Broadly speaking, fleet vehicles are cars, trucks, or other automobiles that are owned by a business or organization for official use. Sometimes fleets are used in delivery services, or they can be assigned to employees in sales or other occupations that require a lot of travel throughout the day. Other examples include ambulances, police cars, and taxicabs; city buses also usually fall into this category. Fleets, whether easily recognizable or not, are usually marked with numbers or some other identifying information, and are usually subject to a routine system of maintenance and inspection. In nearly all cases they must be returned to a headquarters or the center of operations at the end of the driver’s shift, which differentiates them from company cars that are often leased to or otherwise lent more permanently to employees. Companies usually have streamlined management systems for servicing and maintaining the fleet, and in most countries there are also tax advantages to purchasing everything in bulk and performing service in a routine way. The costs can often be deducted or used as credits, and depreciation can sometimes be credited back, too.
The most obvious fleets are owned by companies that are in the transportation business, and in these cases, having an inventoried list of cars including a detailed log of their maintenance and mileage is efficient as well as money-saving. The fleet concept also works well in organizations that require employees to travel in an official capacity. Checking out or borrowing a car from the fleet is often a lot more streamlined than using a personal vehicle, and can be more reliable, too. Employees who operate fleet cars or vans usually don’t have to worry about things like gas, mileage expenses, or insurance, either.
Types of Vehicle at Issue
Fleets can be made up of almost any sort of vehicle, depending on the needs of the business and the expected use. In most cases, they’re a popular make of car, truck, or van with easily obtainable parts and service. The most recognizable examples include buses, taxis, emergency response vehicles, rental cars, and delivery trucks. Most of these are painted in unique or company-specific colors to make them easy to spot. Less prominent fleets — usually for state or employee use — may not be color-coordinated, but they do typically bear some type of identification or placard.
Depending on the company or organization, types of fleet vehicles can range from cars to vans to trucks. They tend to endure much harder use than personally-owned vehicles due to demands of the job for which they are intended. A single vehicle may be subjected to constant use by a number of different operators, for instance, not all of whom may use the same degree of care or attention. Additionally, fleet vehicles, by the nature of their ongoing operation, are more likely to be subjected to mechanical and cosmetic wear and tear. They are also routinely used to travel several hundreds of thousands of miles (or kilometers), far beyond the typical lifespan of a privately-owned car or truck.
Tracking, financing, maintenance, replacement, and other ongoing activities related to the upkeep of a vehicle fleet are collectively known as fleet management. Governments and companies with large fleets will often have entire departments devoted to fleet management, or outsource the work to dedicated companies. In the delivery industry, for example, a fleet management employee's duties may range from monitoring the global positioning system (GPS) tracking of vehicles to performing automotive diagnostic and maintenance checks.
Tracking and Performance Analysis
Most commercial fleet management programs also monitor the mileage, fuel economy, and other statistics related to the performance of vehicles, and use the data to optimize routes and minimize costs for such things as fuel consumption and maintenance. Vehicle tracking can also be used to generate profiles of particular drivers, providing for quantitative analysis of their performance. A crucial aspect of fleet management relates to the eventual, but inevitable, need to replace old vehicles with new ones. Since many governments and organizations purchase replacement fleet vehicles in cash on an as-needed basis, fleets tend to consist of older models. In most cases there are industry standard databases that allow fleet operators to plot the life cycle of vehicles and their replacement needs.