Fleet management may seem like it’s only for huge shipping companies, but it provides amazing benefits for small businesses. In fact, any company with more than two cars or trucks will see lowered fuel costs and improved efficiency with a good fleet management program.

The backbone of fleet management is GPS tracking. This allows the company to know where its vehicles are at all times. In turn, that knowledge is used to find traffic bottlenecks, locate the most efficient routes and ensure that vehicles aren’t being used for unauthorized trips.

Finding the most efficient route often isn’t just a matter of looking at the map. The shortest route may be plagued with traffic jams, construction, dangerous intersections and other problems. This is where GPS comes in. It allows you to spot those places where it’s better for a route to have a detour to avoid either slow traffic or high-accident intersections.

Unauthorized trips are another issue that can plague delivery and service companies of all sizes. It’s very tempting for an employee to take smaller company trucks over to the store or make a stop at a restaurant. After all, they may say, “the store’s right on my route!” The problem is that this eats gas and takes time. If the store really is right on the route and time isn’t an issue, there’s no real point in worrying about it, but that’s often not the case.

Frequently, the extra destination is actually a few blocks away and customers will be impatiently waiting for the delivery they thought would happen half an hour ago. These extra few blocks increase your fuel costs as well as interfere with customer service. GPS tracking allows you to spot this sort of activity and respond appropriately.

Small businesses may find that the cost of installing EOBR (Electronic On-Board Recorder) technology is prohibitive. The hardware and software require an initial cost outlay, and then time must be taken to install it all. Because of this, it’s still best for mid- to large-sized companies. Larger companies have the amount of driving activity needed to offset the setup costs and see the full benefits of an advanced fleet management system. Small companies who deliver things frequently may benefit from an EOBR fleet management system, even if they only have a few trucks.

Small companies who don’t transport things frequently aren’t completely out of luck when it comes to improving fleet efficiency. Manual methods can take care of some of these things. For example, route managers should go out themselves and drive the routes they’ve implemented or are considering. This drive should be done at the time the route would actually be run. Test drives like this will allow them to spot traffic problems, construction and other issues.

When a small company grows, however, it should revisit the idea of full-on EOBR-enhanced fleet management. The use of computers and GPS devices will make it easy to keep track of multiple company vehicles at the same time. This visibility will make it easy to save on gas, lower the incidence of accidents and maximize labor efficiency. By eliminating the guesswork from its routes, midsized and larger companies are sure to quickly see a profit from their investment in advanced route management systems.