Even in a technology-driven environment in which communications and telematics can be used to keep track of every detail of a fleet’s operation, more than half of fleet managers still say fuel costs exceed projections and that they’re concerned about fuel theft.
Simply, many trucking and transportation businesses are not taking full advantage of solutions that are proven to be effective and are readily available in the marketplace, says a recent survey and analysis by Software Advice, a company that provides detailed reviews and research on thousands of software applications.
Fuel is a “pain point” for fleets for a number of reasons beyond price volatility, including accounting errors, inefficient route planning, traffic congestion, poor driver behavior (such as hard braking or excessive idling), and theft or fraud, the report explains.
Additionally, fuel hedging contracts “can be a gamble” – and even volume discount programs are complicated.
“The company is supposed to work with a fuel supplier for discounts, and that is not always easy to deal with, which makes a big impact on the overall costs of fuel,” says one of the survey respondents, a fleet manager at a transportation company. “It takes some time to get the cost totaled.”
And the complexity and error rate is multiplied when “a hodgepodge of spreadsheets, basic accounting software and, often, a lot of guesswork” are used to track these costs and to put together a budget.
Automation not only reduces those errors (and the manpower required for the task) and offers a variety of reporting options, many fleet management systems can be integrated fuel payment services, according Software Advice.
“By optimizing routes and relying on algorithms that can predict fuel efficiency based on load size, traffic patterns and driver behavior—in addition to feeding in the most accurate predictions for future gas prices—this software can significantly narrow the estimated fuel cost range,” the report says.
Likewise, the accounting accuracy of a fleet management system can make up for leaky fuel theft protection procedures.
“It is difficult for us to impose the rules that we have about documenting fuel costs,” says another survey respondent, an accountant at a contracting firm that operates a fleet of heavy construction vehicles.
Fleet management software assists with preventing fuel theft because it is able to provide “incredibly accurate estimates” for how much fuel should be consumed in a given situation, the report notes.
Additionally, the survey asked an open-ended question about the benefits respondents have seen from using fleet management software. (Of the sample, two-thirds reported they used a formal fleet management system.) See the chart at left.