Fleet management information systems have more features than you think. Here’s how to make the best use of your software. 
 -  Image: Getty Images

Fleet management information systems have more features than you think. Here’s how to make the best use of your software.

Image: Getty Images

Think about Word, or Excel, or any software you have. Are you using all the features of these programs, or are you even aware of what they can fully do? For most people, unless their job is to know a specific software, probably not. And the same goes for most fleet managers and their fleet management information systems (FMIS).

Specialized fleet software is a powerful tool to track vehicle maintenance, mileage, costs, and more. By fully utilizing their software systems — or even creating new features — fleet manatgers have been able to improve customer service, increase transparency, eliminate tedious tasks, ensure accurate billing, and solve an industrywide problem. Here’s how.

Key Takeaways

Some ways fleets can improve their data use include:

★ Ensuring accurate data to make better decisions
★ Enabling transparency by sharing data with users
★ Tracking returned rental vehicles to ensure cleanliness
★ Integrating with a warranty administrator’s software to track recalls
★ Automating appointment scheduling to free up staff time.

Create an Online Scheduler for Appointments

Tom Kuryla, director of fleet operations for Wake County, N.C., is ramping up the integration of a new FMIS, FleetWave by Chevin. One of the features he is most excited about is an online scheduler, a module that Chevin developed for the county. 

The module not only sends an e-mail to the driver when a vehicle is due for service, it also includes a link that allows that driver to schedule the service appointment online, without having to call the fleet shop.

“Currently, our drivers have to call to find out the openings for service, and we don’t have a person dedicated to answering our phone, so it’s our service manager, Ernie Winnings, who has to keep up with this high volume of calls,” Kuryla explained. “He’s got to stop what he’s doing, take the phone call, provide them some suggestions, and the driver has to get approval from their supervisor for that appointment time. Then they have to call fleet back to reserve the time.”

The new software, integrated with the Human Resources system and located on the intranet, allows drivers to sign into FleetWave using a link to see which spots are open and choose their appointment. 

“This feature is the number one thing [our service manager] wanted from the new system,” Kuryla said.

Solve Those Recall and Warranty Repair Problems

One of the biggest challenges fleet managers face is recalls. Kuryla has solved that problem thanks to the integration of two software systems that allow the county to track the true cost of vehicle repairs, including warranties, and to manage recalls. 

Wake County has been using an outside warranty claims administrator, Cascor, for about a decade. Fleet technicians repair and maintain their FCA, Ford, and GM vehicles, including warranty work, on site, and the contracted company evaluates all the automatically submitted repair orders to file warranty claims. 

“We were never able to put back into the software the results of the warranty claim,” Kuryla said. A new integration between the contractor’s software and the FMIS allows that data to get automatically added to the FMIS, permitting fleet staff to better track vehicle costs.

Secondly, the integration allows Cascor to run all the county’s vehicles through a recall database and automatically send that to the FMIS. When a vehicle comes in for service, a pop-up in the FMIS tells the fleet manager which recalls are open for that vehicle. 

“We don’t have to run VINs on every car and we don’t have to manage all the recall notification letters that come in the mail,” Kuryla explained. 

Track Vehicles Returned to the Motor Pool

Iowa State University Transportation Services has used its FMIS and motor pool system, Agile Fleet, for a few years for its 600 vehicles. Kathy Wellik, CAFM, transportation services director, said one of the most useful features is a “prep” feature on the motor pool module that has automated processes and helps staff members save time.

When keys of motor pool vehicles are returned to a kiosk, the vehicles automatically go into “prep” mode. The system alerts staff members what is returned to the lot so they can inspect and clean it, and the computer will mark it to be checked out again. It also allows staff members to keep track of where vehicles are parked. 

This eliminates a significant amount of manual labor.

“We used to use pad and paper and every morning we’d go out, we’d collect the keys from the night drop, take a pad and paper, and we’d go find each vehicle and write down license plate and mileage, and the dispatcher would have to check all those back in manually,” Wellik said.

Pictured is one of the dashboards the City of Austin uses to track its fleet operation. 
 -  Image courtesy of City of Austin

Pictured is one of the dashboards the City of Austin uses to track its fleet operation.

Image courtesy of City of Austin

Build a Fleet Dashboard for Fleet Staff & User Departments

In an effort to be transparent, the City of Austin, Texas, fleet staff created a dashboard of fleet data to be displayed on the intranet.

Information comes straight from the AssetWorks M5 system and includes maintenance and repair data for each of the six shops, parts inventory, and the contracts the city uses, said Bruce Kilmer, acting assistant director of fleet. This information not only provides end users with the data fleet managers have, but it also allows fleet staff to react quickly and make critical business decisions.

Kilmer learned web programming to put the information together, and the project has grown to include more data and become more sophisticated.

“It’s an effort we have to be as transparent as we can. We have metrics that report both internally and externally, as well as performance measures that we’re meeting,” Kilmer said.

Herb Gross, a technician at Pierce County, Wash., opens and completes work orders. 
 -  Photo courtesy of Pierce County

Herb Gross, a technician at Pierce County, Wash., opens and completes work orders.

Photo courtesy of Pierce County

Set an Accurate Chargeback System

Fancy features aren’t the only methods to improve data use — ensuring data accuracy is one basic step for making data-driven decisions. 

Mike McGee, maintenance supervisor for Pierce County, Wash., works to ensure that the data input into the FMIS — Faster —  is accurate so Equipment Services can do one of its most fundamental tasks: maintain an accurate chargeback system.

“It all starts with work orders,” McGee said. “There’s checks and balances from the owner of the work order, the service writer, and doer of the work — the technician. Before we close a work order, we’ve ensured that we’ve accounted for all the labor hours and cost associated to that work order.”

Technicians are trained to open and finish work orders accurately so their hours are recorded correctly. Weekly, they must verify that they’ve accounted for 40 hours. A supervisor of a work group ensures that all work orders are closed within 30 days. Then the FMIS analyst — McGee — uses this data to establish and track KPIs and informs customer departments of their progress. 

The goal at the end of year is to close all work orders while maintaining 95% vehicle availability. Equipment Services uses the direct hours billed to project an accurate fully burdened labor rate for the following year. This accuracy allows McGee to fully explain fleet costs to customers. 

“There are a lot of ways to use data from an FMIS but fundamentally in public and government fleet, this is what we’re about, transparency and credibility with the customers that we serve,” McGee said. 

About the author
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

Former Executive Editor

Thi is the former executive editor of Government Fleet magazine.

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