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Special Events

Beat the Fleet Blues

What do transportation professionals know about managing vehicle fleets that party rental professionals may not?

"If you're not in the trucking business, you may be looking at your vehicles as a necessary evil," says Tom Moore, editor of Fleet Owner, part of Intertec Publishing and a sister publication to Special Events Magazine. "But you have to turn that thinking around, so that you don't see your trucks as liabilities but as assets."

Rule No. 1: "Wrap the right truck around your load," Moore says; don't force the load to fit the truck. In other words, analyze what you are hauling, then decide what types and sizes of vehicles you need.

Rule No. 2: "Those trucks aren't making money for you if they are parked," Moore cautions. This means designing your fleet so that you have enough capacity for your busy times, but not so much that trucks sit idle during business lulls. The answer for many party rental companies is complementing the fleet of trucks they own with leased vehicles during busy seasons.

Is your truck parked because it has broken down? With the hectic pace of party rentals, where trucks can easily run 12-hour days seven days a week, preventive maintenance-what fleet professionals call "PM"-is key. "It's easy to fall off track on maintenance when you have multiple drivers for your vehicles," notes Michael Williams, regional sales manager for GE Capital Fleet Services of Minneapolis, which offers professional fleet management services. "But you have to stay on a PM schedule."

The heavy city driving that many party rental trucks do "with all those starts and stops is very hard use," Williams says. "On trucks, PM has a lot to do with brakes," which in city driving become a safety concern as well as an operational concern. It's one thing to veer into an open field because you can't stop, quite another to veer into another vehicle.

Professional fleet managers look beyond the purchase price of a vehicle to determine its true cost. "You don't want to drive your vehicles until they fall apart," Williams says. "You want to cycle them at the right time. By doing so, you avoid downtime and expensive repairs. You find you can drive a newer truck for less money."

Besides helping fleet owners stick with preventive maintenance schedules and determine vehicle life cycles, fleet management services can also help save money by monitoring fuel purchases. "When you hand over a credit card to a driver, it could be used to purchase a six-pack of Coke along with the gas, and it all adds up," Williams says. "We have an electronic fuel-purchase program with point-of-sale technology. It can be used to restrict purchases to fuel only."

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