Upon joining RTA, The Fleet Success Company, I have been simply amazed that our biggest competitor is a spreadsheet – or more specifically, fleet operations that still use spreadsheets to manage their assets. This practice takes me back to when I started my career in the 1970s when many were using file folder jackets, magnetic boards, and 3 x 5 index cards holders to track parts inventory.
If you’re thinking, “Wow this is an archaic way to manage a fleet of vehicles with all the modern-day software programs available in the market,” you’re right.
However, what’s even crazier, is many fleet management organizations have simply replaced these old systems with Excel spreadsheets. Many businesses today say, “Why should we invest in a modern fleet management information system (FMIS) when we have only a few vehicles?” These managers may believe that using Excel is an efficient and free tool since it comes as part of the Microsoft Office Suite. Some may even argue that they can take advantage of the SharePoint functionality using a spreadsheet to manage their fleet. But, if you’ve ever used SharePoint, then you might understand the frustrations that come with using shared files.
So, let’s take a deeper dive and examine WHY spreadsheets (and SharePoint) may not be the best tool to manage a fleet - even for a single asset -- and why spreadsheets should probably be dismissed.
Several FMIS applications today are purpose-built to manage a fleet of assets. This means, that they have the built-in features required to efficiently track asset-related transactions. Why is it important to track asset-related transactions? First, we live in a very lawyer-intensive and litigious world where you need to ensure vehicles are properly maintained to defend your operation from costly and frivolous lawsuits. If you Google a single court award against any defendant for a vehicle accident today, you’ll find it averages around $20,000. As an example, car accident settlement amounts in Arizona can vary enormously, but the rough average falls between roughly $10,000 to over $30,000. Some car accident cases settle for over a million dollars. Compared to the cost of most FMIS products today, a business can purchase a seat for as little as $3 per vehicle a month, or $36 annually. Weighing these costs is simply a no-brainer to most risk management professionals.
So, what does it take to lose a lawsuit to a plaintiff? The answer to this question is often insufficient data demonstrating the defendant did their due diligence or everything in their power to properly maintain their vehicle. You don’t have to be a legal expert to know that court case monetary awards are based on the “reasonable person” standard. So, what are the duties of a reasonable person when it comes to managing a fleet of assets? Below is a simple list of what a reasonable person must do to demonstrate to the court that they took every precaution to ensure assets were maintained and safe to operate on the public roadways.
- Preventive Maintenance: Each vehicle comes with an owner manual that lays out the exact tasks and intervals required to maintain a safe vehicle. Tracking this information is critical to any court case where the plaintiff’s lawyer has the right through “discovery” to access the defendant’s records.
- Safety Recall Management: Vehicle manufacturers often discover defects after vehicles roll off the assembly line that must be corrected. Ignoring safety recalls can hinder any court case and a reasonable person would have acted to correct the safety defect.
- Daily Inspections: In litigation, the court expects the reasonable person to conduct a safety check prior to operating a vehicle on public roadways. This is doubly important if the vehicle is a commercial vehicle (10,001 GVWR) since these are held at a much higher standard. Daily inspections include checking fluid levels, tire tread depth and proper inflation, brakes, steering, and required lights.
- Driver Information: Vehicle operators must possess the proper credentials to safely operate a vehicle on public roadways. This requires companies to ensure every driver has a valid driver's license. Any court would expect a reasonable person in any company to ensure drivers are operating with valid credentials. If the company operates commercial vehicles, then the standard is much higher.
These criteria may seem simple to track in a spreadsheet, but trust me, as someone that has been subpoenaed to court several times during my career as a fleet professional, I would never want to rely on a spreadsheet to support my defense. As an example, many drivers could physically possess a license when their license has been revoked or suspended. This means not only tracking driver's license information in an FMIS but also having an interface to the DMV to ensure credentials are valid.
Lastly, there are many other reasons not to use spreadsheets to manage vehicle assets. These include:
- Multiple user access and data management accuracy challenges.
- Insufficient “real-time monitoring” of required compliance transactions (e.g., driver licenses, license plate expirations, PM services completion, warranty management, safety recalls, routine inspections, and regulatory requirements.)
- Risks of omitting essential information related to the management of an asset
- Spreadsheet error management occurs in almost 90% of spreadsheets that contain manual entry errors. Not to mention, the fact that “Macros” can be easily corrupted by an inexperienced user.
- Insufficient or poor security. Spreadsheets often lack the proper login security necessary to protect the informational data. Employees can easily share Excel spreadsheets with other employees. Security measures for spreadsheets are never 100% reliable.
There are myriad other reasons to stop using spreadsheets to manage a fleet operation, but the cost alone is probably the single biggest reason to stop. Using an FMIS increases data accuracy, better data security, and quality control, and serves to protect the company from unnecessary lawsuits. Finally, as a former mechanic, it’s inconceivable to me not to utilize the proper tool to effectively complete a task. An FMIS is a proper tool in today’s world to manage a fleet of assets efficiently and effectively. Don’t wait!
To learn how RTA’s FMIS can benefit your fleet operation, contact us today to schedule a demo with our Sales team.