How to Choose the Best Fleet Management Software

September 16, 2020

Learn how to choose the best fleet management software.

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Key Takeaways

As a fleet manager, getting visibility into how efficiently your fleet is running can sometimes be challenging. A fleet management system can help by giving you access to clear and actionable data about the vehicles across your entire fleet. A fleet management solution is software that provides data-based insights about GPS vehicle tracking, Hours of Service (HOS) compliance, safety, upcoming vehicle maintenance, and more. The software is designed to ease the burden on the fleet manager's shoulders—helping to reduce costs, streamline workflows, and automate more processes within your fleet operations.

How can fleet management software help you?

A comprehensive fleet management system can give you a more complete view of how your fleet is performing.

With a fleet management software solution, fleet managers can quickly locate their vehicles, monitor traffic conditions, reduce fuel costs by monitoring idle time, and help prevent accidents through and improved driver performance to save thousands of dollars across their entire fleet.

A comprehensive fleet management system lets you drill down into your data, providing actionable insights to help you save time and money.

A good fleet management solution will present data in a clear and intuitive way, helping you to identify trends that previously might have been difficult for you to see. You can then filter that data to spot fuel inefficiencies, identify gaps in your safety program, or come up with new ways to increase customer satisfaction.

For example, by using Samsara's fleet management system to monitor idle time and fuel usage, Drew Newstrom, the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Automotive and Equipment Specialist, was able to reduce his fleet's fuel consumption by 5% or about $70,500 in savings over a six-month period.

Fleet management for public fleets such as governments and schools  use vehicle telematics data to analyze fleet vehicles, vehicle location, service delivery and coverage, driver behavior, community safety, routing, dispatch units, diagnostics and preventative maintenance so that they can optimize their service their communities and respond to citizens

What features should your fleet management software include?

A fleet management system that's comprehensive, intuitive, and easy to use can be invaluable for fleets of all sizes. When choosing a fleet management software, it’s important to make sure that it has the features that your business needs. When considering your options, keep an eye out for the following:

1. GPS tracking

If you're a fleet manager trying to keep track of your fleet and plan vehicle routes, it’s important to make sure your fleet management software includes GPS tracking.

Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers are devices that help you to track vehicle locations and display those locations on a map—just like Google Maps is able to find and show you your location when you open it up on your phone. As a fleet manager, you can use GPS tracking to quickly locate your vehicles, determine which driver might be closest to a job, or even help your drivers avoid traffic and accidents.

But while most GPS trackers only offer a breadcrumb trail (with the vehicle’s location only updating every five to 10 minutes), Samsara includes live-to-the-second visibility into vehicle location. Some fleet management software will even allow you to set predefined zones, or geofences, and provide real-time alerts in case a vehicle enters or exits one of these areas.

For Jerold Bean, VP of Events and Meetings at Windy City Limousine & Bus, tracking vehicles without real-time GPS was a significant issue. The team found that they frequently had to call their chauffeurs to get accurate location information.

After switching their entire fleet over to Samsara’s fleet management solution, Windy City now has real-time visibility into their vehicles’ locations, which allows them to quickly provide their customers with exact arrival times or inform them about any potential delays.

Pro tip: Ask your fleet management software provider how often their GPS trackers update with your vehicle’s location and whether they offer real-time vehicle location tracking.

2. Hours of Service (HOS) compliance

There are a number of regulations that your fleet needs to stay up to date with and a good fleet management software solution can help make staying compliant easy.

One of the most important is Hours of Service compliance. HOS regulations limit the number of continuous hours that drivers can be on the road before taking a mandatory rest break. These regulations are meant to help reduce accidents caused by drowsy drivers.

As a fleet manager, you need to be able to keep accurate and up-to-date records of all your drivers' hours if you want to avoid hefty fines, or in some cases, the loss of your license to operate.

Pro tip: Be sure to ask any vendor you're considering about how they can help you stay compliant with HOS regulations.

For instance, Samsara’s FMCSA-registered ELD plugs directly into your vehicle’s on-board diagnostics (OBD) port and uses a built-in WiFi hotspot to transmit real-time data about your vehicles, including how long the engine is running, the speed at which it travels, and other diagnostic information.

Drivers can use the Samsara Driver App (available for both Android and iOS) to record their HOS, access records of duty status, and complete electronic Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs) in one place.

Together, these two sources of information make for a complete HOS compliance solution, without requiring you to purchase any proprietary HOS logging devices.

3. Route performance

As a fleet manager looking to reduce costs, one of the easiest ways to do that is by using fleet tracking software to figure out the most efficient routes each driver should take.

Using a software solution to analyze the performance of your past routes can help you plan the most fuel- and time-efficient routes for future deliveries and better predict departure and arrival times.

Pro tip: Look for fleet management solutions that understand your needs and prioritize making your job easier. For instance, you can use Samsara's fleet management solution to view the performance of routes in real-time. You can see whether a route is running on schedule or is completing a stop, as well as estimated arrival times that update based on live traffic and accident data.

Once a route is completed, you can go back and compare your planned route vs. the actual route the driver took. This feature lets you investigate whether your drivers were able to stay on track and make timely deliveries so you can adjust plans for your future routes based on your learnings.

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4. Maintenance and diagnostics

How much money does your business lose each time a vehicle is taken off the road for unexpected repairs?

Whether due to accidents or regular wear and tear from daily use, vehicle downtime and fleet maintenance are some of the unavoidable realities fleet managers face. But as a fleet manager, you can either be prepared and anticipate downtime, or be caught off-guard.

Unexpected downtime costs more than just the price of replacement parts—not only do you lose out on hours or days of work, but you also risk upset customers, spoiled cargo (if you’re hauling food or beverages), and drivers missing out on getting paid.

The best fleet management solutions will connect directly with your vehicle's OBD port, automatically pulling engine data like fuel use, coolant temperature, battery voltage, and vehicle health. With Samsara, you can set up the software to alert you when it’s time for preventative maintenance based on time since last service check or mileage, or just get alerted if something goes wrong.

Pro tip: You want your fleet management solution to be able to monitor vehicle health and predict the need for vehicle maintenance and upcoming maintenance costs. Samsara’s Vehicle Gateway plugs directly into the OBD port of your vehicle and takes under 10 minutes to install. Samsara is able to pull engine fault codes, giving fleet maintenance managers deeper insights into the health of their fleet to help them decrease vehicle downtime.

5. Safety

As a fleet manager or owner, keeping your drivers safe on the road can be a major priority. Sometimes, accidents can seem like an unavoidable part of managing a fleet, but using a fleet management system can help you identify and prevent a number of the leading causes of accidents out on the road—like speeding or aggressive driving.

Using fleet management software and implementing a driver safety program can not only help keep your drivers improve safety but also help you reduce costs related to vehicle wear and tear. Dash cams can also be an incredibly valuable source of information for fleet managers focused on improving fleet safety, by capturing footage of the road, and providing video evidence in the case of an accident.

Pro tip: Look for a fleet management system that prioritizes safety, and includes dash cams and other safety-focused features that can help keep your drivers safe on the road.

Samsara offers fleet managers the Samsara Safety Report, which compiles the accident and harsh event data collected by Samsara’s dash cams and Vehicle Gateway. It then uses that data to assign each driver a safety score. These scores can help fleet managers easily identify which of their drivers might benefit from additional coaching.

Samsara’s dual-facing dash cams capture high-definition video of the road as well as in-cab video of the driver. They also go a step beyond other dash cams by using AI technology to identify dangerous driver behavior, such as when drivers are distracted or drowsy. They also instantly flag and upload harsh driving events, like accidents, harsh accelerations, or sudden braking. This means that when incidents do occur, fleet managers can immediately see what happened and can use the footage to either coach or exonerate innocent drivers.

6. Fuel consumption and vehicle idling

Perhaps unsurprisingly, fuel is often one of the biggest expenses for any fleet.

This means it’s important to opt for fleet management software that is able to help you identify areas where your fleet can be more fuel-efficient. Your fleet management solution should also help you track and lower vehicle idling time. Idling can be incredibly costly to fleets, in terms of greater fuel consumption, an increased need for vehicle maintenance, and even the environmental impact of unnecessary emissions released by the vehicle.

Pro tip: Consider fleet management solutions that recognize the value of monitoring fuel consumption and idling time. For instance, Samsara’s Fuel Usage report shows you not only the fuel usage of all the vehicles in your fleet but also tells you the current fuel level, estimated cost, and idle time of each vehicle. If you’d like to identify which of your drivers is using the most fuel or is spending the most time idling, you can also sort the data by driver.

By analyzing fuel consumption across your fleet, you can help your drivers reduce fuel usage by planning more efficient routes and coaching them to reduce idle time.

How to choose the best fleet management software

With a range of fleet management solutions on the market, it can be difficult to choose the one that’s best for your business needs.

Not only should a good fleet management software offer you the key features listed above, it should also be easy to use, easily integrate with other applications and systems, and regularly provide new updates and features. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

1. Ease of use

Your fleet management software should enable you to increase the operational efficiency of your fleet and help save you time. This means the fleet management software you choose should be easy to install, intuitive, and make it easy for you to quickly access the information you need.

Samsara’s fleet management solution, for instance, is centered around the Vehicle Gateway, which is about the size of a deck of cards, plugs directly into your vehicle’s OBD port, and is designed to be installed within minutes.

The data collected by the Vehicle Gateway is then presented in an easy-to-use dashboard, from which fleet managers can check the location of their vehicles, notify drivers of changing traffic conditions, and access reports such as the Route Analytics report to analyze route performance.

2. Integrations

A fleet management solution that allows you to integrate multiple systems can help you ensure that you’re not missing important information.

Samsara offers an open API that makes it easy to integrate with third-party tools for routing, payroll, invoicing, HR software, and more. If you’re already using a routing software like Transfinder, for instance, you can easily integrate it with Samsara fleet management software. Samsara will then automatically import your routes from Transfinder, allowing you to analyze the performance of your planned routes (using the Routes Planned vs. Actual Report), investigate driver performance, and more.

This gives you a consolidated view of all the data relevant to your fleet operations, allowing for a greater level of visibility and control with minimal manual intervention.

3. Data insights

While implementing a fleet management system can give you access to a lot of useful data about your fleet, sometimes a flood of data without context can be overwhelming. It’s imperative to find a fleet management solution that can help you interpret that data and make it actionable.

A number of telematics providers do capture information about vehicle health, location, and maintenance needs, but Samsara presents the data via an intuitive and user-friendly dashboard. The dashboard allows you to view and sort your data to answer any questions you might have about your fleet.

You can use the dashboard to see how many hours each driver has when planning job assignments, set custom alerts to notify you if a driver goes above a set speed limit, or use tags to easily filter your reports. For instance, if you run a nationwide delivery company, you can tag specific vehicles or assets by city (“Austin” or “Denver”) or region (“Northwest” or “Southeast”). These tags will then make it easier to filter and view your data, allowing you to track assets or compare different areas.

If safety is your priority, Samsara also provides fleet managers with a Safety Inbox to help streamline safety-related workflows. This is where you can find a list of all the safety-related incidents collected by Samsara’s dash cams and Vehicle Gateway and review the footage associated with each event. You can then choose to dismiss the event or mark it for follow-up action, such as coaching a driver displaying dangerous behavior.

4. Driver mobile app

Your drivers are always on-the-go but they’re still responsible for completing key tasks before, during, and after their trips. This includes managing their Hours of Service and ensuring that they’re on-track to make timely deliveries.

It can be helpful to look for a telematics solution that offers a mobile app that allows your drivers to access the information they need while they’re on the road.

Say, for instance, that you’ve just had a new urgent job come in. By using the Samsara dashboard, you can quickly see the locations of all your vehicles, and assign the job to the closest driver.

The driver is then notified of the new job, along with any traffic or route updates, through the Samsara Driver App and can plan accordingly. Drivers can also use the Driver App to create duty logs, access Hours of Service records, and see their safety scores.

Samsara’s intuitive dashboard and family of integrated products are helping fleet managers keep their fleets compliant and providing them with greater visibility into their day-to-day operations.

To learn more about how Samsara’s fleet management software solution can help you, ask us about our 30-day free trial.