How to build, manage, and run a winning delivery fleet

How to build, manage and run a winning delivery fleet

2024-03-15

Written by David Renwick

If your retail business relies on your own drivers and vehicles to make deliveries, having the right fleet management strategy can be the difference between getting orders to your customers fast, or leaving them furious.

It’s even more important if you’re working with custom fleets to ensure you have the right vehicles for the job. Keeping your owned vehicles roadworthy and reducing downtime can generate huge cost savings. Let’s check out everything you need to manage and run a successful delivery fleet.

Courier checking parcels at the back of delivery truck

Are owned fleets worth it for retailers?

As your business grows, you’ll find yourself sending more and more business to your courier partners. That’s great for the majority of your orders, but what if you often need to make one-off trips or fulfill unique requests? Asking staff to use their own vehicles might work in a pinch, but that really isn’t ideal long-term.

Instead, retailers are finding benefits to integrating a select few delivery vehicles into their fleet while still maintaining a relationship with their usual carriers. Once you start to look at the benefits, it’s easy to see the appeal. The advantages of owning your own transport fleet for distribution include:

  • Reducing your costs: Heavy or large packages attract a number of extra fees from couriers. If you’re frequently shipping oversized items, it could be worth delivering them with your own drivers.
  • Improving the customer experience: Do you have customers that live rurally? Or can’t accept signed deliveries during work hours? With owned vehicles, you can create a delivery schedule that suits you and your customers.
  • Having better quality control: Sometimes it’s nice to take control, especially if you ship fragile goods, specialist equipment, or food. Custom fleets can better serve niche products or circumstances.
What are the benefits of “On Demand Delivery” for Shoppers_

Getting started with your own fleet

So all that’s left is to buy a couple of cars and hit the road right? Not quite. The best fleets are those that are built, managed and run with clear goals in mind. If you’ve watched Drive to Survive, you know how hard it is to get two of the world’s best drivers to drive in circles without an incident. Now imagine doing that at peak hour with a van full of fragile goods. Here’s what you need to know to succeed.

Build your fleet

To build your fleet effectively, you need to find vehicles that fit a range of criteria. Ticking every box could be a challenge, but you’re on the right track if you keep the following in mind:

Cost

We’re not just talking about purchase price either. For fleet vehicles, you need to think about the ongoing costs of fuel and maintenance, as well as any modifications you may need to make to carry your products.

Practicality

A small hatchback might be efficient for zipping around city streets with extra small orders, but what about large and oversize objects? On the other hand, buying the biggest possible van might seem like a great option, but how often will you fill it to the brim with packages? Try and get an idea how your owned fleet can complement your courier’s capabilities.

Sustainability

Companies are figuring out how to make their operations more sustainable. With owned fleets, you have a much greater role in choosing which vehicles fit your goals. Choosing a hybrid or electric vehicle could help, as well as lowering costs on fuel. Some countries even offer rebates for them.

Acquiring vehicles

Once you’ve run through that list, you’ll need to then figure out the best way to acquire the vehicles you need. The big decision here will be whether you lease or buy your fleet vehicles. One of the advantages for leasing is that you’ll have the opportunity to refresh your vehicles every few years for more efficient and advanced models. When buying vehicles, you’ll have fewer restrictions on how they can be used but when it’s time for an update you’ll have to spend more on a replacement.

Building your fleet isn’t just about the vehicles either. Have you thought about how you’re going to manage them? A shipping fulfillment solution like Starshipit can help you manage your owned fleet alongside the couriers you partner with.

Fleet of delivery vans

Park your fleet

Once you’ve acquired some vehicles and chosen a fleet management software, the next step is figure out where to park your fleet and how to keep it safe. Not every retail business location was created with fleet storage in mind, so it’s important to ensure you’re ready. A good strategy for parking your owned vehicles will touch on:

Security

An article from My Management Guide noted the importance of high-tech surveillance systems to monitor where you park your fleet. Any damage will have a cost beyond simply replacing parts, especially once you factor in any down time. Along with cameras, the article also recommends advanced automatic lighting setups and RFID security gates if your location allows it.

Cost

Any changes to your parking infrastructure are going to come at a cost. If you run a retail shop in a mall or urban environment, you might need to lease extra car parks nearby. Larger businesses in industrial parks may need to pave extra parking lots or reallocate spaces to make them more suitable for their private fleet.

Practicality

Can your staff easily load their fleet vehicles without disrupting other parts of the business? If you’re planning to install them, are your EV chargers in a safe place and can your infrastructure support them? If your business is big enough to do its own fleet maintenance on site, make sure there’s space for that department as well.

Female owner of a clothing store holding an ipad

Run your fleet

And now you’re ready to run your fleet! Well, once you set up route optimisation, driver schedules, tracking services and a way to collect fleet analytics. We’ll walk you through it.

When it comes time to run your fleet, technology is your friend. The right fleet management software can keep track of drivers and help you with:

Route optimisation: Save fuel and time by logically grouping orders together based on location.

  • Scheduling: Plan which drivers are taking which specific vehicles, and work out a timetable that minimises downtime for vehicles without overworking your staff.
  • Tracking: For safety, security and efficiency it’s important to track vehicles in real-time and keep reports of their performance and any incidents.
  • Analytics: Using the tracking and scheduling data, analyse the performance of your fleet, and then make route optimisation changes accordingly.

It’s also important to have a safe way to communicate with drivers while they’re out on deliveries. Cell phone laws differ by country, but in general it’s good to have a hands-free setup in each vehicle.

Private fleet vs. common carrier

We’ve talked about the benefits of owning your fleet, but how can you tell if it’s right for you? Depending on the scale of your business, common carriers like your existing courier partners might still be the best option. Maybe you could even try splitting orders between both. Here are some pros and cons of each option to keep in mind.

Private fleet

Pros:

  • Choose your own vehicles.
  • Have control over drivers and their schedules.
  • More flexibility over delivery ranges and shipping heavy packages.

Cons:

  • Funding your fleet could be difficult.
  • Your location might not suit parking your fleet.
  • You have to manage fuel costs and vehicle maintenance.
  • You might not have the same expertise as existing courier brands.



Common carriers

Pros:

  • Standard rates to help keep prices consistent.
  • Expert drivers with suitable vehicles.
  • Established networks and processes.

Cons:

  • Less flexibility to meet unique customer demands.
  • Higher prices for large and heavy objects.
  • Less control over the customer’s delivery experience.



If you’re needing extra flexibility in your local delivery options, but can’t quite justify your own fleet, Uber’s delivery options can fill the gap. Not only does Uber integrate with Starshipit, like many established couriers, its drivers can meet timely requests as you need them too. With live pricing and no commitments, Uber’s delivery options add an extra bit of valuable flexibility.

Alternatively, if your owned fleet is light on deliveries, you could fill in for other businesses by making deliveries on the app yourself. Paring new and flexible technologies with established common carriers is great for businesses that are still scaling up or have varying levels of demand.

OwnFleet_Dashboard_Illustration_3D

How to use your own fleet with Starshipit

Starshipit can help you manage your own fleet of vehicles and other contracted fleets, but combined with the ability to manage your regular courier partners as well. Within one dashboard, you see which orders are assigned to your owned fleet, and what’s being picked up by couriers.

This enables you to offer an Amazon-like experience and stay competitive in a tough retail environment. By taking control of last-mile deliveries by running your own fleet, you can meet customers’ increasingly high expectations with tailored and speedy delivery solutions. The best past? You can do this all in one platform to keep your delivery operations as streamlined as possible.

Conclusion

There are many advantages of owning your own transport fleet for distribution, but it won’t make sense for every business. To build your own fleet and run it well, you need the right vehicles, suitable parking infrastructure, and technology that help you map routes, track drivers and assign deliveries efficiently.

If you need to manage your own fleets or contracted drivers alongside other common carriers, Starshipit is the right platform for the job. With Starshipit, you can easily use your own fleet alongside your existing carriers – and deliver great customer experiences.

David Renwick

David Renwick

David is Starshipit's Product Marketing Lead. When he's not whipping up a fresh new product update or chatting to customers for an exciting case study, you'll typically find him scoping out coffee spots and talking about what's on at the movies. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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