weißer Kleintransporter in einem modernen Fuhrpark

Vehicle Fleet: How companies should handle fleet management

How to manage your Fleet

Company cars need to fulfil a certain intent or be representative of the enterprise, and optimally both at the same time – but first and foremost they have to get their drivers safely to their destinations. Good fleet management always comes down to two aims: ensuring employee mobility and keeping costs down.

Whether as a means of transport for the business traveler or visiting customers or as an option in salary negotiations, company cars are an integral part of the everyday lives of millions of professionals and executives in Germany. From a company’s point of view, vehicle purchase is just the start. Fuel receipts and cards, driver’s logbooks and repair invoices need to be organized and evaluated.

At best, fleet management is done by a separate department, or minimally by a fleet manager. Alternatively, some companies outsource this task.

The primary goal of all fleet managers is to enable and ensure employee mobility – at the lowest possible cost. This is achieved through higher insurance deductibles, switching to cheaper makes and models or to smaller, more environmentally friendly engines. In addition, this can be accomplished by better utilization of existing vehicles. Here, software tools come into play by providing vital information through meaningful analysis.

An important step for the fleet manager is the consolidation of all vehicle-related expenditures in the fleet collection cost center. This includes the purchase of cleaning and care products, tires and spare parts, tools, costs for repairs and maintenance as well as vehicle taxes and insurance. Expenses for registration and deregistration also have their place here.

Assembling the fleet: The right choice

The vehicles in which a company’s employees travel can have a major impact on external perception. If the managing director of a luxury brand manufacturer drives up to the customer in a small, scruffy car, this could cause just as much of a consternation as an environmental organization rep showing up in a massive SUV. It is a firm’s car policy that sets down which category of staff drives which vehicles. This prevents discord among employees while ensuring strategic goals like low vehicle costs and CO2 emissions are met.

On German roads, cars with combustion engines are still the most common. Electric vehicles though are becoming an ever more viable alternative. Among the general public, they have been met with great interest, even if sales figures – due to high prices and range anxiety – are still quite low. Corporate fleets are including more and more of them, for example as pool vehicles. Due to their high mileage performance, acquisition costs are weighed against lower operating costs.

Fleet management: Tools and software as alternatives to Excel

Vehicles are not only capital-intensive, the demands placed on the fleet and corporate mobility are escalating, as are the expectations on fleet managers. Simplifying processes and identifying potential savings require more than what Excel can do. The more company vehicles there are, the more important it becomes to find ways to take care of routine tasks and comply with legal and organizational deadlines. Data and its analysis are also becoming increasingly important in fleet management. Time and money can be saved in a myriad of ways: from fuel data and leasing statement import to deployment scenarios using telematics and GPS.

Who is allowed what: Legal issues and respondeat superior liability for fleet operators

A central topic of fleet management is respondeat superior liability. This is first and foremost the responsibility of company management. Management can transfer liability to the fleet manager. Care however must be taken to ensure the manager is up to the task. If this proves otherwise, an ineffective delegation ensues and management will ultimately be held accountable.

The other duties of a fleet operator include the checking of driving-license validity. This applies not only to those assigned company vehicles, but also those who have access to pool vehicles.

The company must also comply with work time regulations. Under certain circumstances, journeys taken in a company car may be counted as working time. Whether this is the case depends on various factors, such as if public transport could have been used instead. To record working hours or personal trips, drivers should keep a logbook so as to avoid being taxed under the 1% rule.

Whether it be internal or external fleet management – fleet managers are aided today by digital tools, which must comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO). Particular attention must be paid to the proper storage and use of drivers’ personal data.