Green your fleet

With petrol costs rising and everyone now thinking green, it may be time to reevaluate the costs and efficiencies of your fleet. Greening your business can not only save you time and money but improve efficiencies.

Every organisation is under constant pressure to improve efficiencies. Whether the push is for time or cost savings, it is invariably related to improving the bottom line. Today, though, the pressures are not just financial. Not only are organisations expected – by their staff, customers and other stakeholders – to run a tight ship financially, they are also under increasing pressure to ‘green’ themselves. This poses a difficult challenge for many organisations, who traditionally haven’t necessarily had to worry about their carbon footprint.

Not surprisingly, cars are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to emitting carbon and, as a business owner, it is down to you to take on the environmental challenge. Here’s the good news, though: by actually taking the environment into consideration when looking at your car fleet, you open yourself up to a host of potential cost savings.

This article looks at the time, cost and green savings you can make when it comes to your vehicle fleet. Generally, they are intrinsically linked; once you reduce one, another usually follows.

Time savings
Most companies are painfully aware how much time and effort it takes to manage a car fleet. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to reduce this and, in the process, set yourself up not just for cost savings, but a reduced environmental impact as well.

Firstly, you might want to consider outsourcing the management of your entire fleet to a specialist company. This can be a significant time saving for companies, especially smaller ones who cannot afford to employ a full-time person to manage the fleet (and the masses of administration which come with it). In these companies it is often either the business owner themselves, or the administration/office manager, PA or receptionist who gets lumped with the task of trying to manage the company’s car fleet. Think about it: do you employ these people to struggle through the reams of paperwork associated with vehicles? Or are they employed to actually do the job for which they are trained? It can be a real drain not only on the person trying to manage the fleet, but on the business itself because that employee does not have the capacity to perform his or her usual duties.

An outsourcing arrangement also means you avoid wasting time on vehicle maintenance and accident and breakdown management. Chances are that the office manager isn’t a car expert so why would they know what a vehicle needs to keep it running at optimum levels? Worse still, what happens when a car breaks down or is involved in an accident? Managing these situations is incredibly time consuming and, once again, takes staff away from the job they are actually meant to be doing. Similarly, disposing of old vehicles and looking for new ones can waste hours of valuable time. It also exposes you to the world of used car sales and auction houses where expertise and market knowledge are a valuable asset for the seller. If these skills are missing it can cost you not only time, but money as well.

Often, fleet management companies will offer an online service, which gives you instant access to information on your vehicle, whenever it suits you. For small business owners who often have no choice but to leave the accounting/management side of things until after hours, online access is vital to keeping on top of things.

Fuel cards may also be an area you want to explore. Fuel cards are given to employees who use them to purchase fuel at participating fuel outlets. They mean you receive just one invoice each month for all your fleet and fuel expenses, streamlining the payment process. You do not need to process and reconcile multiple invoices, nor do you have to reimburse employees each month.

Consider what a vehicle will actually cost you over its entire life. For starters, you have to consider maintenance, registration, acquisition and disposal – all hugely time-intensive tasks, especially for someone with little understanding of the industry. All of these elements can be bundled into a fleet management package and outsourced to a fleet management company, reducing the time an organisation must spend on its vehicles, and like many other time-saving measures, also reducing whole-of-life costs.

Cost savings
Who once said ‘the sum of the parts is often greater than the whole’? They could have been talking about reducing the costs of vehicle management. By considering all facets of a vehicle’s costs, such as purchase price, maintenance and sale, organisations can better understand what a vehicle (and indeed a fleet) is going to cost them over its entire life. This level of analysis ensures organisations are running vehicles consistent with their needs, while still operating at an optimal cost.

Costs efficiencies can also be improved by considering the following:

  • Keep your fleet’s maintenance and servicing up-to-date to avoid downtime and costs involved with breakdowns and repairs.
  • Fix accident damage as soon as it occurs so that the condition of the vehicle doesn’t deteriorate and become more costly to repair.
  • Review your vehicle policy regularly. Are all the vehicles in your fleet right for your needs, or could you run your business using a more efficient model? Is there the opportunity to use pool cars to conduct your day-to-day activity?
  • Know the vehicle legislation and tax rules such as Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT). There could be savings available to you depending on the vehicle usage, number of kilometres travelled and the method you use to calculate FBT.
  • Fleet management companies can negotiate purchase prices on your behalf, though if you are managing the purchase of vehicles yourself try, where possible, to buy in bulk – you are likely to get a better deal on two or more cars than you would on one.
  • Using fuel cards to manage your fleet’s running expenses ensures tighter cost controls ensuring tempting point of sale items don’t make their way onto your company’s fuel receipts.
  • Outsourcing our fleet management was a godsend. The company we work with handles all aspects of our business car needs, from annual maintenance to insurance and accident repair. Employees love it as the outsourcing company responds quickly and professionally in every instance and the cost savings allows us to upgrade the fleet more often. Nothing makes employees happier than a new car in the driveway!

    We also looked into the fuel card offering of our out-service provider, but decided not to go with it. The choices of fuel providers was limited, especially in our area and after a long contentious meeting it was decided that employees living further afield would appear to benefit more from the service, which was a bone of contention with employees living locally. We decided to avoid the issue entirely.