Spreadsheets are low-cost and easy to use, but when it comes to tracking and managing your fleet vehicles, you’re likely getting what you pay for. To help you determine whether this ‘free’ option is the right one for your small business, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of using fleet management spreadsheets, plus our best advice for making the most of Excel.
The Pros of Tracking Your Fleet via Spreadsheet
Tracking fleets with Excel spreadsheets may not be our first choice, but it does come with a few perks.
It’s free or low-cost
Spreadsheets don’t cost any money upfront. You can simply spend some time brainstorming the specific data you need to collect and create a master spreadsheet that tracks it all.
It’s relatively easy
If you’ve got an eye for detail, dedicated staff, and lots of time to put into fleet management and tracking, you won’t have any trouble mastering the spreadsheet method.
Data entry is simple
If you have even a baseline understanding of Microsoft Excel, you’ll likely find that inputting your data into a spreadsheet comes easily.
Something is better than nothing
You need data and information on your fleet if you’re going to make reliable business decisions. If the only alternative to using a spreadsheet is not tracking your fleet at all, jump into fleet spreadsheets headfirst!
What Your Fleet Management Excel Spreadsheet Should Include
Knowing what to include in your fleet management spreadsheet (and what not to include) will help make your fleet management responsibility much easier. Don’t waste your time creating and updating columns that are irrelevant to your business and its growth.
Here are the most important columns to include in your fleet management Excel spreadsheet:
The top of the spreadsheet should include basic information about the vehicle including its year, make, model and identifying number, the tank’s capacity and required gasoline type, the most recent maintenance performed on the vehicle, maintenance costs, and when it took place, and any upcoming maintenance details for the vehicle and when those are scheduled to take place.
- Vehicle information
- Fueling information
- Last service
- Next service
Below the basic vehicle information is where specific trip details should be listed. This includes the following:
- Trip date
- Driver’s name (first and last)
- Trip start time
- Trip end time
- Starting location
- Destination address
- Trip purpose
- Starting mileage
- Ending mileage
- Total miles traveled
- Fueling details (cost per gallon and total fill cost)
When creating your fleet management Excel spreadsheet, feel free to do what is best for your company. The list above is simply a guideline, but you know your fleet best and what type of information will be the most valuable to collect. There are many free templates online to choose from but customizing your own spreadsheet will give you the best results for your needs.
How To Improve Your Fleet Management Spreadsheet
If you have to use a spreadsheet to manage your fleet, make it as reliable and objective as possible by putting these tips to work for you:
Collect more trip data
Use your spreadsheet to track more than just mileage.
When used correctly, a fleet management spreadsheet can tell you things like whether or not your fleet is being well-utilized, how much each individual vehicle is being used, and which trips and routes are most efficient.
To make better use of your spreadsheet, be sure to create columns for at least the following:
- Trip date
- Trip start time
- Trip end time
Create one worksheet per vehicle
The ideal fleet tracking spreadsheet has one worksheet per vehicle, which lets you easily reference each car’s history and usage at a glance. If you’re Excel-savvy, you can even set up each page using formulas that produce vehicle-specific reports on things like mileage, expenses, and fuel efficiency.
Use vehicle maintenance & payment schedules
Every vehicle in your fleet will have its own maintenance schedule, and possibly, its own insurance and registration payment dates. If these dates come and go without action, your fleet could suffer from poor vehicle health and expired paperwork that keeps your drivers off the road. Tracking fleet maintenance and payment dates for each car will make you much more likely to remember and act on them.
Track driver performance
Driver performance is an important variable in your company. Make very intentional notes on how many hours each team member is driving, which vehicles they use, and how much fuel their trips require. Be sure to document the dates and details of any accidents, tickets, and infractions, too.
Bottom line: Excel spreadsheets definitely aren’t ideal for fleet management, but if you have the time and you’re completely committed, it’s possible to make them work.
How Fleet Management Spreadsheets Hold Small Businesses Back
The thing most small business owners don’t realize is that even though Excel might be inexpensive, the constant data entry and ongoing upkeep they require puts a huge strain on both human and financial resources — and most small businesses feel the weight of that requirement very quickly.
Here are a few unexpected ways that your “free” fleet spreadsheet might be holding your small business back:
Heavy admin time
Choosing a fleet management spreadsheet that properly tracks all of the data your business needs means choosing to put a lot of time into data entry. And as a small business owner, you know better than anyone that time is money.
You have a small, nimble team, and you need to squeeze every hour out of every person and every vehicle. In order to maintain a spreadsheet that functions, tracks, and reports the way you need it to, you’ll be working all kinds of overtime or paying for an assistant to help you. Either way, it’s worth reflecting in advance on whether or not this ‘free’ option is a sustainable one.
Managing your fleet in an Excel spreadsheet puts more demands on your staff to self-report using logbooks and other less-than-reliable documents.
Logbooks are tedious, easy to forget, and hard to maintain, which means there’s a good chance they’re inaccurate even on the best of days. Not only does this bog down your drivers who are likely to hate using them, but it could also mean that your business is letting invaluable data slip away.
Most fleet management spreadsheets are created in-house, updated referencing hand-written logbooks, and maintained by multiple people. Whether it’s due to human error, missing documents, or just bad penmanship, this makes them likely to be highly inaccurate!
Your business needs clear, reliable data that you can use to make informed, strategic decisions. The reality is that with a shared file that’s easily tweaked, updated, saved, copied, and changed, you may never have that.
Another downside to a homemade tracking spreadsheet is limited functionality in the way of reporting. Excel can produce decent reports, but only if the spreadsheet is created with the end report in mind.
Limited reporting means more hurdles to overcome monthly, as team members scramble to pull the data they need for accounting and other purposes. This can be a particularly time-consuming issue during tax season, when you need data to back up claims of revenue, expenses, and deductions.
The ROI of Fleet Management Software
Contrary to popular belief, ‘free’ fleet spreadsheets come at a cost. Human resources get wasted as valuable staff hours go down the drain and dedicated drivers grow wary of tedious timesheets and reactive tracking. Financial resources take a hit when faulty data collection and low-level reporting cost tax deductions and additional staff time.
Our advice: Save yourself time, money, and headaches with fleet management software designed for small businesses, like yours.
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With features like GPS tracking, vehicle fuel and health alerts, driver safety scores, and speeding alerts, Force tracks and manages your fleet with complete accuracy. It gives you the detailed trip and driver information you need to make the most of your company’s resources, and the transparency you need to make clear and strategic business moves.
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