Strength in Numbers

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Public utility companies likely don’t share their business practices with funeral homes; nor do florists often mix with taxi companies. But there’s one commonality among the four businesses and many other organizations: They need vehicles to deliver their goods and services. In Southwest Florida and in communities nationwide, companies utilizing fleet vehicles do so to conduct efficient business.

A local pizza chain in Naples may have five subcompact vehicles zipping around town. Online retailers in Fort Myers make the rounds daily. Grocery stores, warehouse outlets, clothing retailers and construction companies all rely on fleet vehicles.

“‘Fleet’ is a status that you have, in our case, with General Motors,” says Patrick Greene, commercial and fleet sales manager at Rick Hendrick Chevrolet in Naples. “It pertains to a pricing model. Those customers who get that account get consistency and ease of doing business. There’s less variation in pricing than there may be on the consumer side.”

Long-haul companies and media outlets rely on fleet vehicles. Even autonomous 18-wheelers are part of the industry. In addition to tax benefits, fleet vehicles provide flexibility.

“On the consumer side, a manufacturer may focus on truck month, and it may give great discounts on the Chevy Silverado in July,” says Greene. “But a business may need to buy a Silverado in September or in December for end-of-the-year tax purposes. They don’t need to wait for the incentives.”

Fleet vehicles are not generally regarded as corporate assets, and don’t need to be reported on the balance sheets as assets or debts. Depending upon the manufacturer, fleet customers also receive better warranties and consumer warranties.

“Fleet people get their discount on Day 1 on even the hottest product,” says Greene, whose employer’s fleet ranges from popular lightweight pickups to dump trucks. “That can be pretty significant.”

According to Greene, fleet customers qualify by meeting certain criteria, including purchasing a minimum of five new vehicles in a calendar year or having at least 15 active vehicles in their current fleet.

Patrick Greene, commercial and fleet sales manager at Rick Hendrick Chevrolet in Naples

Fleet Maintenance Important

Peterbilt-Palm Truck Centers Inc., a full-service trucking company with six Florida locations, including Fort Myers, specializes in new and used truck fleet sales, as well as fleet maintenance.

“Most people who lease trucks do it for a number of reasons,” says John DeMarco, the company’s director of fleet services. “Some of it is for financial reasons, for tax purposes and things like that. Some businesses do it basically because they don’t have a shop. They don’t want to do maintenance, and they don’t want to worry about it. They pay a monthly fee for their trucks, and they do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it.”

Fleet management systems make handwritten records obsolete. The dashboard-installed programs collect diverse data from companies’ vehicles so they can operate their fleets more efficiently, using GPS technology to determine and record location, direction, speed and time parked, among other factors.

The result? More efficient fuel management, lowered maintenance costs and improved driver safety. It also results in increased driver satisfaction and helps to eliminate employee fraud.

Samsara, the global fleet management company, states the industry’s goal succinctly: “Fleet management essentially puts you in the passenger seat of the vehicle.”

Companies relying on fleet management systems share technology efficiency with clients. Instead of repeated phone calls to determine delivery times or reasons for a delay, customers can log into a fleet management portal that tracks real-time GPS data for pickup and delivery updates. Satisfied customers mean retained business.

Fleet management systems inform drivers when vehicles are properly maintained. The vehicles’ overall safety is also properly gauged, thus providing drivers a better on-the-road employment experience. Driver longevity improves, accidents are reduced and productivity increases. It all makes for good business.

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