chaz3In difficult times the need to trim forklift fleet costs becomes more urgent but fortunately operators can turn to software packages that monitor fleet performance and so significantly cut fleet running costs but how comprehensive are they and what do they cost?

Most of the leading truck brands and dealers like Hyster and Briggs Equipment offer a combination of warehouse simulation and fleet management software packages but some are reticent about what they cost to run. The first of these, warehouse simulation, helps a prospective user arrive at the best mix of trucks for his specific operation, but is the simulation skewed towards a truck supplier’s own portfolio of machines and thus excludes some truck types that would render more cost effective solutions? Sadly, in some cases the answer is yes.

One refreshing exception to this is Briggs Equipment UK. Although the sole dealer for Caterpillar trucks, the company’s Sales and Marketing Director, Tony Rooney, explains that Briggs is also an independent dealer with much experience integrating multiple brands to create a single, customer-focused solution, “rather than a solution that suits a single manufacturer,” says Tony. Recent examples include integrating SMV, Bendi, Kone Cranes, Combilift, Danbach and Baumann specialist trucks.

This puts the company in a strong position when offering its other software packages like Briggs Equipment Fleet and Speed Shield to control mixed truck fleets over multiple sites. Users of these two packages do not have to be buyers of Caterpillar trucks but, interestingly, it allows users to compare the performance and costs of different makes of trucks and so enable them to make more informed decisions when replacing their truck fleets.

Speed Shield is the second instalment of truck management tools developed alongside BE Fleet. Its options include Zoning, Two Way Commands, Impact Detection and Auto Shut Down suite. The first of these enforces variable speed limits around sites.

So what would a user expect to pay for real time fleet management information? Any ball park figure would be dependent on site surveys but as a starting point for a basic installation of Briggs Equipment Fleet the cost is just 70p per day per truck, and if Speed Shield is added the total cost is £1.70 a day.

It seems that some leading brands are reticent about offering plain advice on all the truck acquisition methods from purchase to long-term contract rental and how the various options could impact an operator’s fleet running costs. This is hardly surprising as truck purveyors prefer contract rental to straightforward purchase as the former is far more profitable for them. Such advice, however, is important, particularly in straightened economic times. “The UK market has been controlled by manufacturers for years,” explains Briggs’ Mr Rooney, “forcing customers to take on a fleet for three, five or more years.” Customers have the option for spot hire but they pay a premium for that.

Briggs has listened to its customers’ concerns and so created a third option, Flexihire. This allows truck users to take a truck for one year by paying a simple, fixed price for ownership, maintenance and a three-hour call out response. If a truck is not needed after one year then only a month’s notice is required for its return without penalty. It must be said that the charge structure is skewed in favour of a five-year hire by charging more in the first year than would be normally payable over a five-year contract. However, the sliding scale of charges over the five years would equate with any normal five-year contract. The scheme also removes a great burden from businesses unable to see more than a few months ahead, let alone five years. “Our customers find that it helps them service their own customers who are having difficulties in committing to longer term agreements in these difficult economic times,” explains Tony Rooney.

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