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Thinking Of Outsourcing Your Trucking Maintenance Needs? Run A Pilot Program

Are you running an in-house maintenance program but are considering moving to an outsourced solution? If so, there are many steps you must go through to ensure the fit is right. The fact is, how your trucking company runs their maintenance program is critical to other aspects of fleet operations, such as safety and truck driver satisfaction.

That’s why getting the most out of your budget while keeping your expensive heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles (CMV) properly maintained and well-looked-after is of utmost importance. It’s another reason why you should never take chances in this area. As we will discuss in a moment, the type of fleet maintenance program you run is likely based on your fleet’s size and function.

Many larger fleets, flush with excess capacity and plenty of available real estate on their side, run in-house maintenance programs, simply because their sheer size demands it. Whether it be huge shops ready to pull in-and-out dozens of trucks a day for a fleet of hundreds or otherwise, the big guys often like to retain control over their maintenance programs, if for nothing else than to appease the accountants in the back office.

Keeping It In-House

For large fleets, in-house maintenance programs allow them to control everything from product procurement to technician hiring.

As they bring in new vehicles – and perhaps new technologies – keeping technician programs in-house keeps training and development departments busy and provides for quicker response times and better management over the care of the most important part of your fleet: the trucks and their truck drivers.

Still, there are advantages to outsourcing your fleet’s maintenance program, you just have to know how to find them. This holds true even for larger fleets. You don’t have to be a tiny operator to put your CMVs in the hands of those who know how to handle them. But shouldn’t you be conducting your due diligence. Of course, so you’ll want to conduct a pilot program.

First, let’s take a crack at the larger question, which is: What is a Pilot Program?

Piloting the Program

A pilot program is really nothing more than an experiment. Whenever a business – regardless of size – tries a new product, service or initiative, they do it through a pilot program. This is also why new televisions programs generally start off with what is called a “pilot” episode.

Where business is concerned, pilot programs are small-scale and are generally run over a pre-set trial period separated from the overall business operation – in this case, the day-to-day operations of a motor carrier. This way they do not disrupt overall business operations.

Some examples could be a motor carrier testing a new type of fuel or running through a series of ELD options before the hammer of the mandate falls. Another could include dispatchers installing a new software platform that includes real-time fleet tracking. Integrating these components are often a job within itself, hence the need for patience.

Now imagine this expanded out to include a fleet’s maintenance cycle. There’s a lot to lose, but also a heck of a lot to gain. To do it properly, you must take a very careful and deliberate approach.

It’s important that a fleet shop manager define the goals of their fleet maintenance pilot program as the first step in the process. Make sure to have goals set out that are not only actionable, but attainable.

Your goals should, of course, take your return on investment in mind. One such example could be to decrease your overall fleet maintenance costs by 5% in the first year. So, once you’ve set out your goals, what’s next?

Identifying Your Vendors

There are validated research companies that you can contact to help you compare providers and vendors. Asking for a list of references is also recommended. If you choose to go with an outsourced maintenance option, perhaps you should be considering the outsourced company’s customer service record.

If the vendor’s pricing structure has changed, how much and how often has it changed? Does the vendor offer an impressive variety of fleet maintenance services? What kind of price-per-value can you expect?

Whether you are meeting with a company representative in person or speaking to a customer representative over the phone, don’t hesitate to ask your potential partner vital questions. After all, you need to ensure they are the right choice for your fleet.

Does the vendor have multiple locations? Furthermore, do you have multiple locations that you require a maintenance group to service? You’ll need to make sure your outsource provider can meet your needs.

And not only that, but are they available during the hours that you work? The vendor you choose needs to be available when you need them to be available, especially in case of an emergency. Your routes are at stake.

Your final consideration is the one you likely have least control over, and that’s affordability. Are you getting what you pay for in the value offered? Are there hidden fees or “subscription” costs? Is the vendor charging you based on weekly, monthly or annually – these are questions you need answered for the sake of how you run your business.

Choosing a Site and Setting a Time

If you are a small fleet with only one vehicle, the answer should be clear, but when you are a large motor carrier with hundreds of vehicles, choosing a location to run your pilot program may be a little harder.

The same holds true for fleets who have a mixture of different vehicles that they use in day-to-day operations. Whether light-duty trucks, to sedans or heavy-duty vocational equipment, you want to ensure your maintenance pilot program addresses the needs of all your vehicles.

Also consider the people you will have at the chosen location. Your onsite manager needs to be fully open to the pilot program and whatever changes you plan on adopting.

When you are choosing to go with an outsourced maintenance program, you want to ensure your onsite manager won’t just say yes to anyone. You need someone who will oversee the pilot program with a critical eye and not be afraid to make vital recommendations – or speak up when something doesn’t seem right.

Overall, the site you pick for the pilot program will depend on what your maintenance goals and options are. Utilize your outsource partners to help you find a site, especially considering it is their services you will count on to upgrade and improve upon your business.

Also, when considering when and where you are going to host your maintenance outsourcing pilot program, consider the duration. Programs like these last anywhere from three months to a full year, depending on your fleet. What will be your pilot program duration?

The time it takes to assess a product or service should run parallel to your end-result goals. It’s for this very reason that proper goal-setting at the beginning of the process is so important.

If you are working with a larger vendor, make sure they have benchmarks in place to ensure assessments can be made at certain points during the pilot program, whether it be one, three, six months or more, depending on the duration of the pilot program.

Correlate Efficiency and Cost

When it comes to the two most important things behind any change in a fleet management program, you can expect cost and efficiency to be at the top of the lists for what their concerns are.

For smaller fleets that must show a return on investment in a shorter period, leveraging cost and efficiency becomes more difficult. Larger fleets typically have a higher level of maintenance capabilities and expanded resources. They can standardize their procedures at a far greater pace and with more ease.

Therefore, no matter your fleet size, if you are considering outsourcing your maintenance operations, make sure you find a partner who fits your customized needs. A provider worth their salt in CMV maintenance will not be caught off guard when you require something for your smaller fleet; something that much larger – and perhaps more frequent – customers might not request.

Why Outsource Pilot Programs Matter

The last thing you want to do is hire a partner that you have trouble working with. Not only does a pilot program let you test a product or service, but it provides you with an opportunity to see how the company you are about to do business with reacts in real-world scenarios.

The results of a pilot program could reveal hidden problems you might not have uncovered otherwise. Getting better at responding to unanticipated issues also creates a more flexible, responsive and ultimately more profitable organization.

Also consider that you are making a large investment into the future of your organization and its partnership with another, separate organization. This isn’t something that should be taken lightly.

In actual real-world fleet decision-making, you need positive, facts, figures and results if you are going to either switch from or switch to an outsourced fleet maintenance solution. The pilot program, when combined with a clear line of communication between your fleet and the vendor can provide just the information you need to determine if the partnership will be successful. And this before any significant investments on either side. What’s not to like about that?

Your Guide To Creating A Proper Collision Procedures Plan

If you examine Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) numbers, you’ll see that the average commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accident resulting in property damaged came in around $18,000.

If there was an injury involved? Expect that number to jump to $331,000.

Also bear in mind that neither of these numbers take into account potential loss to reputation, damage to materials, insurance costs and other costs associated with the crash.

The fact is, accident costs are on the rise, and your fleet needs to have a plan in place to handle the situation should an accident occur.

Consider that a serious collision could completely sink a small business and it isn’t hard to understand why having adequate procedures in place could be the life or death of a business.

While you may be using technology, such as video-based solutions, that’s great, but you’re going to need more than just a video feed, you’ll need a plan.

Contact and Information Exchange
Your plan should include a place where your truck driver immediately pull over and assess the situation. If there are injuries, major damage, or a liquid spill, the first thing in the procedure should be for the truck driver contact the authorities.

Next, the trucker should contact dispatch and alert them of the situation. Everything must be properly documented, from the location to the time, date and circumstances of the collision. It is important that crucial aspects of what happened be recorded while they are still fresh in the mind.

It’s also important that your truck driver not discuss the incident with anyone at the scene outside law enforcement or emergency personnel, and people directly involved with the crash.

Insurance Notification
In this case it’s likely going to be someone in the back office who handles the insurance claim, but this is an important part of the process as they will want to begin their investigation immediately.

The insurance company themselves will decide whether to send an investigator or adjustor out to the scene. Don’t be surprised that – if called – the investigator may want to speak to other people within the organization, such as the truck driver’s manager or perhaps the dispatcher who was on duty when the accident occurred.

Ensuring your insurance company is quickly notified and that accurate data is sent to them will be vital in making sure your claim comes through clean and without error.

Handling Personnel
Depending on the situation, you may need to send additional personnel to the scene. Is there a load currently out there that will need to be picked up?

Furthermore, do you want to send a supervisor to the scene? Of course, you will be instructing the truck driver, but perhaps you want someone to help gather witnesses or corroborate accounts, or maybe survey the scene for other evidence or bits of information.

An important tip, whether for the truck driver or the person you send to the scene, is to create a “Witness Checklist” where they can document everything from direction on skid marks to traffic signs and road conditions.

Managing Disruption
The key to figuring your way through situations like these is to learn how to properly manage disruptions that may come as a result of the accident.

These include disruptions on the financial side due to increased costs, disruption in the shop due to a potentially very large repair coming in, disruption to the internal supply chain and the list goes on and on.

If you can manage it all with little to no disruption, you’ve developed a great network and are likely to get yourself through an accident crisis with little to no problem.

As long as you keep all of these tips in place, you’ll be ready for anything!

Private or Dedicated Fleet? Digging Into Dedicated.

Economies change all the time and fleets are constantly looking for ways to stay competitive in market that could sway one way or another at the drop of a hat. You might be an intrepid investor looking to buy into your own trucking company, but what’s the best move in this environment?

Quite frankly, evaluating the type of fleet you use could have a major impact on everything from cost, service, reliability and technical aptitude and on down to your bottom line itself.

There are a great many differences between a private or dedicated fleet, so we want to take a moment to dig a little deeper into those differences, and what that means for your business. But first, let’s go through a brief primer of what each type of fleet consists of.

Private Fleets

Operating a private fleet essentially gives you full control over the fleet. Not only are you – pun intended – in the driver’s seat, but you can also take comfort in guaranteed capacity, full control over your supply chain and complete visibility across your organization.

Additionally, when you own a private fleet, you can brand it to say whatever you want it to, with that generally being the name of your company. The equipment in your fleet can be to any spec you desire, and that’s the beauty of it. Yet, it also goes far beyond simple aesthetics.

Running a cash crunch, yet have excess capacity? With a private fleet, you can sell off your excess capacity and add revenue to your business by hauling freight for other companies.

Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t downsides to going with a private fleet. From maintenance to substitute vehicles, fuel, licensing and more, private fleets require a lot more up-front investment in both time and money.

Private fleets also face challenges in supply chain and customer requirement volatility. Regulatory burdens add to the weight.

Big rig tractors aren’t cheap, but when you run a private fleet, you may need to have an extra or two on hand so that you can be flexible when the time comes or demand rises faster than your initial expectations – a phenomena happening all around the country as the economy continues to chug along.

Of course, no one wants to have a vehicle sitting idle, so handling this aspect of running a private fleet can be a bit tricky. Since private fleets are nearly always planning for the peak period, vehicles sitting idle lock up revenue dollars as well.

Dedicated Fleets

A dedicated fleet allows a company to have the benefits of fleet-ownership without having to actually own the fleet themselves. There are a number good reasons to go this route as well.

Working with a dedicated fleet provides you with a near-constant and endless supply of capacity when you need it the most. You can even still get private branding with dedicated fleets and generate additional revenue streams through backhauling.

Customization is also available on a dedicated fleet. The good part? The fleet owner doesn’t have to worry about any risks associated with owning the vehicle. Instead, the provider takes it all on, with not an ounce of liability on your side.

Dedicated fleets also guarantee you truck drivers who are specifically trained for the application the fleet will be using them in. You can add and subtract from your fleet during peak periods without having to “own” a vehicle.  Even better, with a dedicated fleet you won’t have to worry about vehicles sitting idle contributing nothing to your bottom line.

By signing a deal for a dedicated fleet, you’re also usually given maintenance and vehicle replacement coverage, direct from the provider themselves or their own vendors. The fact is, hiring a dedicated fleet is a huge cost boon.

Generally, dedicated fleets offer a bit more flexibility, access to more capital and fewer problems in the cab. Outsourcing compliance and liability headaches alone is enough to send any sane fleet manager into a strait jacket.

Still, this doesn’t mean dedicated fleets aren’t without their flaws. Whereas you had full control over your men and machines with a private fleet, dedicated fleets don’t offer the same amount of control, even if you can customize the vehicle the way you need it.

That control becomes a problem if your partner isn’t turning out to be a good fit. Let’s say their truck drivers have safety violations or are just plain rude to customers. These are things you have no control over. If you’re stuck eating a bad apple, it’s you that gets the stomach ache, not the apple.

Designing a Dedicated Fleet

Now that you know what each fleet type consists of, let’s dig a little more into one of them, and how you might go about building up a new relationship with a dedicated fleet provider.

Of course, a great many companies utilize dedicated fleet trucks, still, very few give enough credence to fleet configuration. Yet, they should be, because configuration and application can have a huge impact on how they receive services, manage costs and control growth.

Although the motor carrier operating the dedicated fleet may still own or lease the vehicles under its watch, the motor carrier then hires a provider to manage fleet operations, from route-planning on down through flat tires and other routine maintenance checks.

The term “dedicated fleet” is itself also known as a “dedicated contract carrier/carriage”.  The term refers specifically to tractors, trailers, truckers and other resources, whether human or mechanical, that is specifically devoted to operating between waypoints and headquarters within a shipping network.

Dedicated fleets can usually be broken up into two specific categories:

  • Network-based
  • Depot-based

So, what’s the difference?

A network-based fleet uses a transportation network and balances the freight movement between it. The dedicated supply chain is managed through network nodes.

A depot-based fleet operates on the principle of a hub-and-spoke, where the freight rotates around specific key truck terminals and fleet-authorized destinations.

So, now that we’ve uncovered two surface layers, let’s dive into another layer of dedicated fleets. Many think dedicated fleets are the better option simply because they offer a greater potential for better service and lower costs.

Determining Dedicated Fleet Suitability

Of course, a dedicated fleet is not suitable for all circumstances. We want to be clear on that point. In today’s post, we are devoting time to discussing dedicated fleets, but in our next post it may be private fleets. Here at the QuickTSI Blog, we are here to merely provide you with the information. You then go on to decide what to do with it.

We’ll start with determining suitability for a dedicated fleet. You need to take close look at your distribution networks.

As an example, the costs associated with one-way freight flows don’t justify the benefit of having a dedicated fleet. If you combine:

  • Low service requirements
  • High carrier capacity
  • High average length of haul

Then there are few benefits to running a dedicated fleet, outside of keeping an absolute guarantee that there will always be capacity within the supply chain.

Where dedicated fleets offer the most benefit is when the freight is flowing in multiple directions. Of course, it’s easy to talk about complex models designed to determine the type of fleet you use, but putting it to use is even harder, especially for large motor carriers operating across dozens of routes and with significant freight flows.

Generally, large motor carriers will resort to an analytical model or third-party provider to help them determine maximal opportunity with a dedicated fleet on duty.

When analyzing this model, you’ll also want to ensure you do your due diligence on finding a partner who will ensure your reputation stays intact without negatively impacting your bottom line with an exorbitant expense sheet.

It doesn’t hurt to look up historical information and run comparisons on providers who are offering dedicated fleets for hire. Even if the fleet has to come up with a hypothetical model to determine cost-per-load, it’s well worth it.

Also, remember not to skimp on quality for the sake of quantity. Just because you want to see a net savings on your overall operating costs doesn’t mean you can take chances working with a dedicated fleet provider that cannot be relied upon for one reason or another.

Here’s the model you should use in determining which dedicated fleet is right for you:

Your net savings should equal the cost of using the common carrier, minus the cost of a dedicated move, minus the cost of empty moves. Overall, you should come out in the positive on either side of that equation. If you do, then it’s likely you’ve landed on the correct model or dedicated carrier partner for your particular business.

In the end, establishing a good working relationship with your dedicated fleet provider will be essential to ensuring the rubber stays on the road and the shine stays on your company’s reputation. Or, go with a private fleet and take matters into your own hands. In the end, the decision is yours alone.

Choosing The Right Third-Party Maintenance Option For Trucks

Do you know what it costs a motor carrier on average where maintenance and repair are concerned? Fifteen cents per mile. That’s no small number. It comes out to around 10 percent to fleet operating costs.

By some estimates, almost two-thirds of fleets today are conducting their maintenance in-house. Yet, there are signs that the trends are changing. Fleets are becoming more open to outsourcing their service work. But, why?

For many fleets, it’s a turnaround time problem. When they can hand off problems related to repair work and vehicle upkeep, it takes the burden off their books, especially if there is a solid value/cost proposition.

Yet, headwinds remain. The biggest of which lies in turnaround time. Motor carriers might be more inclined to hire someone from the outside if they didn’t have to worry about getting the vehicle to and from the factory, plus any potential delays dealing with a “middle-man.”

According to a recent report, over a full third of the fleets surveyed reported that they had improved their in-house shop productivity over the reporting period. It mainly stems from the time saved not having to wait for a vendor to complete the work.

But could that paradigm be changing?

The latest tractors, complex commercial motor vehicles (CMV), are more complex than ever. Compound that with a continued truck driver and technician employment squeeze and you get both small- and mid-sized fleets unable to complete the work in-house. Even as they feel the pinch, vendors have been getting better at enticing trucking companies to give outsourcing a chance.

The fact is, there are many reasons why outsourcing the shop might be a good idea for fleet operations.

Number one, these vendors are here, in America. No loss of jobs. Fleets could essentially have a third-party operator manage the larger repairs and assessments, while their own shop still handles normal workload issues, mid-level to minor.

Outsourced operations could also be used to patch up holes in the operation when manpower is low. When partnerships become enhanced, different services can be offered or even closely integrated with the fleet’s operation.

The hard truth is that the advances in CMV technology are coming at a faster and faster pace. When you begin incorporating ELDs and advanced telematics into these heavy-duty trucks – indeed, even making them semi-autonomous – it may become difficult for your in-house shop to keep up with all the changes.

There are large investments that must be made in order to keep up with the numerous changes piling up and driving the marketplace. This is where the decision will become critical for the fleet. Should they keep their services in-house and meet the large warehousing and infrastructure demands needed to house the trucks of tomorrow or are those services best left outsourced?

If a fleet does choose to outsource, here’s how they should approach it.

Doing an Internal Analysis

Obviously, this is going to be a job for the fleet manager. He or she will need to sit down and figure out all the details regarding fleet operations. Only by knowing one’s fleet can one find the proper partner to address its needs.

A trucking company must fully understand their own underlying cost structure before they can set about partnering with someone who can coherently integrate with it.

Some things to look out for are:

  • Truck utilization
  • Out-of-service percentage (in time)
  • Overall fleet downtime
  • Maintenance budget
  • Overall staffing
  • Equipment levels
  • Employment

The key is discovering if you have any lost revenue seeping out as a result of an internal problem. That way, when you sit down with the outsourcer, you can give them a clear picture of what’s going on within your organization.

The point is, trucking companies need to do more to assess their own internal capabilities. Are they willing to invest in what they need to in order to house the trucks of tomorrow?

A key to this is assessing your own fleet technician’s overall aptitude. The last thing you want to do is push a green group of fleet technicians past their breaking point as you try to reach the pinnacle of maintenance brilliance.

What if there are very complex jobs that could be outsourced as your technicians focused on jobs required in a shorter timeframe. Highly complex jobs could even pose business interruption risks, which are the last things you need.

Is it really a matter of thinking your trucking company is doing more than it should be? It could be that you add unnecessary costs to the operation, especially as you scale up.

Setting a Clear Agenda

Still, you want to make sure you can find a vendor who can work with your fleet’s specific needs. Specific expectations will need to be made, up-front on how the work is expected to go, on everything from pricing to timing-to-delivery.

In fact, it is essential that both sides set expectations from the outset. Miscommunication can not only sour a relationship, but can lead to serious technical and logistical issues that may be difficult to work out.

The key is for the vendor to do their utmost to live up to the customer’s timeliness requests. If a vendor can get a truck into a bay within one hour and be able to give a comprehensive timeline on the diagnosis that day, that’s the standard.

In some cases, vendors may even hire separate technicians to check the work over another time before the vehicle is picked up by the client. Speaking of picking it up, other vendors have that covered with vehicle tow or delivery services. As these outsource companies ramp up, they are pulling out all the stops to convert even the most skeptical carrier out there.

They understand that a fleet needs the least amount of disruption. The ideal transition would be seamless. The fleet shouldn’t even know that it’s happened. That is the ideal vendor transition.

But how do you track the performance of the relationship. The best way is through a setting up of key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to evaluate your relationship with the vendor.

Some of these could include:

  • Pickup or delivery time
  • Turnaround time
  • Service fees
  • Additional fees
  • Labor rates
  • Total cost of service

It’s important that when you are making the evaluation you also make the distinction between lower price versus lowest total cost of service.

Here is an example: You could wind up paying a lower labor rate or even get less expensive parts, but will that equal out to more down time in the long run? If you must keep bringing the vehicle back into the shop, you aren’t receiving a long-term return.

In other words, it is important that a fleet manager consider more than just initial cost. Companies need to set out total cost of ownership over the long haul and set the rules of the relationship well in advance.

Setting Operating Parameters

Once you have picked a partner, it’s time to set a clear standard of operating practices that you both can follow. As we mentioned before, KPIs or metrics, however you call them, are good at helping both sides keep track of what is going on.

Remember, most relationships, whether personal or professional, fail because expectations were either unmet or misaligned. Both parties must ensure their expectations are clear.

One good way to do that is by laying out the rules of engagement. This document should have:

  • Service request specifics
  • Communication expectations
  • Points of contact
  • Inspection schedules and contacts
  • Vendor labor operating standards
  • Estimate approval processes
  • Data exchange formats
  • Interoperability concerns

The fact is, nothing sours a relationship faster than a lack of communication. You want to be able to share information with your provider in real-time, and expect that in return.

Still, never underestimate the power of the actual call. Nowadays, with Zoom Rooms and GoTo Meetings, it’s possible to even get that key face-to-face interaction, which is so important to the relationship.

It also doesn’t hurt to compare service providers, or even go with more than one service provider depending on the type of service. Some fleets split up services to ensure their needs are met on the top and the bottom.

The Final Word

In the end, remember this, it isn’t all about price. If you are going to go through with the contract, you want to make sure it is what’s right for your fleet. Going with a third-party is never an either/or idea. You want to ensure you are doing it for the right reasons.

How quickly can they get you back on the road? Where are they located? How has their communication been?

Once you answer these questions and get something solid in writing, you can begin work. Just ensure you approach it correctly and ask the right questions. From access to inventory to compensation for lost time, it’s all got to be fleshed out. Stick to those guidelines and you are sure to find a third-party maintenance vendor you can trust and work with.

How Fuel Card Programs Are Evolving And Saving Fleets Time And Money

When you think of how a trucking company fuels up their vehicles, it likely seems a boring thought. The truck pulls up, the truck driver gets out and puts the fuel card into the slot on the fueling terminal or goes to pay the attendant, then fuels up.

And yet, like so much else nowadays, technology is changing the game. The latest development lies in that of how your fleet fuels up using fuel cards. It’s also important to keep in mind that there is a lot more to saving fuel than just not burning as much as you normally do.

There’s also a buying less or buying for less component that should be considered. How do you do that? By investing in technology that takes the guessing out of where to buy fuel and at what price is best.

We have entered a time where technology provides us with the tools to find these types of places while we are out on the road. Today, we’ll look at the various ways your fleet can shift their fuel savings frame of mind from just what’s under the hood, but also the electronic components within the cab, and even in your truck driver’s hand.

The Fuel Card?

Ironically, fuel cards have been around for decades, yet their full potential – the capabilities that can now be included in small bits of plastic, in the digital “cloud” – is only now being fully realized. Today, it’s generally smaller fleets who use less fuel cards. Larger fleets almost to a carrier is on some sort of fuel card program, but is it the right one? No matter what, they offer great benefits.

A great positive about running with fuel cards is their scalability. Generally, as your fleet grows, depending on the technology you use, the fleet fuel card program can grow with you. It’s one less thing that your back-office has to worry about: Mounds of paperwork or receipts cascading down from desktops.

Whether you run one, two or two-hundred trucks, automating your fuel card payment, purchasing, invoicing, tracking and collecting functions save both time and money.

There are several fuel card options available on the road today. Software and analytical tools provide greater insight than ever before. As the smartphone revolution continues unabated, expect more fuel-tracking apps to make their way onto the scene.

But what are some actual real-world examples of how the fuel-payment technology we’ve referred to might save a motor carrier on some serious cash. Well, that’s exactly what we need to move fully beyond: Cash.

One New Jersey-based fleet partnered with a third-party company who could provide a comprehensive data-management and fuel card solution big data and real-time information gathering and analysis. With a fleet of over 2,100 trucks spread across the country the company wanted a partner who they could rely on to manage a fuel card program that allowed them to track truck driver data, digitize receipts and more.

The cards can also be specially coded so that they only function for fuel-specific purposes. Not that there’s any reason for a fleet manager to mistrust his or her truck drivers, no, it’s about enabling a function that only allows for fuel purchases for an added extra layer of protection. Stolen card will be unusable for anything but fuel, for instance.

It’s more about protecting the card – from anything.

Beyond security and ease-of-use, new fuel card partnership, and even in-house software options, some third-party providers offer:

  • Fuel tax solutions
  • Fuel management solutions
  • Purchasing control
  • Fuel terminal location and information

With all these capabilities built into the back end, many are asking, what’s on the card?

Fuel Card-Specific Capabilities

Many of the fuel card solutions used by fleets – and offered by others – are built for trucking in mind. Purchases should revolve around trucking-related purchases, I.E. fuel.

Still, others would rather see their cards opened wide up, for truck driver-friendliness and morale boosting measures. Technology has come such a way that now you can rely on specific requirements. You can set it up for fuel at this location or all purchases at another location. Of course, the truck driver also knows that you know exactly what they are spending.

Many vendors, ready to accept truckers stopping at their fuel station – with attached convenience store, perhaps – accept fuel cards and even offer discount pricing specifically for truckers who come in using them.

However you look at it, fuel is either the largest or second-largest cost that every fleet must deal with, so pricing ability should be built into any fuel card/software solution.

Working within a proprietary network that have controls built-in, whether specified by the vendor or the partner, allows you to ensure a level of merchant and motor carrier volume discount transparency that couldn’t have been possible before this kind of technology existed.

Actionable Data through Web-Based Applications

What makes modern fuel cards special is the actionable data that you can get from them. Every time a card is swiped, data is kept on everything from location and fuel amount needed to overall load weight. All of this can help fleet operations make more efficient forward-looking fuel and route planning.

When combined with web-based applications, fleets can manage fuel expenses through an easy-to-use control panel or dashboard interface installed onto their desktop or downloaded to a smartphone or tablet via an app.

Fuel card providers that offer such services set themselves apart from the competition because they allow motor carriers to do things like:

  • Track individual truck driver key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Mobile fuel price discovery or fuel price discovery on-the-go
  • Fleetwide fuel price optimization
  • Fleetwide route planning based on location fuel price trend
  • Instant access to nearest in-network fueling station

As everything else, these capabilities could be built into an app that a trucker can utilize while they are on the road – well, pulled over because we don’t want anyone distracted trying to deal with this blog while behind the wheel.

Computing Power to the Rescue

The nearly-constant drumbeat of computing power reshaping industries continues. This time, well, almost every time, it’s trucking. And yes, this does have something to do with a fuel card.

As we hope you are seeing – and we have been saying – all of this is connected. After all, time is money, and computing power offers fleets and individual truckers the ability to save lots and lots of time.

Another fascinating example of technology to the rescue comes from a fuel card that lets you optimize an irregular route truckload and is fully capable for fleets of up to 50 trucks or more; in fact, that’s what the vendor prefers.

The company contends that through using predictive software, fleets can optimize their over-the-road (OTR) fuel consumption. By using GPS and traffic-reporting technology, a company can now figure out a pre-trip route based on the least-possible-fuel-usage option.

This way, whether fuel prices are going up or down, you can rely on the power of collective software analyzing thousands – if not, tens of thousands – of fueling stations and providing route planning based on that sort of optimization.

Or No Card At All

If you haven’t already left your head spinning on the changing fuel card technology available to modern-day fleets, get ready for an even deeper trip down the rabbit hole.

The new development in fuel card program innovation is in cardless technology. Imagine the latest toll road technology where a vehicle can head straight on through a toll via an express lane and a card with an RFID chip installed.

While this is nothing new for tolls, this is as groundbreaking a development as the fuel islands that truckers use today to fuel up. The only difference is now they no longer should get out of the cab and swipe their card.

With an account filled up with funds provided by the motor carrier, a trucker merely needs to show up, connect with an RFID reader and quickly get the pump going. Once full, the pump is disconnected and the truck driver pulls off. There’s no need for a physical receipt since everything is recorded electronically via the software attached to the RFID-enabled card.

Not only are you saving a receipt – trees, ink, resources, pay, etc. – but you are enabling a much more efficient process, thus saving time, and you know what time is: Money.

The drawback to not having a physical card and relying on solely an RFID chip are for those carriers who want to use the card for more than just fueling. The number of fleets opening their credit cards for their truck drivers to use – perhaps to a limit, or with incentives attached – could be a problem for widespread adoption.

Another potential limitation would be the number of service stations that might participate in such a program and implement or install cardless fueling systems. Certainly, it wasn’t overnight that Apple or Android Pay were adopted, especially in America, so it won’t be the same for these cardless systems.

Things like discounts based on volumes purchased and more all need to be worked out before this becomes a widely-used system, but overall, this is where the signs are pointed.

As discussion swirling around electronic and semi-autonomous trucks continues unabated, things like cardless fuel card systems attached to advanced web-based software solutions will become even more commonplace. The future is now for the trucking industry, and it looks like this is where it’s headed.

Will your fleet be ready for the big change when the time comes?

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