business
At FleetPal, we’ve been studying the challenges that confront the professionals who work in the trucking industry. We’ve also spent a lot of time looking at what fleet maintenance software does well, where it could do better, and what it doesn’t do at all. Our goal has always been to spot opportunities to do better and find ways to make that happen.
FleetPal’s software package taps into the skills, knowledge, and experience that professionals working in this industry have. What we bring to the table is the opportunity to make a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. We invite you to try the tools that FleetPal brings together and see for yourself the difference they can make.