Now more than ever, I am amazed at how many fleets overlook the potential of software they already own. Those fleets have many dollars in untapped savings sitting around in unused or under-implemented software.
I’m talking about software already paid for, but with only a limited number of features used, or in some cases, software that is not used at all.
We call it “shelfware.” And it’s particularly relevant with the enforcement of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program.
No fleet manager would ever leave trucks and drivers idle when they could be producing revenue. Yet, many of those same fleets often do exactly that with their fleet software.
Managers who pride themselves on detailed knowledge of their fleet often have no idea what their software could deliver if it were correctly and more completely deployed. We’re talking about money saved and the peace of mind that comes with well-documented regulatory compliance.
When it comes to software use, we divide fleets into three basic groups.
Best in class - 65 percent or more utilization. This group buys fleet software and has the software’s developer assist with implementation and deployment.
These fleets have multiple people trained in the use of the software, including management. They keep the program in support and insure that they are using the latest version.
They provide their staff with reoccurring training to maximize ROI in savings, increase productivity and minimize downtime.
Utilization of 65 percent might sound light, but it’s not bad at all. After all, how many of us use the full potential of, say, Microsoft Office or even Microsoft Word?
We get by - up to 30 percent utilization. This group buys fleet software and implements it themselves with the user’s manual as their guide and without assistance from the developer.
They only train one or two people in its use and generally don’t keep the program in support after the first year. Nor do they keep their program up-to-date.
Generally this type of user bought the software program to address a particular issue or task. Its utilization is extremely limited and its value and potential remains untapped.
We have software? - no utilization at all. This group doesn’t know they own fleet software. Sometime in the past the company bought a fleet program with good intentions but with little planning, support or direction from management.
The software was never fully implemented, and no one was trained in its use.
It was lost in the clamor of everyday business and now resides hidden on someone’s computer or in the original software box on a shelf or in a drawer somewhere. It is truly shelfware.
The CSA regulations will eventually overwhelm the “shelfware” fleet. It will be a target for roadside and onsite inspections, and the word “intervention” will become very familiar.
The “we get by” fleets will also draw the attention of inspectors.
If you’re in either of these last two categories, chances are that you have a great, low-risk opportunity. You can add significant savings to your company’s bottom line, increase your department’s productivity, reduce downtime and stay within the CSA Safety Management System that quantifies on-the-road safety performance of both carriers and drivers all at the same time.
Best of all, this is possible with very little investment because you already own the core software.
Call the program’s developer and talk with them about your needs. They will more than likely ask you relevant questions regarding your program’s implementation and its use.
Be honest with them if you want honest answers. They are the best source for information about your program’s capabilities, and it will cost you nothing except a phone call.
Ask questions about the program’s features and what it would take in time and money to get running at the best-in-class level.
In some cases it may mean starting over. In other cases it may simply mean getting your program updated to the latest version and providing training for your staff. Every case is different.
While starting over may sound onerous, we have found it is sometimes better than moving forward using a poorly implemented program with corrupted and incomplete data. That would only make things worse, especially when the application is used to make fleet decisions.
Remember in software GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) still applies.
Critical to the quality of any fleet database is the amount of training you provide to your operating staff.
We suggest that you have several people thoroughly trained. This insures wider buy-in by your staff, increasing use of the system and the information it produces.
Further, your program will not be held hostage by a single trained employee’s job performance or continuing employment.
Once your program is updated, redeployed and your staff trained, make a point to budget for future program updates and annual support services. This will maintain the value of your software investment and increase its long-term utilization.
Your end users will have the confidence of knowing that they have a modern system with access to experts should they need them.
So, be honest. Which group of software users does your fleet fall into?
Charles Arsenault is the chief executive officer of Arsenault Associates. Based in Burlington, NJ, the company is a recognized pioneer and prominent national player in the fleet maintenance management software industry. Its Dossier software is available in a variety of editions to meet the many varying needs of different fleets.