If your career goal is to build and manage your own commercial fleet, getting started may seem like a daunting task. However, with careful planning and preparation, and a robust business model, there is no reason why your new commercial fleet should not flourish over time. There will undoubtedly be challenges along the way – not least, shortages in HGV drivers and hikes in fuel prices – but with careful management, you should be able to weather any storm.
To help you begin your fleet-building journey, here is some helpful step-by-step guidance that will take you from the initial preparatory stages through to the day-to-day management of your fleet.
Create A Comprehensive Business Plan
If you don’t already have a business plan prepared, it’s important that you make this the first significant step of your fleet-building journey.
After all, a detailed business plan is one of the cornerstones of any successful enterprise, providing a road map that clearly displays your key goals and how you aim to achieve them. Without this kind of action plan to refer to, it can become easy to make the wrong decisions that could potentially impact the health and viability of your venture.
In your commercial fleet business plan, you should include important information about your business assets and structure. For example, how much start-up capital you possess, whether or not you plan to lease or buy your vehicles outright, and your main priorities. Are you keen to find ways to run a cost-effective business, or is your prime focus going to be on acquiring more sales?
Other questions you may want to include are what kind of customer service system you will have in place, and whether you will implement a fuel spending program for your drivers.
Finding The Ideal Location
Finding the perfect location for your fleet may require a little work and a degree of compromise. While scouting for business premises, you will have to bear in mind their individual suitability for yourself, your drivers, your clients, and anyone living and working in the surrounding area.
Other factors that will affect your decision-making process include each property’s proximity to major transport links – vital for any commercial fleet –the security of the property, its space and facilities, and what the business rates and local authority charges may be.
Choose Your Vehicles
Once you have a business plan and a suitable location to accommodate your fleet, it’s time to select your vehicles.
Before you start inspecting different vehicles, you will need to know what type of transport you will be using – i.e. cars, vans, or lorries – and whether you will be leasing or buying them outright. All of this information should have been included in your business plan.
You will also need to factor in the proposed size of your fleet and your budget, as this will determine how many vehicles you lease or purchase, and whether you opt for mostly new or second-hand models.
Hire The Best Drivers
Once your fleet of vehicles is in place at your business property, the next step is to find qualified drivers to man them.
When hiring your team of drivers, you will need to look for candidates with a clean driving license capable of handling the vehicles in your fleet. If you have a number of larger vehicles, including HGVs, it’s important that you take on experienced drivers with up-to-date HGV qualifications, to minimise the risk of accident or injury.
Even though your candidates may be experienced and certified, you may still want to consider investing in an onboarding driver training program, andcompile your company policies and procedures into a convenient handbook for them to study and consult when need be.
You must also ensure that all of your drivers are aware of national and European regulations regarding safe driving practices, to prevent any avoidable penalties or fines.
Ensure Safety And Compliance
As the new owner of a commercial fleet, you must prioritise the safety of each driver in your team.
This includes making sure that every vehicle you lease or own is safe to drive. Every time a new vehicle is purchased, it should be thoroughly checked over to make sure it is fit for purpose, and all vehicles should also be inspected regularly – perhaps even on a daily basis – by their drivers.
Inspection reports should be compiled and submitted as promptly as possible, so you always have up-to-date information on the status of every car or truck in your fleet. This will not only help you guarantee that they are safe to drive, but also help you note down potential issues and arrange for repairs or preventative work to be carried out.
Similarly, your drivers should also be monitored to ensure their safety, and the safety of other road users, as well as to ensure that they comply with regulations regarding how many hours they can drive.
To help you keep track of their working hours and breaks, as well as the distances they travel, you can use a remote tachograph download, such as this download from FleetGO. This solution automatically downloads all files from your driver cards and stores them on the cloud, so you can ensure that your archive of records demonstrates consistent compliance with EU regulations.
Consistent Management Is Key
Once your new commercial fleet is up and running, the best way to ensure its success over the coming months and years is to focus on consistency, efficiency and vigilance.
For example, keeping on top of vital tasks such as vehicle maintenance and driver training and monitoring will help to guarantee that your fleet is operating safely and at maximum efficiency.
Just remember – while maintaining high levels of productivity is undeniably important, your primary focus should always be on the well-being of those in your employ. After all, you will be depending on them to represent your business, hit your targets and achieve your goals, so it’s vital that you do your best to keep them safe while they’re on the road.