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Fledgling landscape companies often deploy a patchwork of online software solutions to manage their daily operations. This is understandable, especially when operating on tight budgets and tighter margins.

However, as businesses grow, it’s critical to integrate professional-grade software platforms, especially for fleet management, because the tangible benefits outweigh the costs.

Upgrade time: Fleet management software provides numerous immediate advantages, including improved efficiency, reduced costs, increased safety, improved compliance, enhanced customer relations and proof of service, which is vital to mitigate costly slip-and-fall claims for northern firms offering snow and ice management.

Therefore, upgrading to a pro-focused fleet management platform as early as possible makes sense.

“If you’re thinking about it and having this conversation with team members, then that’s a clear sign you’re ready,” says Paul Romanowski, fleet manager at Drost Landscape in Petoskey, Mich. Drost’s service portfolio is around 50 percent design/build, 25 percent enhancements (including landscape and snow removal), 20 percent tree care and 5 percent lawn care. “And if your margins are so thin that you question whether you can afford this, there are other issues to address. If your business is consistent, it’s time to pull the trigger.”

A misconception is that a landscaper must be a certain size or scope to warrant fleet management software. Any-sized operation benefits, says Matt Deloge, vice president at GPS Fleet Consulting, Portsmouth, N.H.

“If your company has had recent issues with driving infractions or were at fault in accidents, then you’re a good candidate to benefit from fleet management software,” Deloge says. “Or, if you’re having trouble bridging the gap between the work done in the field and what’s being invoiced through the office, then a fleet management program allows you to review and confirm the work done on a job site.”

Core Functions: The range of features offered by fleet management software can make it overwhelming for contractors to choose the right platform. Here are some core functions contractors should prioritize.

  1. Compliance. This compiles commercial vehicle inspection and issue documentation as regulated by a state’s department of transportation.
    “You need some way to take all that data and correlate it into something useful,” Romanowski says. “Many programs do this, so you need to make sure there’s the ability to integrate (vehicle) maintenance records and schedules.”
  2. Tracking. Oversee fuel usage and driver behavior, which identifies areas of waste, inefficiency and safety. Plus, integrated dashboard cameras provide an added layer of accountability and protection.
  3. Dispatch, scheduling and progress. Report job status and arrival times to keep clients better informed.
  4. Track specialized equipment. Track equipment other than trucks, such as powered (mowers and loaders) and non-powered equipment (snowplows).
  5. Store-and-forward technology. If your vehicle travels into an area with little to no cellular coverage, when that vehicle comes back into range, the tech uploads the missed tracking data, “It’s extremely important because once it reconnects to the cellular network, it backfills (the data) so the contractor doesn’t miss a beat,” Deloge says.

Lastly, another important consideration is a vendor’s reputation for reliability, financial stability and customer support, especially when addressing system downtime issues.

Implementation: Software is another tool at a contractor’s disposal. And any tool is only impactful when used correctly and utilized by the team. One prevailing problem is employee pushback due to a fleet management platform’s Big Brother oversight and the perception that ownership is tracking everyone’s actions.   Click here to read full article