Fleet rightsizing is a management practice that can help vehicle fleet managers build and maintain sustainable, fuel-efficient fleets. Fleet inventories often grow over time to include vehicles that are highly specialized, rarely used, or unsuitable for current applications. By evaluating fleet size and composition, managers can optimize vehicle use, conserve fuel, reduce emissions, and save money on fuel and maintenance.
Evaluate Vehicle Needs and Use
Fleet managers should understand their fleet's daily vehicle use and needs. Most fleet managers already have a handle on their number and type of vehicles, average mileage, payloads, and fuel economy. Fleet rightsizing combines this information with a critical look at fleet operations to identify opportunities to reduce energy use. When rightsizing, fleet managers should evaluate how important each vehicle is to the fleet’s performance by asking themselves:
What tasks are accomplished by each vehicle? Or, what is the drive cycle?
What is the daily, weekly, or monthly mileage of each vehicle? Or, what is the duty cycle?
Are fleet vehicles the optimal vehicle type, class, and size for the job?
Are there any vehicles that are no longer cost effective to operate or are no longer fulfilling their purpose?
Are there any vehicles that are no longer being used or have experienced a lot of downtime?
What is the fuel consumption of each vehicle? Can any vehicles be replaced by lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles?
What is the age of the vehicles? Can any vehicles be replaced by newer, more efficient and reliable vehicles?
Are there any alternatives to owning or leasing a vehicle, such as shuttle bus services, motor pool vehicles, sharing vehicles with other offices/agencies, vehicle stipends, public transportation, or short-term rentals when needed?
Considering the answers to the previous questions, what is the optimal composition of the fleet required to properly support the fleet’s needs?
In addition to reviewing telematics or fleet analysis data, fleet managers should consider soliciting input from drivers when conducting a rightsizing review, as they can be very knowledgeable about how vehicles are being used to support operations. Gathering this input also gives drivers a stake in the development of rightsizing recommendations. Fleet managers can solicit input through driver surveys or face-to-face meetings to establish consensus.
A fleet rightsizing strategy should evaluate the business case of each vehicle to determine whether reassigning, replacing, or eliminating the vehicle would reduce fuel and maintenance costs without compromising fleet activities. Fleet managers often need to define evaluation criteria and rank vehicles to complete this analysis. A fleet dominated by sport utility vehicles, for example, may find that mid-size sedans can suffice with a significant reduction in fuel costs.
Fleet managers may develop their own analysis or use existing evaluation tools. The Vehicle Allocation Methodology developed by the U.S. General Services Administration is an evaluation framework that federal agency fleets use to ensure fleets are cost-effective and contain the appropriate number and type of vehicles. Learn more about this methodology in the Comprehensive Federal Fleet Management Handbook (PDF).
Make Smart Vehicle Purchases
Fleet managers may decide to replace older vehicles with more fuel-efficient or alternative fuel vehicles. These purchasing strategies may help fleet managers make decisions that meet operational needs and conserve fuel:
Transition to Smaller, More Efficient Engines: Using smaller engines can help fleets meet operational needs without downgrading vehicle class. Some fleets choose to switch from 6-cylinder to 4-cylinder engines to help reduce fuel use and emissions. In many cases, the new, smaller engine can have nearly the same horsepower as a larger engine. Fleet managers can also improve fuel efficiency by selecting smaller engines with optional gearing for their application.
Choose Lighter Vehicles: When purchasing new vehicles, look for opportunities to reduce vehicle weight. Lightweight materials, such as aluminum frames, and smaller components can reduce rolling resistance and drag, thereby improving a vehicle’s fuel economy. For example, a 10% reduction in vehicle weight can improve fuel economy by 6% to 8%. Also, try to avoid unnecessarily large body configurations and heavy accessories. For more information, refer to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency's Confidence Report.
Use Alternative Fuels and Vehicles: Alternative fuel and fuel-efficient advanced vehicles can reduce a fleet's fuel use, making them economical options for many fleets. Cost savings from vehicle maintenance, operation, and fuel use and price often offset higher purchase prices.
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Your upfit is spec’ed, purchased, and installed, and you are now utilizing it in your operations. The next step in the upfit process is ensuring proper maintenance.
Top Upfit Maintenance Challenges:
A huge challenge many fleet managers face in maintaining upfits is simply communicating the value and importance of proper upfit maintenance to field personnel and drivers.
“Most drivers understand the importance of oil changes, brake services, etc., and will typically make sure their vehicle is serviced in a timely manner. But prioritizing upfit maintenance in a similar fashion typically isn’t something that comes naturally. The fleet manager must educate their frontline personnel on the critical aspect of properly maintaining the vehicle’s equipment; not only to maximize its effective lifecycle and control costs but also to ensure the safety of their fleet personnel in the field,” said Jeff Klinghoffer, regional engineering manager for Holman Enterprises.
At the end of the day, it comes down to education and awareness.
“As a fleet manager, you’ll need to communicate the importance of proper upfit and equipment maintenance to your drivers. Beyond that, you can certainly implement processes and procedures to assess the condition of the vehicle and its upfit regularly. You can also explore potential gamification or incentive programs to help secure buy-in from your drivers,” Klinghoffer added.
Let’s face it; fleet managers have a lot on their plate.
“Fleet managers face daily challenges mixed in with bigger picture issues that include building a safe, reliable, and appropriate truck for the job while making executives and stakeholders happy. Finding the time to answer all of the challenges can be difficult,” said Mathew Marcussen, director of customer relations for BrandFX. “Taking the time to do research and learn more, in the beginning, will reap great savings, benefits, and efficiency in the end. Also, purchase a body that maintains its good condition over a long period will reduce the cost of repairs and service.”
When it comes to the different types of materials used in upfitting, you need to select the right material for the job.
“Ladder racks on top of cargo vans are impacted by either the snow and ice removal chemicals in the Midwest or the salty air near coastal regions. Using aluminum and stainless steel in those products is a must to provide the customer a quality product that gets them a good return on their investment,” said Katie Groves, national fleet sales manager for Adrian Steel.
Don’t forget to depend on those who know upfitting best.
“Partner with an upfitter that has a national presence and a team that can support these instances,” Groves recommended.
6 Mistakes Maintaining Upfits
While mistakes may not often happen when maintaining upfits, they can occur. Here are a few top ones to avoid:
Mistake 1: Lack of Inspection
Just as drivers need to inspect your vehicle for leaks, tire wear, etc., they should examine their upfits, too.
“Constantly check routing and clipping for rub points, just because a battery cable was tied up nicely last time you inspected it doesn’t mean a clip didn’t break loose since then,” said Brad Howard, director of Operations for Fontaine Modification.
Mistake 2: Ignoring Preventive Maintenance
When it comes to the vehicles themselves, preventive maintenance (PM) second nature, but that may not be true for upfits.
“Fleet managers realize that adhering to a recommended PM schedule is vital to optimizing the vehicle’s lifecycle and controlling the total cost of ownership. However, the same methodology also applies to a vehicle’s upfitting and equipment, but preventive maintenance for these items is often overlooked,” said Kelly Klemisch, regional engineering manager, Holman Enterprises.
To avoid this mistake, work upfits into your PM strategy for your vehicles.
“Regular service for equipment such as air compressors, material handling units, and aerial devices should be included in the unit’s PM schedule. Additionally, you can also include inspections in the schedule as well, so drivers receive reminders for those items as well. Or, at the very least, take measures to keep these PM items top-of-mind for drivers and operators. For example, you can track crane or compressors hours on an interior door decal,” Klemisch added.
Mistake 3: Not Adjusting Upfits Correctly
Make sure that ladder racks are correctly adjusted to your ladders.
“A properly adjusted ladder rack will keep the ladder secured on the van during transportation, reduce noise that could cause driver distraction, and extend the life of both the ladder and ladder rack,” said Katie Groves, national fleet sales manager for Adrian Steel.
Mistake 4: Misusing Upfit Equipment
You should also ensure your drivers and frontline workers fully understand how to use the vehicle’s equipment properly.
“Many vocational vehicles feature sophisticated and complex attachments, so training your employees on the best practices for using these units will help to minimize premature wear and tear and maximize the equipment’s effective lifecycle. This also applies to something as simple as a vehicle’s storage units. We often see fleet personnel overloading a service body or interior shelving with more than it is intended to hold, and this really impacts the longevity of these items,” said Klemisch of Holman Enterprises.
Mistake 5: Wrong Service Timing
When you service certain upfit items is also essential.
“When you service trucks, and related upfits is a big item. One example is a snowplow: make sure to service at the end of the snow season AND beginning of the season,” said Patrick Clark, director of fleet sales for Dejana Truck and Utility Equipment.
Mistake 6: Improper Equipment Storage
Where you store your equipment has a considerable impact on its useful service life.
“Also storing equipment inside helps preserve the life. Work with the local upfitters to make sure you are servicing cranes, liftgates, plows etc correctly,” said Clark of Dejana Truck and Utility Equipment.
The California Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Program was enacted in the interest of improving traffic safety on our roadways. As a result, California has developed licensing and testing requirements for drivers of commercial vehicles which equals or exceeds federal standards.
Download the CDL Handbook or any other of DMV’s publications that may be helpful here:
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