Planning well ahead for vehicle replacements and additions to your fleet can mean getting the right vehicles you need, on time, plus potential cost savings, so it’s definitely an exercise worth doing. Because manufacturers’ production schedules vary across models, it’s pretty much the consensus that the earlier you start planning, the better. From the selection of new vehicles to replacement analysis, effective fleet planning requires prioritizing the needs of different stakeholders.
Timing is everything
It’s important to work with your fleet management partner early in the planning process to ensure that you are ordering the right vehicles at the right price and they will be delivered when you need them. Working backwards is the best way to figure out the right amount of lead time that is required:
- By what date are the vehicles needed?
- How much lead time does the manufacturer need?
- If upfitting is required, how much time is required?
- What is the estimated shipping time for the vehicles?
Your fleet vehicles are one of your top priorities. Your planning strategy needs to include the types of vehicles you will need and how you will maintain them. When selecting vehicles, you must consider several factors, including vehicle use, driver needs, and the size of your fleet. For more details, see our infographic on vehicle selection. If all else is equal, looking at the projected total cost of ownership (TCO) can help you make a decision between vehicle types. This is where your fleet management partner can provide the most value and help you maximize your fleet ROI. Depreciation, fuel, insurance, and maintenance costs are the key factors of TCO calculations.
Replacement Analysis and Planning
You want to get the most ROI from your fleet. It’s a bit of an art and science to figure out the ideal time to replace vehicles – balancing your costs of replacement with the costs of maintaining an older or outdated vehicle, but while resale values are still profitable. With each new addition to your fleet, you need to adjust your replacement plan. You can generally apply a replacement cycle analysis to an entire category of vehicles (same make and model) or at times, an individual vehicle analysis makes sense. The industry standard for replacing most passenger-type vehicles is 3 to 4 years and 60,000 to 80,000 miles. A general benchmark for service vans and trucks can be a little longer at 48 to 60 months and 80,000 to 100,000 miles. Of course, these parameters could be tailored to actual annual mileage and vehicle usage.
The cost of fuel is a big driver for fleet managers seeking fuel efficiency, in addition to stricter regulations for lowering emissions. Fleet planning strategies should include the long-term goal of lowering emissions and improving fuel economy across the fleet. Some considerations to help you shape this plan:
- Include electric or alternative fuel vehicles.
- Incentivize a vehicle-sharing program for drivers.
- Include better route planning to reduce trip mileage.
- Train drivers to use fuel-efficient driving strategies.
- Use telematics to monitor driver behavior.
An effective fleet manager needs to work collaboratively with finance, human resources, senior management, and any other affected department in order to create a holistic fleet plan that will support the future of the business. Seeking input and open communication at the start of planning will help ensure that fleet decisions are made with careful consideration for all stakeholders and that any financial implications don’t come as a surprise to anyone down the line.