Whenever a firm lists its requirements for any system, be it for the management of fuel, maintenance, or real-time tracking of assets in the field, that list typically revolves around two basic ideas: record keeping and control. We want to make sure certain things get done at certain times, some things only happen under specific conditions, and reports exist to account for whatever has already occurred. Spec requirements often specify the exact reports the fleet managers look for and how operations are to be conducted, but they rarely detail how exceptions are to be handled.
Think about it: if you are managing a fleet, a lot of what you are actually managing is exceptions. If everything goes smoothly and according to plan, then there isn’t much to manage, is there? Exceptions are what require a human’s attention and follow ups. Scenarios such as an authorized vehicle consuming twice the amount of fuel it is supposed to, or a certain vehicle incurring more costs than savings from depreciation. So any system an organization is to acquire needs to have the ability to catch and handle the exceptions relevant to that particular fleet.
The next time you are in the market for a new fleet related system and are examining a potential candidate, ask yourself:
- What are the exceptions I need to catch and manage?
- Has this system accounted for those exceptions?
- If there are exceptions specific to this fleet only, does the system have the ability to incorporate them?
- Does the manufacturer have the ability to incorporate the needed exception handling without the need to open the source code?
The last point above is very important because touching the source code for any software opens the door to all manners of bugs and other complications. Even if the manufacturer is willing to do it (and charges a substantial amount to do so!), it is always best to avoid this scenario as much as possible. Flexibility in exception handling should be baked into the software and part of its normal functionality.
At the end of the day, if you are shopping for a system to manage a given aspect of your fleet, you need to ask yourself: “on what do I typically spend the greatest amount of time and mental energy when dealing with this particular part of fleet operations?” The answer(s) will clue you in on the type(s) of exceptions that would need to be handled by any system you are considering.