How to improve fleet efficiency, performance

Until recently, fleet management tools have been the exclusive domain of the large fleets - companies with a few hundred or more trucks that are frequently traveling thousands of miles per day. In these situations, fleet management and the maintenance of those fleets is a full-time job, not just for one person, but often for an entire team of personnel who manage, track and maintain the vehicles.

Technological help for large fleets is delivered through expensive, vast enterprise software programs that require extensive training and implementation into a corporate IT system.

Of course, those types of systems are practical and necessary for massive fleets. But they are completely impractical for small business fleets due to their price tags and significant IT needs. Companies with 5 to 100 vehicles, such as local courier services, agricultural business, plumbing or even busy florists, have long been left out of the benefits of a systemic fleet management system.

When one considers that the vast majority of companies in the U.S. are small businesses, and the vast majority of jobs are created by small businesses, it's clear that the small business market is wildly underserved when it comes to fleet management.

Fleet professionals know the benefits of a good fleet management system: better fuel efficiency, cost-savings, employee accountability, lowered maintenance costs and the ability to deliver better customer service.

Small businesses operate on razor-thin margins and often must function in highly competitive localized markets, meaning they rely on every advantage possible. So, it hardly makes sense that small businesses are generally locked out of enjoying the benefits brought by fleet management technology.

Additionally, as small businesses grow to a few dozen vehicles, they become saddled with an expensive decision: whether or not to hire a fleet manager. While the advantages of a fleet manager can be justified in some companies, for many small businesses, the cost of a non-revenue-producing headcount is just not a reality.

These companies are forced to choose between forgoing the efficiency benefits of fleet management or sinking valuable company resources into a costly fleet manager. In many cases, the benefits simply don't outweigh the cost of the new-hire.


The situation is changing with new affordable GPS-based fleet management tools.

Historically, fleet technology has relied on high-tech equipment that utilized cellular or PCS (Personal Communication Services) technology that allowed fleet managers to track and identify the locations of vehicles. While generally effective, this technology is not practical for a shoestring-budget small business due to the high cost of entry. However, GPS technology has driven down the barrier to entry.

Services like Inilex's new InilexGPS FLEET - a new telemetry solution that enables businesses to easily analyze operations and reduce costs - offers an affordable option to small businesses that want to benefit from fleet management technology. They can track their vehicles and receive comprehensive reports about their location, speeds, idle times, mileage, maintenance schedules and other up-to-the-minute data that assists with business decisions.

With an investment per vehicle about the same price as it costs to buy and use a mobile phone, fleet management all of a sudden makes good sense to many small businesses.

What makes a small investment like this even more compelling is that the new services out there don't require a dedicated fleet manager. The simplified formats and intuitive interfaces, including mobile applications designed for iPhones or Droids, mean that a regular office manager or other administrative personnel can easily handle the duties of monitoring the vehicles.


An example of a small business that has taken control of its fleet and reaped benefits from InilexGPS FLEET is CDI Services, based out of Colorado. With approximately 200 employees, CDI offers reclamation and environmental contracting services, including landscaping, to a wide customer base, such as mining, oil and gas, various branches of the federal government, land development, pipeline construction and departments of transportation.  

CDI's fleet currently is composed of 70 vehicles, 10 agricultural tractors and 20 skid steers.

According to Chris Castellano, the company's operations manager, CDI reaped several advantages from implementing InilexGPS FLEET, including the most simple and yet valuable benefit: the ability to account for where company inventory is at all times. Castellano says the mobile application is particularly useful since, as a small business, "we are all hands are on deck." He and other managers are often onsite at a job, so access to the fleet information needs to be convenient and portable.

In addition, CDI takes advantage of some of the more advanced features available with InilexGPS FLEET, including setting geofences around their job site. This enables the management team to track when employees take company vehicles home for the weekend, which is a company violation.


CDI is saving costs through its use of Inilex's new telemetry solution. Castellano has been able to negotiate lower insurance rates as a result of the solution.

What's more, fuel costs have been declining as the company has been using the solution to be move its equipment from job-site to job-site. Using InilexGPS FLEET, CDI maps out shortest distances to the next job site and pinpoints the location of each vehicle, selecting those - especially the larger, heavier equipment - that would be most efficient to move.

In some cases it is easier and less expensive to move vehicles in a "domino" pattern (one vehicles moves to a near-by job site and another moves to the next near-by job site) rather than just having an available vehicle go across town, he noted.

These are the equations that CDI and other small businesses can solve to save on fuel costs.

CDI also expects that InilexGPS FLEET will enable the company to be more proactive about maintenance issues, further reducing its fuel and vehicle costs.


CDI has enjoyed benefits it didn't initially count on from the Inilex solution: better customer service, as well as assurance and accountability for its company and customers.

"The CDI staff has confidence in knowing that not only is the equipment accounted for, so are CDI's completed jobs," Castellano said. "For example, if a snow removal customer or a lawn service customer has questions about the time of CDI's arrival, or the length of time on the job-site, CDI has the ability through the InilexGPS FLEET history reports to provide all of these details to the customers."

"This improves customer satisfaction and provides an added layer of protection and accountability for CDI," he noted.

These types of benefits have been long available to mega-corporations with massive fleet solutions, but for a company like CDI, a fleet management solution in the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars range just wouldn't make sense.

However with the arrival of smart GPS technology that has significantly lowered the barriers to entry, small businesses can take advantage of fleet management solutions and compete in a big-business world.