Is Your Vehicle a Money Pit?

Forget about the dog-eared notebook in the glove box. Sophisticated equipment maintenance reporting options will uncover your true cost of ownership.
Is Your Vehicle a Money Pit?
Fleetio’s Dashboard provides an overview of maintenance history, service reminders and service costs.

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The question isn’t why you should use vehicle maintenance software, but why not? Sure, you can store data on an Excel spreadsheet, file drawer or even a shoebox, but why would you?

Nathaniel Cochran, director of operations for Dwyer Plumbing, handles dispatching, IT and long-term strategy for the Alexandria, Va., company and its 30 employees. He’s also in charge of managing the company’s fleet of 28 vehicles that range from service vans to heavy equipment, hydrojetters, compressors and trailers.

“We had been keeping information in Excel, but we really didn’t have great records,” he says. “It wasn’t hard to use, but it didn’t put out as much information as the fleet software, like scheduling reminders.” Approximately a year ago, Cochran went shopping for a program that would keep tabs on service, fuel mileage and provide preventive maintenance reminders.

The program he chose enables him to share inputting, service and repair data. “I can give a couple other people access so they can update the information themselves, rather than having it cross my desk,” he says. “We can pull up the maintenance software from our phones, which helps when I’m doing a physical inspection of the vans – just enter it in from the parking lot.”

Cochran says his insurance provider suggested going the maintenance software route. “He said some contractors he works with, the only record they have of their vehicle is the insurance schedule, which is not a particularly good way to know about the condition of your fleet.” What Cochran finds most beneficial is knowing which vehicles are costing the most to repair and should be replaced.

CHOICES, CHOICES

Ready for a test drive? A quick online search can display thousands of software options, from free downloads to for-fee upgrades. The challenge is deciding which program best meets your needs and budget.

FleetVIP’s free demo tracks two vehicles, while the Standard version ($19.95) tracks up to six vehicles. The Plus version ($49.95) tracks up to 26 vehicles, and the Pro version ($199.95) tracks an unlimited number of vehicles. In each case there is no monthly or annual fee. The for-fee programs are Cloud backup compatible, while the Pro version adds spreadsheet export.

Fleetio offers a 14-day free trial of its programs that range from the free Personal Fleet (one user, five vehicles) to the 1,000-vehicle Epic Fleet ($689 per month or 69 cents per vehicle per month). The for-fee programs allow unlimited users, driver management and provide email support. The Large Fleet (100 vehicles, $119 per month), Super Fleet (250 vehicles, $199 per month) and Mega Fleet (500 vehicles, $359 per month), as well as the Epic Fleet programs, include phone support. All plans include secure data encryption, unlimited file storage and data export.

FleetWise’s suite of products start at $100 for the FleetWise Lite package designed for smaller fleets (10 vehicles) to its full-feature flagship FleetWise VB that includes vehicle and equipment information for an unlimited number of vehicles, repair order system, inventory control and fuel management ($700 for stand-alone program without inventory control, $1,350 with inventory, $1,500 for network program without inventory and $2,700 for network program with inventory).

LOOK FOR WEB-BASED PROGRAM

Tom Summerville, founder and CEO for RareStep of Birmingham, Ala., maker of Fleetio, says maintenance programs enable fleet owners to understand the overall cost of owning and maintaining each piece of equipment, from truck engines to vacuum pumps and trailer tires. “All that additional equipment is going to need preventive maintenance and documentation as well,” he says. “Even if you have a very small fleet, you still need to be maintaining records and staying on top of the operations of that fleet from a maintenance perspective.”

When shopping for a program, look for something that is Web-based and online accessible, he says. It should store all your information in one place, but more important, it should be easy to use.

It also should be mobile. “Having information at your fingertips is a very effective and powerful way to monitor things,” Summerville says. And it should seek you out. The system should come to you with notifications – emails and text alerts of what’s wrong and needs work.

It should be flexible. “You want a system that can adapt to your needs,” he says. “You want to track the maintenance of the vehicle separately from the maintenance that occurs on your vacuum pump. If there are unique things that need to be captured at the time of service, having a system that is flexible enough to meet those needs is pretty important.”

BETTER DATA

Peter Michaelis, owner of All About Computers in Jacksonville, Fla., maker of FleetWise, says one advantage of a maintenance program over a spreadsheet is data validation. “You might have a column that says repair order costs, but there’s no checking if the number you put in is correct.”

Maintenance programs can perform multiple functions, such as automatically updating parts inventory when entering repair costs. Could the same be done on a spreadsheet? Certainly, says Michaelis, but you would have to go to the repair order spreadsheet and put in the cost, then go to the inventory spreadsheet and subtract your part. It’s not as efficient, he says. “The general rule of computer systems is if you have to do something twice, then the chance of it being wrong is twice as great."



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