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Head in the Sand II

In our last article post, we talked about information overload and the importance of organizing ourselves when it comes to our fleet management data. We suggested that if you hadn’t already done so, to gather up all of your vehicle info, service records, registrations, maintenance schedules etc. and we would discuss different methods of organizing this information into some sort of usable system. That my dear readers brings us to today.

When it comes to fleet management, information is critical. What you do with that information is even more so. But to effectively leverage all of this data, it has to be organized into some sort of system that makes sense for you and your business. The simplest and most cost effective way of accomplishing this is through the diligent use of a database. Databases are simply electronic filing systems where you can keep all of your documentation in one, easily accessible location. You have many options in this regard, however, today we will be focusing on one example which you probably own and have installed on your computer already.

Microsoft Outlook

If your business has computers and email (you do have those, right?), there is a good chance that you are using Outlook to manage your email and calendar. Unfortunately, that is where most people stop and they do so unwisely. Outlook is a fairly customizable database which, if slightly modified, can serve as a storehouse for all of your vehicle’s maintenance records, registration information, insurance details, and more. What’s even more useful is how you can attach your Calendar functions and create reminders for things like license plate renewals, tire rotations, and oil changes. You can even attach documents and an image of the vehicle to its file. Here are the basic steps to get you started with using Outlook for your vehicle files.

1) Create contact files for each of your vehicles. This will take some creativity on your part in that you will have to work around some of the defined entry fields that are provided to you. Just decide what makes sense for you and go from there. For example, instead of entering a Company Name, enter Fleet in that field instead. Doing so will allow you to search for those records in the database that only pertain to your company vehicles. In the Full Name field, you might use the vehicle’s identification number, make, and model, etc. Spend some time with it, play around, and make it your own. The best solution is the one that works for you.

2) Create custom user fields. Under the Contact tab you will likely find an option to view “All Fields”. This will take you to a screen where you can create your own custom data fields to be named and used for any purpose you can think of. Some ideas may be…

  • Last Oil Change
  • Registration Expires
  • Current Mileage
  • Tire Rotation Date
  • Driver Assigned

You get the idea. Again, look around and play with it.

3) Setup Tasks, Reminders, and Calendar items. This is where the real functionality of this software comes into play. Now that you have all of your vehicles logged into the system, you can keep track of things like scheduled maintenance activities, mechanics notes, insurance renewal information, fuel usage, repairs, and the like. Use the Calendar function with Reminders and you will never forget another service interval again.

Now just because we only highlighted Outlook in this article does NOT mean that this is the only way to get this done. There is a myriad of options and many of them may already exist in your business. Access is a database creation application which allows you to design your own solution, from the ground up. Most of the Client Relationship Management (CRM) software packages can be repurposed for the fleet management function as well and are worth looking into and playing around with if you already happen to own and use them in your business.

The most critical thing to remember is that you do not have to spend a fortune to run and manage your fleet successfully and efficiently.

Combining a solid system like the ones we have discussed today with a GPS tracking solution such as our Fleetlog system, will have you running a world class fleet program, whether you have 1000 vehicles, or just two.