Vehicle and fuel card misuse focuses fleet-owner minds

By: Rob McKay

Newly available survey covering car and truck fleets across the economy highlights cost concerns

Vehicle and fuel card misuse focuses fleet-owner minds
Business Fleet Omnibus report cover


Fuel costs might be at historic lows but the owners of Australian small to medium car and truck fleets keep a steely eye on them and are alarmed at how bad practices diminish their fleets’ productivity, a Fleetmatics survey shows.

Conducted by noted analysis company ACA Research and just released, the Business Fleet Omnibus report finds fleet vehicle and fuel card misuse costs cause angst in 80 per cent of fleet owning firms involved in the distribution, construction, retail and hospitality industries, amongst others.

Fleetmatics says it commissioned ACA Research to survey Australian fleet businesses on the key challenges they face in managing fleets of 5-50 vehicles, and how these are being tackled.

Fuel and labour costs are the largest expenses for 69 per cent of businesses across the transport, construction and services and distribution industries, with personal use of company vehicles increasing fuel costs for 73 per cent of business.

"With the financial year at an end, and a new one beginning, now is the time for fleet-based businesses to consider the commercial impact of driver behaviour and vehicle misuse on their bottom line," Fleetmatics product management director Todd Ewing says.

 "Fuel costs get out of hand very quickly if not monitored effectively.

"Fleet managers need to look for every opportunity to overcome fuel-budget blowouts, which comes down to reducing staff misuse of company vehicles."

Of the 10 survey points raised on fleet management attitudes to fuel use and employee oversight, 60-75 per cent agreed that they had issues.

Here, ‘Reducing fuel and labour costs is a business priority’ led the way but ‘Rising fuel costs in Australia are a significant concern’, ‘Personal use of company vehicles wastes fuel and increases fuel costs’, and ‘I trust my staff, but still need to verify their time sheets’ were only a percentage point or two below that.

These remained issues but at a higher rate for those who had yet to adopt and the 3 per cent who had rejected telematics or timesheet automation solutions.

The survey findings reveal that although adopters of mobile workforce software still experience challenges, these are diminishing significantly , Fleetmatics says.

For businesses currently using the software, less than half of them experience the challenge of staff idling vehicles unnecessarily.

However, 60 per cent of those who haven’t adopted the technology face the challenge of excessive idling, which wastes fuel.

Drivers practicing poor habits, such as speeding, unnecessary idling and harsh braking, are also burning fuel unnecessarily.

This is an issue for 65 per cent of businesses who haven’t invested in mobile workforce software solutions.

"These findings indicate that fleet managers can achieve greater visibility through data in order to drive profitability," Traffic Management Association of Australia president Brendan Woods.

"The correct use of vehicle tracking technology is key to doing just that.

"With the ability to make informed decisions based on driver and vehicle performance, fleet managers are well positioned to improve safety, reduce costs and drive their business to the next level of efficiency."  

The sweet spot for the adoption of telematics is about 10 vehicles, though for the ‘distribution’ sector – wholesale; transport freight, postal or warehousing; and electricity, gas, water and waste services – it is 12.

Distribution leads the adoption stakes at 28 per cent, with services at 25 per cent and the next highest around half that.

The sector also features highly amongst those that reject the technology due to bad experiences.

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