Common Terms in Vehicle and Fleet Management
Four Wheel Drive (4WD) vehicle
Specific type of vehicles able to transfer traction from the engine to the front and rear axis, enabling the grip to its 4 wheels. Also referred as “all terrain” vehicles.
4 wheels motorized vehicle commonly used for transport of people.
Discharge of Liability
A printed form signed by passengers not working for the organization operating the vehicle, discharging the agency of any legal claims in case of accident.
The person operating the vehicle. He/she must hold a valid driving license specific to the type of vehicle.
A set of assets with similar characteristics and jointly managed. Vehicle fleet refers to a set of vehicles managed to achieve a particular operational purpose.
Combustible material, in the automotive industry normally in liquid form, that when burnt releases the energy required to power the mechanic engine in the vehicle. Petrol and Diesel are the most common fuels used for road motorized vehicles. Jet-A1 is the most common fuel used for air vehicles.
Printed form used to access fuel under certain agreement with a particular fuel station. The holder of the fuel voucher will receive a specific amount of fuel on behalf of the organization in exchange of the voucher. This is a common practice to avoid the management of cash among drivers and to ease the refilling process.
A vehicle with rigid roof. As opposed to pick-up vehicles, “hard top” is a common jargon to refer to all 4WD vehicles, except for pickup vehicles.
A commercial carrier vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of no more than 3.5 metric tons (EU definition); sometimes referred to as light commercial vehicle (LCV),
Refers indistinctively to the measure units used (miles or kilometers) it refers to the distance covered by a vehicle for a certain journey. It also refers to the total distance covered by a vehicle since its first use.
Counter in the vehicle dashboard to measure distances. Motor vehicles are equipped with at least one odometer to count the mileage since its first use. Additional odometers are available in some vehicles or external devices (such as GPS) to measure trip distance. As opposed to the main vehicle odometer, additional odometers can be paused or reset to 0.
Light vehicle with an enclosed cabin and an open cargo area, sometimes covered with a soft roof. Generally, pickup vehicles are 4WD.
Passenger vehicle with separate compartment for passenger and small cargo (trunk). The trunk compartment is normally positioned in the back of the vehicle. Also commonly referred as “city-cars”.
Process of reducing the degree of diversity in the managed fleet by homogenizing vehicle make, model, major components and/or equipment.
Motorized vehicle specifically designed for transport of goods and which gross weight exceeds 3.5 metric tons. It requires a specific driving license for its operation.
Type of road vehicle used for transporting goods or people in one single compartment.
Asset operated by a person (driver) with the purpose of transporting goods or people between two different locations. It can be motorized or animal-drawn and present from 2 up to more than 4 wheels.
|Vehicle Logbook||Records book for a unique vehicle. It is always kept in the vehicle glove box compartment under the responsibility of the driver assigned to the vehicle. Normally it has two different parts: one to register all repairs and maintenance activities and a second to register mileage and fuel consumption.|
Scope and Definition
Humanitarian action frequently requires vehicle-based mobility work and often demands the management of a fleet of vehicles. Vehicle fleet management refers to the knowledge and practices to manage a set of vehicles to achieve a particular operational purpose. Fleet management allows agencies to minimize risks, reduce costs and improve efficiency related to transportation of goods and people. In addition, it ensures compliance with local legislation and duty of care.
Depending on the organization, fleet management may include commercial motor vehicles such as cars, vans, trucks, motorbikes, etc. but also air or water transport means such as planes, helicopters, boats, etc.
Other sets of assets such as generators, shipping containers, computers or even mobile phones are sometimes also treated as a fleet. The common ground for these sets of assets to be considered as a fleet, includes characteristics such as:
- Managing a considerable number of similar assets.
- Being the set of assets essential for the organization goals achievement.
- Incurring in significant running costs.
- Facing significant risks if poorly managed.
This section covers only vehicle fleet management, with an special focus on motor ground vehicles. Although the same principles and logic could be applicable to other means of transport or other types of assets, these are not specifically covered here.
Furthermore, fleet management is closely related to “Asset management” and “Road transport”.
Owned vehicles are commonly considered as part of the asset/equipment inventory. Therefore, all management processes affecting assets/equipment should also be applied to vehicles belonging to the organization’s fleet. In this sense, this chapter complements asset/equipment management information with specificities related to the motorized vehicles.
As to “road transport”, it is common that humanitarian agencies manage a fleet of vehicles (cars, vans or motorbikes) to transport people. Agencies specialized in humanitarian logistics, may also have to manage a fleet of trucks to regularly transport goods, water or construction materials. This chapter mainly focuses in the management of light vehicle fleets used for the transport of people. For complementary considerations and technical information related to cargo transport, such as cargo configuration, route planning and scheduling or documentation for goods transport, please refer to the Road Transport chapter.
It is important to keep in mind that the aim of managing a fleet of vehicles encompasses the transport of goods or people to achieve certain operational objectives, in a safe way, optimizing the use of resources and complying with the national laws and regulations. Fleet management must consider permanently these key elements and should reconsider its own reason to be if any of them is not present or can’t be achieved.
If managing a fleet is not an optimal solution for a humanitarian agency, other alternatives should be contemplated.
Alternatives to Vehicle Fleet Management
In particular circumstances, managing a fleet of vehicles for the given transport requirements could end up being inefficient, expensive, administratively difficult or dangerous. Staff movement can be also enabled by combining transportation services from public and private transportation providers, in a mode similar to “Mobility as a service” (MaaS).
Humanitarian logistics professionals serve as a gateway that identify, validate and enable different transport services, which users can access according to their needs. Once the transport services have been identified and enabled, the burden lies in monitoring its use and paying the service providers accordingly. Agreements with the service providers are normally done per trip or/and distance. It is recommended to regularly assess (at least annually) the quality of the service, ensuring its compliance with the contractual terms and its usefulness.
Assessing the operational needs and the context and comparing existing transport alternatives is prerequisite in order to choose the most suitable transport option.
Common alternatives to fleet management are:
Other Humanitarian Agencies
It is very common for humanitarian agencies to operate simultaneously in certain locations. Pooling resources is a simple manner of optimizing costs and recovery of an investment. This is valid not only for transportation but also for common fleet facilities or resources, like a mechanical garage, a mechanic or a communications/radio room for movement tracking.
For sporadic use of other agencies vehicles, sharing of information and basic coordination mechanisms can be sufficient. In case of making regular use of other agency fleet resources, agencies are strongly recommended to formalize partnerships through a Memorandum of Understanding, clearly outlying the benefits of the shared resources and clarifying the terms of accessing it. The contribution of each agency should grant equitable share of management efforts and expenditures.
Collective Public Transportation
In some locations collective transportation can result useful and cost-effective for moving people at regional or national level. This method can be convenient to cover sporadic travels through safe routes not regularly covered by the agency. In addition, public road collective transport companies usually offer the service of transporting small parcels at low rates which can be useful in certain occasions.
Safety of public use vehicles and reliability of the service are mayor concerns when assessing collective public transportation means, and should be specifically evaluated for each candidate company offering the service. This is especially important in developing countries. Overall condition of the vehicles and availability of the basic safety means, maintenance routines, loading of the vehicle and drivers’ capabilities are some of the basic parameters to assess.
Individual Public Transportation (Taxi)
In urban settings, the use of taxis is one of the most common individual transport means. Its flexibility, affordability and ease of management make of it a very good alternative or complement for the organization’s fleet in urban operations: it allows attending easily unplanned requests scaling-up of transport based on need.
As for the collective means, safety and reliability of the service are main concerns and should be specifically evaluated for each candidate company offering the service.
Where taxi companies are not well established or are not reliable, agreements with a specific pool of trustworthy taxi-drivers can be a solution. This is a common practice to cover the transport to and from the airport. This kind of agreements allow extended services such as prolonged stand-by time, wearable visibility from the agency, transport of goods, or handover of necessary material at arrival or departure such as mobile phone or keys.
Third-party Transport Providers
Humanitarian organizations have become increasingly reliant on third-party transport providers as a method of moving cargo into and around response operations. The overall running cost of using third-party companies may be higher, but in the volatile nature of response activities, outside companies can help start operations quickly, and organizations can start or stop operations as quickly as needed without concern for what to do with large physical assets. Even if an organisation owns its vehicles, there may well be occasions when a need arises for additional capacity to meet peak activity or other short-term needs. This can be met by the use of vehicles supplied by a third-party commercial transport provider.
Third-party transport companies can usually be sourced locally within or near the emergency context, and utilizing them also serves the function of putting money into the local economy and fostering local acceptance of the aid agency in question. Organizations should follow all due diligence when soliciting and selecting third-party transport companies, and follow their own internal procurement procedures wherever possible.
Although third-party transport providers are usually specialized in the transport of goods, in some locations they can also be trusted for the transport of people. The transport of people privately operated is mostly handled by renting companies that hire vans, minibuses or coaches with driver. This solution for transporting people is a suitable alternative for punctual and specific needs such as events gathering a significant number of people or for preventative security evacuations or reallocations.
Advantages of third-party transport:
- Flexibility - Organizations can use commercial providers to meet fluctuating demand requirements.
- No Size Constraint – Organizations that may only transport infrequently, or only transport small quantities of goods or people and may not need self-managed vehicles on hand at all times.
- Cost – Third-party transporters will have virtually no start-up costs, and the transporter may be able to offer a more cost-effective and a more efficient service.
- Complexity – The administration of vehicles and drivers is no longer the responsibility of the organization, allowing the administration teams of the organization to focus on other areas.
Disadvantages of third-party transport:
- Ethics Concerns – Third-party transporters don’t directly represent a contracting organization, and as such may engage in activities aid agencies might find unethical, such as transporting people or equipment for parties to a conflict or employing child labour. Driver standards are also not controlled by the shipper, and activities such as drug use, unsafe driving or sexual exploitation may occur.
- Additional Risk – Though transporters may utilize additional insurance, there is always an increased risk using third-parties who may assume risks which the contracting organization would not tolerate.
- Long-term costs – Though start-up costs may be substantially less with third-party transporters, over a long enough period of time, third-party commercial transport may always be higher. Organizations who are in a long-term programme and ship high volumes of cargo might encounter cheaper costs through renting or owing their own self-managed vehicles.
When regularly recurring to third-party transport providers, a framework agreement can result useful to ease and boost the management process. It is strongly recommended to include particular terms and conditions related to safety in the agreement and to duly assess that they are respected prior to the delivery of each service.
The topic on rental of light vehicles (with or without driver) is covered below.
Fleet Management Process
Vehicle fleet management can be a simple or complex working process depending on the number and diversity of vehicles and the intensity of their use.
In a different perspective, fleet management can also be broken down into four basic components: (1) drivers, (2) vehicles, (3) users and (4) movements. Following this logic, vehicle fleet management can also be looked at as several work streams that are simultaneously executed by one or several people:
- Managing vehicles: ensuring vehicles are available and fit for purpose, performing regular checks, maintenance and repairs, administrative clearances, etc.
- Managing drivers: ensuring drivers are available and fit for purpose, organizing the roster, providing trainings, sharing relevant information, obtaining medical clearance, etc.
- Managing users: ensuring that the users can access the fleet services in a timely and safe manner. It is translated in understanding their needs and dealing with requests, allocating the pertinent resources, providing the required information for the movement to be duly accomplished and collecting feedback on the service provision.
- Managing movements: ensuring that movements are achieved satisfactorily, organizing movements according to the expressed needs and monitoring of movements to ensure they are performed according to the plan and the standard working and security procedures.
In addition, all these workflows should be conveniently monitored, individually and as a whole (fleet), ensuring its due performance and proper balance and adjusting when required: overuse of resources and mechanical failure, burnout of drivers and bad behaviour, or discontent among the passengers are typical symptoms of fleet disfunctions that should be addressed. This would correspond to a fifth basic work stream: Monitoring.
Fleet Management Functions
A fleet management process and workflows can help defining a typical set of roles and responsibilities with a stake in fleet management. Combining or dividing tasks in one or several profiles will depend on the scale of the fleet, the intensity of its use and the given operational context. For example, in a field office with a fleet of 1 to 6 vehicles, and an outsourced garage, one single person could supervise all workflows and a team of 6 to 8 drivers. If the number of vehicles and drivers is significantly increased, or the mechanical garage used to service the vehicles is self-managed by the agencies, new and specialized profiles could be added to the team.
Typical roles and responsibilities when it comes to vehicle fleet management might include:
Drivers are in charge of transporting goods and passengers in the organization’s vehicles, ensuring its technical and safety conditions and respecting the country’s traffic rules and the organization’s working and security procedures to provide a safe, smooth and efficient service.
To achieve this, he/she should perform the assigned vehicle regular checks, ensure that all vehicle documents and the driver’s driving license are valid and available in the vehicle, refilling the fuel tank when necessary and ensure correct loading and unloading of the vehicle.
In addition, he/she is in charge of informing agency management of any incidents involving the transportation of passengers or goods and should know how to use all types of required equipment, for communication (telephones, satellite phones or radios), safety (first aid kit and fire-extinguisher), recovery of the vehicle and to perform basic repairs and maintenance (changing tires, checking tire pressure, etc.).
The head driver is a specific profile often used when a significant number of drivers are used in a given fleet. The head driver can sometimes take over many of the duties normally ascribed to a fleet manager, provided the working arrangements make sense. The head of drivers coordinates the team of drivers, preparing and overseeing their work: regular checks of vehicles, vehicle inventory, refilling, etc. He/she is in charge of reporting any problems with the vehicles as well as ensuring maintenance on the fleet of vehicles and that cars are serviced at the desired time to ensure good use of it and to deliver services.
In addition, the head driver organizes training courses for drivers, conducts driving tests for all new drivers and performs regular drivers’ assessments.
The head of drivers can also be in charge of the allocation of vehicles according to the availability of drivers, the preparation of rosters and replacements in case of absence. He/she can be also involved in some monitoring tasks such as monthly reports on services, repairs and fuel consumption of each vehicle.
An intermediary solution commonly used to balance the workload, is assigning this role and responsibilities to one of the senior drivers, who would combine short driving assignments with the Head of drivers’ responsibilities.
A mechanic performs the necessary servicing, maintenance and repair of vehicles (and other engines as generators) to ensure that they are in perfect running conditions. He/she also briefs and train the team of drivers regarding vehicle services and maintenance.
This role is strongly advised when running an owned mechanical workshop, however mechanics can be employed to also conduct repairs and maintenance on vehicles in a variety of contexts. The mechanic is therefore responsible of the equipment and tools in the garage, checking they are correctly and safely used, maintaining and renewing them when necessary and keeping the inventory updated. Although the mechanic can manage a stock of some basic consumable items, it is not advised that he/she manages the stock of spare parts. This would hinder accountability and goes against the basic division of supply chain responsibilities.
The mechanic can also support the evaluation of external workshops for eventual sub-contracting as well as checking light and heavy vehicles before its rental.
An intermediary solution commonly used when a full-time mechanic is not required, is combining the role of driver and mechanic, allocating a number of (full) days for mechanic duties.
The movement manager ensures that all movements are conveniently organized and duly implemented. He/she gathers regular and ad-hoc movement requests and assigns available resources accordingly (vehicle, driver and communications equipment when necessary), informing the relevant people about the movement plan and any change on schedules.
In addition, he/she monitors and registers any movement, of people, vehicles and cargo, ensuring its implementation under the established working and security procedures: departure, arrival, number of passengers, route taken, standard contact points, etc. He/she should inform of any delay or incident reported by any of the on-route vehicles.
The fleet manager is the overall supervisor of the fleet. He/she should elaborate and implement strategies to guarantee the adequacy of means for fleet management. This includes elaboration and review of the annual plan and budget for maintenance, renewal and scale up when necessary and planning and supervising the human resources to ensure both the sizing and the necessary knowledge and competencies. Depending on the size of the organization and the vehicle needs, the fleet manager may assume the duties of the movement manager and head driver, or may choose to employ separate distinct job profiles to help manage a wider set of tasks in larger operations.
The Fleet manager should monitor the fleet performance and support decision taking with regular reports. He/she should also advise on fleet related topics such as vehicle insurance, type and frequency of maintenance, evaluations of all the hired vehicles and transport companies, drawing up the necessary contracts.
In addition, and if applicable, the fleet manager should define the order for spare parts, and assess and identify potential local providers.
The Fleet Management Cycle
Fleet management can be looked at as a sequential set of steps. This overview is especially advisable the scale of a fleet is large and when an agency owns of most of the fleet related assets and services.
2. Selection and acquisition
5. Maintenance and repair
7. Decommissioning and replacing
Fleet planning a key strategic activity used to shape the fleet and the corresponding management model, all to support adequate and sustainable solutions to organizational needs. Fleet planning encompasses the operational, technical, administrative and financial dimensions of induvial organizations, and therefore tends to be very organizational specific.
A fleet plan may depend on donor specific requirements, and may be linked with other organizational policies, such as human resources, operations or security policies. Some organizations may require vehicles be restricted to specific projects while others utilize vehicle pools to serve multiple projects. Driving policies can vary from a strict reliance on a dedicated driver from the organization to using staff to drive the vehicles.
The administrative policies of the individual organization will dictate which fleet management approach will be utilized, and the custodian of the fleet management function is very dependent on organizational policies and structures. In any case, the following elements should be considered:
- The operational needs: in a given period, which transport requirements will be faced (frequency, destinations, passengers, cargo, etc.)
- The context and the available infrastructure: Is it an urban or remote setting, are there other transport means available and how secure are they, what is the condition of the roads, what are the administrative requirements for an agency to own a vehicle and for people to drive it, are there basic supplies available like fuel and consumables, etc.
- The costs of running a fleet and the available funding.
- The risks (financial, legal and security related) of owning and/or managing a fleet of vehicles.
In the planning phase, the number of needed vehicles should be determined. In order to do so, evaluate the different activities needing vehicle transport and for each, the number of people and the frequency required. Typical activities to consider, include:
- Field missions
- Staff transportation:
- between offices in the same region.
- between accommodation and office or other working infrastructure (i.e., warehouse) .
- between offices and transport hubs (i.e., airport).
- Support of daily activities such as:
- Administration (i.e., going to the bank).
- Meetings and coordination.
- Private use of vehicles.
- Cargo movement.
In case of scaling up or down, or renewal of obsolete vehicles, plans should be developed and resources made available to reallocate, dispose or purchase.
Additionally, the right number and types of drivers should be evaluated and adjusted to conveniently respond to the operations. The human resources policies (maximum amount of working hours per day and days per week, salaries, holidays, etc.) may be a factor to be considered at this stage.
If the organization is experiencing significant changes in terms of mobility demand or the operational context significantly changes, a deeper revision including the management model could be used.
- Outsourcing some of the fleet related services (i.e., maintenance).
- Type of insurance.
- Recruiting more staff to deal with fleet related workflows.
- Shifting earliest departure time or latest arrival time.
- Incorporating security clearance or convoy procedures for specific movements.
All planning revision should incorporate its correspondent budget and the strategies to reduce fleet costs. A specific annual budget for fleet activities is strongly recommended including costs of vehicles, maintenance, consumption of fuel and other consumable items.
Costs to consider when making vehicle related decisions include acquisition costs, importation costs, fuel costs, insurance, repairs, maintenance costs, labor costs, toll and parking costs and disposal costs among others. The investment required for the equipment to be installed in the vehicle, such as communications or safety equipment, shouldn’t be neglected when budgeting. If organizations do not take all the costs related to owning a fleet of vehicles (when calculating their fleet costs), it can lead to a series of challenges (e.g. insufficient funds to maintain and repair the vehicles, to hire a fleet manager or to organize driver training.
Vehicle Selection and Acquisition
Basic considerations when it comes to choosing the most suitable passenger vehicle are related with its intended purpose, number of passengers requiring simultaneous use, and length and frequency of the journeys. Three main options are to be considered at this first stage: motorbike, light vehicle or van/minibus.
If transporting cargo, a logic based in the required capacity should be applied. Vehicles with independent trunk or hybrid solutions such as pick-up vehicles can be considered. Visit the Road Transport chapter for more information on truck selection.
In addition, the operating context, environmental and road conditions will affect the decision and determine technical requirements of the vehicle such as 4WD, air conditioning, etc.
Availability of spare parts in the local market and local knowledge and capacity to achieve all type of maintenance and repairs are also to be observed.
Other factors that can limit the selecting options can be available budget, donor’s requirements or organizational policies on standardization of vehicles. Donor regulations can restrict the type or origin of vehicles that they will fund.
Fleet standardization can be useful when similar functions are to be achieved by the given set of vehicles. Standardizing a fleet consists of reducing fleet vehicle diversity, contributing to significant cost savings and gaining efficiency in key processes such as:
- Planning: costs, assignments, maintenance, etc.
- Vehicle daily operation: regular checks, use of controls and displays, driving “feel”, etc.
- Maintenance and repairs: diagnosis, tools, expertise, etc.
- Inventory management: spare parts, fuel, fluids, etc.
- Procurement and vendor relations: market research, contracts, invoices, etc.
- Monitoring: comparing performance among vehicles and drivers, expenditures etc.
It is important to undertake standardization not only at vehicle make and model level, but also for vehicle major components and equipment. Purchasing one type of filter, for example, can help track consumption and negotiate for bulk purchases. Be aware that the process of standardization, if unproperly managed, can lead to suspicions of collusion: all decisions about standardizing the fleet must be done transparently and with high levels of accountability.
When it comes to vehicle selection and acquisition, the ownership modality becomes a relevant argument. Vehicles belonging to a self-managed fleet can be owned, rented or leased.
If an organisation decides to acquire its own vehicles, there are a number of areas to be considered.
Cost – the start-up and investment capital required to obtain vehicles can be substantial, and aid agencies limited to grant funding may not be able to cover costs all at once. Operating in many contexts will also incur substantial insurance costs as well. TCO should be evaluated previous to any engagement, as running and indirect costs can have a significant budgetary impact.
Sourcing – Vehicles can be sourced locally, or they can be imported into the response operation at the behest of the organization. Bringing in outside vehicles might be a good way of finding the best or most appropriate asset, but may take a long time to acquire and cost a large sum of money depending on the distance to delivery and the type of transport used. Although in some countries and/or emergencies Humanitarian agencies may be tax exempted, vehicles brought from a different country will also need to undergo regular customs formalities.
Be aware that some countries do not allow particular models to be imported. This is due mainly due environmental or economic reasons: not allowing light diesel cars, demanding a special emission certificate. In some cases, countries put extremely high import and/or registration taxes to protect their manufacturing market. If looking forward to import a vehicle, it is of paramount importance to find out the official and practical procedures for import.
Customization – Procured vehicles can be easily modified to be adapted to specific operational context or perform particular tasks.
Administrative – For all new vehicles, the pertinent circulation permits must be obtained and the vehicle registered. In some countries, safety and environmental impact inspections could be required.
Whole life-cycle management – An owned vehicle must be duly managed until its property is effectively transferred to another party, including the update of property records by the local authorities. The organization can be held accountable for any liability related to the vehicle during the ownership period.
Single Point of Failure – Organizations that own or manage their own vehicles, run the risk of mechanical issues or an accident completely halting use of that vehicle at any time.
Rented vehicles have become available in almost every corner of the world. Depending on the context, rental is offered by private companies or individuals, with or without driver.
The reasons to choose the use of rented vehicles can be of different nature: financial, programmatic, technical or due to insecurity:
- There is little visibility on the duration of the activities and recovering the investment of a vehicle purchase may result uncertain.
- The cost of importing a vehicle is too high and there are no vehicles of suitable quality in the country of operation.
- There is an urgent need for increasing the fleet and procuring one or several vehicles takes an unworkable time (during a rapid onset of operations or a short intervention).
- There is a punctual increase of demand for transport (assessment, new activity, visits, etc.)
- There is insufficient work for a full-time vehicle.
- The standard type of vehicle is not suitable for the work, the context or the environmental conditions.
- Insecure environments where risk of damage or theft is so high that economically it is not worth the risk of purchasing a vehicle.
In all cases some considerations and specific actions must be undertaken before and during a vehicle rental:
- A proper inspection of the vehicle.
- Validation and induction of the rental driver.
- Drawing a contract for the service provision.
Technical and administrative inspection of rented vehicles
When renting a vehicle is of key importance to assess its general, mechanical and administrative condition. This is done with three purposes:
- avoiding delays to programmed activities due to vehicle breakdown.
- safety of the people involved in the movement.
- avoiding being blamed of damages already present in the vehicle.
- ensure compliance with all national and local regulations.
Ideally all inspections should be performed by a qualified mechanic.
It is recommended to use an inspection template that will allow automatic and homogeneous inspection of all vehicles, enabling a reasonable comparison and validation prior to contracting. It is suggested to keep the records separately for each vehicle inspected. The template could cover the following fields:
- Km reading
- Fuel level
- Engine (Noise, leakage, smoke)
- Lubrication System (Leakage, filters, pressure)
- Cooling System (Leakage, radiator, liquid, fan, belt)
- Air admission & injection (Air filter, fuel filter)
- Exhaust System (fixing, leakage)
- Fuel Tank (leakage, pipes)
- Brake System (leaks, noise, pedal, parking brakes)
- Suspension (soft/hard, springs, shock absorbers-bushes)
- Tyres (pressure, tread, state and spare wheel)
- Chassis (Cracks, fastening)
- Body (impacts, bumpers, bonnet)
- Doors (windows, hinges, adjustment, locks)
- Visibility (windshield, mirrors, sun visors)
- Seats (seat belts, fastening)
- Electrical System (battery, starter motor, front and rear lights, Indicators, roof lights, dash board warning/indicators, wiping system, horn)
- Availability of Jacks & Tools
- Administrative Documents (Registration, Chassis & Engine Nº, Vehicle insurance)
- A guide for users to mark where physical damages might show on the body:
A template for a daily physical inspection might look like:
Adapted from IFRC
It is required to cross-check the vehicle identification (chassis number and engine number) with the administrative documents and the owner identification. Any uncertainty on the ownership or mismatch between the vehicle and the presented documentation should immediately disqualify the vehicle from service.
Validation and induction of rental drivers
Equally important to the mechanical condition of the rental vehicle are the rental driver’s health condition, driving skills, administrative permits, driving and working behavior and required knowledge to operate, such as speaking local language and the geography that will be travelled. For further information on this matter, refer to the below section on Recruitment: selecting and testing drivers.
If rental is a long-term modus operandi, consider keeping a pool of “rental” drivers that can be engage upon request. In this situation, validating and instructing batches of several drivers in a single session will reduce the time spent in this important activity.
In order to draw up a convenient rental agreement, the following should be considered:
- The timeframe of the rental and the time unit used for the rate: hour, day, week, month. If the rental exceeds 1 day, it is recommended to agree on a daily rate and charge based on the specific worked days. If a monthly rate, clarify if calendar month, a period of four weeks or 30 days is covered n the contract
- Clarify who provides the driver: the humanitarian agency or the owner. If the owner provides the driver, clarify that its cost is included in the rental. In addition, the hours the driver can work must be agreed together with the rate for additional worked hours. If required, the owner should provide a second driver. It is advised that the owner provided drivers come with per diem/accommodation.
- The party responsible of providing the fuel. If it is the agency who provides it, make sure that the tank is full prior to its first use. If it is the owner who provides it, ensure that the quantity in the tank is enough to achieve the programmed daily movements, avoiding losing valuable time going to the fuel station.
- The site where the vehicle will be parked at night: the agency’s compound or the owners. Where fuel is provided by the agency, the vehicle should be parked in the its compound.
- Ensure that there are no restrictions as to where the vehicle can go in the country. This is especially important on particularly bad roads or in conflict areas.
- The owner should provide the insurance and proof of the insurance cover. Are passengers insured or is additional cover required? A comprehensive insurance coverage preferred. The agency should avoid any liability related to car crashes with rental vehicles; failure to clarify this can lead to dispute and legal demands between vehicle owners and humanitarian agencies.
- Clarify who is responsible for breakdowns and regular maintenance. It is strongly recommended that this falls under the owner’s responsibility: avoid the responsibility for maintenance or repairs on vehicles which are not owned, as the initial condition of the vehicle can lead to frequent breakdowns, abusive practices and enormous levels of investment. If possible, agree on getting the owner to provide a replacement vehicle at no extra charge in the event of a breakdown or maintenance, without causing undue delay to programmed activities.
- A complete inventory of tools/utensils should be done in order to keep a record and to be sure the vehicle carries at least the minimum required tools in case of flat tire or minor repair.
In some circumstances leasing could be the most financially advantageous method of renting vehicle for a limited period of time. Vehicle leasing is defined as a long-term rental with certain obligations on the lessor to ensure that the vehicle is properly operated and kept in good condition.
Before deciding to lease a vehicle, the ‘whole-life cost’ should be calculated and compared to other procurement options. If leasing is the cheapest option, whole-life costing can then be used to identify the optimum lease period and supplier.
The considerations on purchasing, renting or outsourcing can be summarized in the following table:
Renting vehicles (using local rental providers)
Driver Selection and Management
Drivers are an essential component to self-managed fleets, equally as important and the vehicles themselves. Even if an organization has a perfectly maintained fleet, if they are using poor quality drivers, or don’t invest in training drivers, then accidents, damages, cargo loss and possibly issues with fines or lawsuits may occur.
Required Skills and Competences
Organizations must ensure that employees involved have the necessary competence to drive safely. Competence is about ensuring appropriate knowledge, skills, attitudes, as well as behaviour.
Some of the required skills and competences for drivers are:
- Driving license.
- Respect of humanitarian values and adherence to the humanitarian charter and principles.
- Fitness to drive.
- Ability to apply different driving techniques: defensive driving, off-road driving, eco-driving, etc.
- Literacy in the working language and able to speak the local language.
- Respect and willingness to work with people from different ethnics and origins.
- Experience with specific vehicles to use (4x4, motorbikes, etc.).
- Knowledge of basic mechanics.
- Good knowledge of country roads.
- Knowing what to do in an accident or emergency.
- Willingness for continuous improvement (driving skills deteriorate with time; possession of driving licence of itself does not necessarily imply such competence).
Driving for work, can often entail lone driving, without reference to supervisors or other colleagues, over prolonged periods, and drivers could be required to travel and stay outside base overnight.
Recruitment, Testing and Selecting
Agencies seeking to maintain their own vehicles and have a staff pool of drivers should ensure that the hiring is carried out conscientiously and skills and knowledge are clearly demonstrated. When recruiting drivers, agencies might consider:
- Asking for documentation to prove authorized license to operate the vehicle in question.
- Request a background check.
- Ask the applicant to demonstrate their driving skill first hand in a safe location.
- Have technical questions prepared.
- If possible, enact a drug screening program.
Drivers’ competence to drive safely should be assessed at interview and/or prior to the allocation of driving tasks. Assessment should take account of the driver’s attitude, road safety knowledge and driving skills at the wheel as well other evidence such as age, experience, accident and enforcement history, including penalty points status and past training record. The following can be used as assessment checklist:
2. Vehicle & driving test
2.1) Vehicle check: Assess knowledge on what should be checked before starting the engine, why this should be checked and what should be done when faults are detected. Checks may include engine fluids; tires; spare wheel, jack and tools; looking for stains under the vehicle.
2.2) Before Starting Engine:
2.3) After Starting Engine:
2.4) Before Driving:
2.5) While Driving:
2.6) Check Particular Maneuvers:
3. Security Awareness
4. Use of Equipment and Tools
Non-Professional Drivers (Staff)
In some circumstances, relying in professional drivers will be unnecessary and other staff will take the responsibility of driving themselves. This may happen when enrolling a driver is not cost-efficient but still there is a need of managing an owned fleet, including when reliable taxi services are not available, specific security risks require it, and more.
On some occasions a mixed solution could be the option, where professional drivers are the only ones allowed to drive during office hours and some categories of staff could be allowed to drive after office hours. Certain restrictions could be established in this case: perimeters and timings for circulation, people to be transported, bans for leisure usage, to name a few.
In the case were non-professional staff is allowed/requested to drive the agency’s vehicles, it is strongly recommended to define a policy framing the access to the service: who has the right to access it and for which purposes, administrative actions to do so, responsibilities from organization and workers and basic procedures on sharing vehicles, including: schedules, reservation, keys management, parking instructions, and steps to take in case of incident.
In addition to holding a valid driving permit, the skills of the driver should be duly tested to ensure that he/she has the skills to drive the given vehicle in the given context.
Insurance policy should be reviewed to adapt coverage to the organization’s needs. If necessary, a clear policy on covering repair costs should be established and accepted by the staff.
Commissioning refers to the process of bringing the vehicle and users up to the required point of readiness for movements implementation. Commissioning can encompass the following matters:
- Installing required equipment.
- Drivers and users briefing and training.
- Compliance and administrative matters.
For operating in a given context, additional equipment and vehicle customization may be required. Typical modifications for harsh road conditions may include:
- Bull bar with mosquito mesh.
- Reinforced front and rear bumper with High-lift jack supports.
- Second spare wheel, mounted on roof rack.
- High-lift jack mounted on roof rack.
- Support, flagpole.
These modifications can be requested to the vehicle supplier during the procurement process. If not, it should be performed by a specialized workshop.
For movement tracking purposes and security, reliable communication with the vehicle may be required. This can be addressed by mobile phone with adequate connection, Satellite phone or radio. Depending on the technology and models, certain radio equipment may require specialized installation. The modifications may include: antenna support bracket, earth braids on bonnet, prewired with all cabling and radio bracket.
For safety purposes, the basic equipment may include a fire-extinguisher and a first aid kit.
Briefings and Trainings
Given the risks incurred while operating in certain environments, especially while moving by vehicle, a proper induction to both, drivers and users should be done. For the new drivers, this can be addressed by the fleet manager or other drivers. For the people making use of the fleet, other profiles in the organization can be assigned to deliver the briefing. In any case, the time needed to instruct drivers and users shouldn’t be neglected.
Topics to be covered for driver’s induction may include:
- Driver responsibilities (see the box below).
- Humanitarian principles.
- Communication protocols.
- Reporting procedures (in case of crash, breakdown, etc.).
- Internal driving regulation (the organization’s regulation could be more restrictive than the national).
- Movements Standard Operational Procedures.
- Hygiene and infection control.
- Programs and activities.
- Administrative arrangements: how to deal with overtime, contractual arrangements with per diem, etc.
- Use of visibility/identification material such as t-shirts, vests.
Standard Driver Responsibilities 
Topics to be covered for user’s briefing may include:
- Journey: schedule, duration and stops in the trip.
- Safety and security: main threats, hot spots and expected behavior.
- Roles and responsibilities during the movement. Role of the driver, assigned movement focal point within the vehicle(s) and at office level.
- Communications protocol.
Vehicles while moving are a very visible part of the humanitarian operations. When operating in volatile context or in areas with restricted access, clearly displaying the humanitarian nature of the movement may contribute to grant access or security. For this purpose, specific colours and visibility material such as stickers or flags, can be ported on the vehicle.
It is recommended that based on a risk assessment, basic criteria are established for the use of visibility material. Why, what and when identification material should be used, and where in the vehicle it should be located are among the basic questions to be answered.
Paint, magnetic banners or stickers are the typical solutions for the body of the vehicle. For obvious reasons, permanent logos shouldn’t be the option if there is a risk of car-jacking. When requiring carrying flags, assess the environment to ensure a proper balance between adequate flag visibility and impacting other bodies such as trees or street furniture.
If requiring intensive use of visibility material in the vehicle, make sure to have enough stock to replace it regularly. If using rental vehicles, ensure that the visibility material is handed over once the service is terminated.
Compliance and Administration
There are certain liabilities related to the use of vehicles that must be considered by any agency managing a fleet of vehicles.
Drivers should have a valid driving license for the specific vehicle they operate. The driving license has an expiry date and should be renewed in a regular basis (5 to 10 years, depending on the country and the profile of the driver). Other permits could be required for the transportation of certain categories of goods, such as a commercial license or special permit for transporting some cargo items. Refer to the local/national regulation to learn which are applicable to your activity.
Except for limited bilateral or regional international agreements, national driving licenses are not recognized in foreign countries. For driving in a country where the driving license is not recognized, an international driving license should be obtained. Visit internationaldrivingpermit.org to learn about bilateral or regional international agreements on driving permit recognition and how to get an international driving permit.
Whether the vehicles being used are owned, hired or are managed by a third-party, it is important to ensure that all local laws are adhered to. There are different norms that are commonly applicable:
|The use and ownership of motor vehicles are strongly regulated by most countries. All vehicles must be officially allocated to a physical person or organization who will be liable for any duties or responsibilities linked to the vehicle. It is therefore important to go through the required registration process when acquiring a new vehicle or when decommissioning an old one.|
Depending on the local regulation, it may be common that every motor vehicle to be used on the road pays an annual circulation license fee. The fee is normally proportional to the gross weight or the engine power of the vehicle, but can be specific to its purpose and type of loads such as oversized or hazardous goods.
|Insurance is a legal requirement for motor vehicles which aims to provide financial coverage against physical damage or bodily injury resulting from traffic collisions and against liability that could also arise from incidents in a vehicle. Vehicle insurance may additionally cover theft, weather or natural disasters and damage sustained by colliding with stationary objects. Vehicles should be insured to at least the minimum required by the local law. Different organisations will have internal policies regarding the extent to which their own vehicles should be insured. This must be established according to the operational context and a risk assessment.|
|Vehicles may also require a technical clearance certifying that the vehicle is safe for circulation in public spaces. Technical clearance may include environmental considerations such as type of fuel used or levels of CO2 emitted by the exhaust. Technical inspections can be related to the type of vehicle and its purpose, certifying the maximum permissible passengers and weights in terms of gross vehicle weight, axle weight and payload.|
Fitness to Drive and Medical Clearance 
Driving a motor vehicle is a complex task requiring perception, good judgement, responsiveness, and reasonable physical capability. A range of medical conditions, as well as treatments, may impair driving ability. Common examples include blackouts or fainting, sleep disorders, vision problems, diabetes, epilepsy, psychiatric disorders, heart disease, and age-related decline.
It is advised that professional drivers take fitness to drive check every year and to install bi-annual checks for staff that drives occasionally. All staff should be advised to undertake a health check sooner whenever they suspect they have a problem. This includes eye tests. Eye tests should be carried out by qualified optometrists, and should include a test of the driver’s horizontal and vertical range of vision.
It’s important to ensure that your drivers are mentally and physically fit to drive using a process of self-declaration. Drivers must be advised that they must notify management if they have disabilities or conditions that could prevent them from driving safely.
Movement Planning and Resource Allocation
Movement planning and resource allocation are key activities for successful fleet management. Its aim is to respond duly to all movement requests by the use of the existing means while making the most efficient use of resources. The planning must take into consideration elements such as destination, number of passengers, cargo, and match it with available drivers and vehicles ensuring that their condition fits for purpose and is compatible with maintenance schedule.
To ease the planning process and avoid reactive resource allocation that may lead to inefficiency and discontent among users, a weekly plan is recommended. Transport requests should be duly completed and approved and then delivered to the person in charge of planning the movements before an agreed deadline (sufficient time to allow a proper planning). The following is an example template for managing weekly movement requests:
Once requests are collected from the different departments/services/users, a weekly movement plan can be defined. According to the availability of vehicles, to their capacity (weight, and passenger number) and to the road condition, the fleet manager will organize the movements planning. The following criteria have to be considered:
- Context of the movement and available radio equipment: HF and/or VHF
- 4x4 or 2x4
- Driving experience of the driver for bad road conditions. The plan outline can take several shapes depending on the level or granularity required.
When destinations for several departments are coinciding on the schedule, a combined movement can be organized using the same vehicle or moving in convoy. It may happen that there are not enough available vehicles, so the organization will have to set up priorities and change the program in order to cancel or combine movements or look for an additional vehicle.
The weekly plan can be outlined in different shapes: weekly, daily, etc.
Below, a daily movement plan template:
For a proper planning it is necessary to know all itineraries and the road condition in advance. In unknown areas, a route assessment could be necessary, collecting information on distances, timings, intermediary milestones, indications, communication networks coverage, etc. For this purpose, the use of roadbooks could be recommended. A roadbook is a text file in the shape of a matrix with basic indications to accomplish a journey between two different locations.
A typical road-book will have the following outline :
Blantyre - Lilongwe
LAST UPDATE: 24/5/2010
Cross M1 - M6
police station + 1st petrol station
Cross M1 / M5 / M8
Border Ntcheu DC
Capital District - Hospital DC
Police station + border Malawi-Moç
Diversion secondary Rd to Mangochi
Police station + petrol station
Border Lilongwe DC
Police station + petrol station
The roadbook has as many rows as indications or milestones as the journey will require and columns to register: distance, time and other relevant information for the journey, such as communications coverage, hospitals, police stations, petrol stations, etc.
In addition to contributing for accurate planning and resource allocation, roadbooks can also help for briefing during driver’s induction or to determine communication points for movement tracking purposes.
Movement Implementation and Monitoring
Knowing the whereabouts of the vehicles at all moment is essential for a coordinated and reactive fleet management, especially when the size of the fleet is large, simultaneous movement take place and when operations are deployed in volatile contexts.
Different vehicles must have the capability to communicate with the office at any moment, allowing the reporting of any incident or event. The office should also have the capability to contact any vehicle at any moment to communicate about changes in the plan or latest contextual updates requiring a change in the route. Having functional communication equipment and a basic communication procedures specifying when to communicate, to whom and with which means is highly advisable for any planned movement.
On some occasions it could be relevant having a specific person to track the movements and record the current location of the vehicle and last contact made. When relying on radio communication systems, this role is usually assumed by a designated and trained radio-operator. In locations with sufficient GSM coverage and where communications rely on 3G-4G mobile networks, instant messaging applications can be the mean to monitor movements.
Tracking devices are another option to monitor movements. Tracking devices vary in their functionality, but generally they gather information such as vehicle’s position, speed, heading and other data using GPS, sensors and other accessories and sends it via mobile phone or satellite networks to a remote server enabling authorized fleet managers to monitor performance in real time. The information collected is generally used to improve driving patterns, movements plans or fleet performance. In addition, some tracking devices can also send alerts to specific phone numbers when a predefined event happens: high speeds, location reached, or even crashes. Tracking devices do not substitute communication devices and in all cases, an operational communication device should accompany the vehicle movement.
Fleet Performance Monitoring
Fleet Management should contribute to the cost efficiency and effectiveness of the organization while achieving its operational goals. Capturing data, analysing data and taking informed decisions is a basic three step process to monitor and improve the fleets' performance.
Fleet data should be captured in a structured way, always keeping in mind that collected data should contribute to decision making. Fleet performance criteria can be classified in the following blocks:
|Driving habits and Condition|
In order to generate basic indicators, the following information should be collected in a regular (recommended monthly) basis:
- Number of working days for the current period (month).
- Number of days the vehicle was used during the current period (month).
- Number of days during the current period (month) the vehicle was at the workshop for service or repair.
- Distance covered during the current period (month).
- Fuel consumed during the current period (month).
- Costs incurred during the current period (month) for:
- Other/Miscellaneous (cleaning, tire pressure check).
- Crashes and vehicle incidents
- Number of vehicle incidents during the current period (month).
- Number of injuries during the current period (month).
- Number of fatalities during the current period (month).
The above-mentioned information is captured from different sources at different levels. The primary repository of vehicle movement information is the vehicle logbook. The vehicle logbook is a book used to record all the relevant information relative to a unique vehicle. It is always kept in the vehicle, and is the responsibility of the driver assigned to the vehicle. Normally logbooks have two different parts: one to register all repairs and maintenance activities and a second to register mileage and fuel consumption.
Below is a template vehicle maintenance logbook:
Adapted from ACF
Adapted from ACF
Both, maintenance and fuel logbook templates are printed in a single book that is filled by driver (fuel part) and mechanic (maintenance part) and collected by the fleet manager regularly. It is recommended to compile all logbooks and process them in a monthly basis.
The information from the Logbook is then transferred to a spreadsheet for its consolidation and analysis. Several templates can be used for a systematic collection of data. Fleet Forum offers a collection and reporting tool based on spread-sheet developed by the WHO.
The fuel consumption of the vehicle is one of the basic parameters to monitor the vehicle condition and driving habits.
A baseline for vehicle fuel consumption should be provided by the vehicle manufacturer or the fleet manager as per his/her experience. In addition, consider that road conditions, load weight, idling time, use of air conditioned, age of the vehicle, etc. can affect fuel consumption. Taking that into consideration, the consumption of a driver-vehicle tandem should be more or less regular in time and significant deviations should be duly examined to understand the reasons behind and corrected when possible.
Fuel consumption baseline per type of vehicle provided by WHO in its fleet reporting tool are the following:
|Type of vehicle||Fuel Consumption (liters per 100 km)|
|Sedan < 2.7 tonnes||11,90|
|PICK-UP / SUV /SUV-4x4 (GVW* <3.5T)||15,35|
|VAN / MINIBUS (GVW <3.5T)||15,35|
|ARMOURED VEHICLE (AV)||21,80|
|BUS / TRUCK (GVW >3.5T)||20,50|
It is recommended to calculate the consumption after having the tank filled up. To make the calculation for a consumption in litter per 100 Km:
2. Distance at the last fill-up minus the distance at the previous fill-up:
2,046 - 1,380 = 666 Km
3. Quantity Fuel put in the tank in the last fill-up:
4. Fuel consumption per 100 Km is:
80/666 x 100 = 12 L/100 Km
Other Data Sources
Information on vehicle usage that could assist calculating the availability rate or the utilization rate could be extracted from the movement planning and workshop records.
Information on vehicle crashes should be also duly recorded to enable monitoring of safety related fleet indicators. Fleet Forum has accessible a comprehensive toolkit for managing crash reporting and analysis. This topic is further developed in section 5. Safety and security.
In addition, collecting regular feedback from the users of the service may provide qualitative information from the service and the level of satisfaction with aspects like movement planning, driving practices, driver behavior and service mindset, safety, etc.
Vehicle Condition and Maintenance
Good vehicle condition is key for the achievement of fleet management objective: attaining operational objectives, in a safe way, optimizing the use of resources and complying with the national laws and regulations. Good vehicle condition is achieved through appropriate use and maintenance.
Generally, maintenance can be approached in two different ways: preventative and reactive.
- A preventative scheme consists in scheduling maintenance services with certain periodicity to anticipate malfunctioning.
- A reactive scheme consists in waiting for a breakdown to happen to repair it.
Vehicle fleet management aims to make transport available the maximum possible time. This is achieved by (1) planning maintenance interventions and (2) limiting the downtime to a minimum.
It is always inconvenient to lose the use of a vehicle for a day. But when vehicle maintenance is scheduled in advance, it can be arranged to reduce impact with other activities requiring the use of the vehicle.
Furthermore, running a vehicle without preventive maintenance results inefficient because the subsequent breakdowns cost significantly more and the repairs take much longer to be achieved. In addition, certain breakdowns can affect the vehicle reliability and consequently the user’s safety. Therefore, it should be timely done without delay to keep the vehicle in a trustworthy state during its whole life cycle.
Frequency of Preventative Maintenance 
Preventative maintenance starts with the daily and weekly checks. These are inspections under the responsibility of the driver aiming to proactively identify possible mechanical issues.
Every morning, before starting the vehicle engine, the driver should take 10 minutes to check:
- Engine oil level.
- Coolant level.
- Brake and clutch fluid level.
- Windscreen washer water level.
- Cleanness of radiator.
- Condition of all tyres, including the spare tyre (pressure by sight, cracks on both sides).
- Possible leaks under the car.
After starting the vehicle, the driver should listen to abnormal noises, check indicators, lighting and dashboard warning lights and the presence of all required equipment.
In addition, once per week (recommended at the end of the week), the driver should take 1 hour to:
- Clean the vehicle inside and outside.
- Clean the air filter.
- Check the battery (proper fixation and water level).
- Check power steering oil level.
- Check steering wheel free play.
- Check tyre pressure and condition of the tyres (see tyre pressure table).
- Check for presence of valve caps.
- Check and clean front and rear axel breather.
- Check exhaust pipe and silencer condition and fixation.
- Check the springs and all bushes from the front and rear suspension.
- Check shock absorbers (check bushes and no leaks).
- Check front and rear stabilizer bar bushes control.
- Check functioning of doors, locks, seat belts and (warning) lights.
In case of any problem, the driver should record it in the vehicle logbook and inform the fleet manager to evaluate the scale of the damage and to plan all relevant arrangements.
Besides the regular checks under the driver’s responsibility, specific maintenance services are regularly required to keep the vehicle up to a good functioning standard. Different parts or fluids in the vehicle require different frequency for its replacement: for instance, engine oil requires being changed with a higher frequency than the axles oil. Other interventions, like changing the brakes pads or replacing the tyres will be done according to its current condition. A regular sequence for vehicle service and mechanical revision is normally used. This helps to standardize all the actions required in regular maintenance allowing services planning and rationalizing the use of spare parts.
Check with the vehicle manufacturer what the regular maintenance required by the vehicle and the recommended frequency. The maintenance schedule is usually available in the vehicle manual, but should also be available online. The periodicity of maintenance should be adapted according to the conditions of use specific to every operational environment. Periodic maintenance should be conducted of a qualified mechanic.
Owned or Subcontracted Mechanical Workshop
In general, the choice between setting up and managing a workshop or using a mechanic services provider is based on considerations of:
- Size of the fleet and the scope of maintenance: determine what is needed, for how many vehicles, how often and what tasks need to be performed.
- Availability and quality: evaluate the quality of the available service providers.
- Cost of every alternative solution.
Organizations should consider all factors before settling on possible alternatives.
A mixed solution where the basic services are performed in a self-managed workshop and the more complex interventions are outsourced is often a suitable solution when operating in remote locations, where services and infrastructure are limited and the distance to the closest mechanic workshop makes frequent use impractical.
Although evaluating the "availability" could be the easiest part, assessing the quality of the service can be difficult. Some of the following things could be assessed:
- Deviations from initial diagnosis, repair costs estimate and time.
- References from other clients.
- Number of ad hoc repairs attributable to lack of maintenance, that were required despite of making the recommended regular maintenance service.
- Recurrent faults in a particular vehicle. If a vehicle is brought to service with specific issues, these should be solved (preferably "permanently") when the service is done.
- Number of vehicles reaching their estimated lifespans. All vehicles following the recommended regular maintenance should be in reliable running condition until their normal lifespan.
In addition, some basics could be assessed in a visit to the workshop premises:
- Safety and security with special regard to access control.
- Availability of specific tools and their safe use: suitable tools in good condition: i.e., tyre assembly, use of press, welding, power equipment, grinding wheel, etc.
- Availability of specific premises and capacity to work in simultaneous lanes for light vehicles, trucks, motorbikes, generators.
- Type of interventions: Engine, body, paint, electrical, vehicle computer programming.
- Availability, sourcing and control over spare parts, or any kept on stock.
- Cleanliness and general condition of the workshop.
- Working conditions and care for occupational risks.
- Procedures with used parts and general and hazardous waste management.
Costs should never be the guiding principle: quality of service is paramount. Running costs, and especially the initial investment for an owned workshop, can be considerable. The time period to be covered by any work shop is of key importance as the time to recover the investment can be significant.
If the final decision is to outsource maintenance, it is important to carry periodic assessments of the quality of service and to keep records of all repairs and maintenance. It is recommended for the assigned driver to be present during the whole repair process and avoid overnights if the premises are not considered secure. It is recommended to request a visual inspection of all the parts that have been replaced and invoiced.
Fuel is essential for vehicle functioning and a significant expenditure in most humanitarian operations. In addition, poor quality fuel can cause serious (sometimes irreversible) mechanical problems and considerably reduces the vehicle’s lifetime. Therefore, fuel refilling is a basic activity but must be carefully controlled.
An average light vehicle consuming 10L of fuel every 100 Km, travelling 100Km daily will have to refill at least once weekly (more or less often depending on its fuel tank capacity). Basic rules for fuel use:
- Always drive with more than half of the tank full, to avoid an “almost empty tank” situation in the middle of a journey;
- Always refill out of service hours, to avoid affecting regular activities.
It is recommended to schedule at least 1 refill per week, regardless of the tank level of the vehicle. Refills should be done up to full tank capacity. This will ease fuel consumption calculations and reduce the frequency of refills. fuel refilling can be a hazardous and time-consuming activity, especially when managing large fleets or in congested gas stations.
It is suggested to incorporate a fuel refill procedure within the fleet management policies. In addition to the above-mentioned issues, procedures should include basics on fuel quality and payment methods.
Fuel should be protected against all accidental or intentional contamination: no impurities, dust, other liquids or chemical additions should interact with or mix with fuel. Fuel quality should be checked throughout the supply chain, especially if transported or stored in barrels, as they may be dirty or content water or humid air prone to condensation.
Ensure that the vehicle is refilled with the correct fuel: filling up a diesel vehicle with petrol has irreversible consequences such as destroying the engine.
Use of Outside Fueling
If regular refilling is done by the vehicles directly in the fuel station (no fuel storage managed by the agency), a refilling procedure should be defined and include the following basic topics:
- Fuel stations valid for refilling: a regular procurement procedure should be applied to select the most convenient fuel supplier. Consider basic criteria such as: price, fuel quality, proximity, reliability, payment conditions, other available services (tire pressure check, cleaning), etc.
- People authorized to acquire fuel and maximum quantity.
Adapted from ACF
To allow reconciliation and payment, the voucher should be printed/filled with carbon copy in 3 sheets:
- Responsible for authorization.
- Fuel station.
- The employee receiving the fuel for subsequent delivery at office for reconciliation and payment purposes.
For an overview of self-managed fuel supplies, please review the section on stocking and managing fuel at the end of this guide.
End of Life: Decommissioning and Replacing
Managing the entire vehicle lifecycle is essential to achieve an efficient use of resources, including the eventual decommissioning or disposal of vehicles. It is preferable to sell and/or replace vehicles before they become expensive to maintain, and so that their optimal resale or replacement value can be achieved.
Benefits of properly decommissioning, disposing and replacing vehicles, include: contributing to lower maintenance costs, to lower CO2 emissions, and to optimizing the selling price of the vehicle.
For this purpose, vehicle purchase value and its economic life must be considered. “Economic life” is the expected period of time during which an asset remains useful to the average owner. When an asset is no longer useful to its owner, is considered past its economic life. The economic life of the vehicle should be defined by each agency as part of its asset management policy: some may consider 48 months, some other consider 60 months.
The example below shows a linear estimation over time of the value of a vehicle procured with USD 20 000, considering 48 months of economic life.
More complex models can be applied to represent the vehicle value over time. As an example, a curved exponential approach may be more accurate for certain purposes, as the vehicle loses much of its value after its first usage. Economic life can be calculated by determining the point at which the estimated resale value of a vehicle becomes lower than the annual operating costs.
Due to the nature and cost of many vehicles owned and operated by humanitarian agencies, many organizations may choose to sell or a vehicle well before the maintenance cost reach the same level as the repair costs. This holds especially true for operations in which the risk of an inopportune break down is more than just the cost of repair. This might include:
- The real safety of the vehicle may diminish if agencies operate in insecure environments that require emergency vehicles at all times.
- Rugged or off-road terrain that requires consistent performance from vehicles.
Example: Changing resale and maintenance costs vs. original purchase value.
Original Purchase Cost
Estimated Resale Value
Annual Cost of Maintenance and Fuel
Planers should always keep in mind that the economic life of an asset is different than its actual physical life. Vehicles will usually always live longer than their respective economic lives to the agency, and the relationship between the two will depend on the utilisation of the vehicle and the operational conditions. In this sense, it is common to set a limit in mileage to start considering replacing a vehicle; 200,000 Km (+/- 50 000 Km) is often used as a basic rule.
Some agencies may decide to extend the life of a vehicle beyond its economic life. This is especially pertinent when a good maintenance scheme has been applied and records show that the costs of maintaining the vehicle is still below its market resale value. The decision of replacing a vehicle should be sustained by consistent fleet management records on costs, utilization, safety and asset age.
Furthermore, depending on the country legislation related to the humanitarian agencies and the funding mechanisms used to purchase the vehicle, some limitations to this logic may be applicable; some countries don’t allow NGOs to resell assets like vehicles and some donors require donating or transferring the vehicle at the end of the project to another funded agency or project. Being aware of country legislation and donor’s specific procedures related to assets and vehicle management is of key importance to avoid incurring in significant legal or financial risks.
Decommission and disposal
Once the decision for vehicle replacement is taken, different options for old vehicle decommissioning and disposal should be considered. The most common disposal methods are:
- Donation: vehicles in good technical condition and meeting safety requirements may be subject to donation to partner agencies or key stakeholders. Donations must follow national legislation and internal policies and need to be duly documented.
- Sale: vehicles that are not needed and have a market value may be subject to resale. To avoid any suspicions on favouring particular entities or people, a fully documented auction is recommended. Resale of a vehicle must follow national legislation and internal policies and need to be duly documented.
- Transfer: vehicles in good technical condition and meeting safety requirements may be subject to transfer to another entity or programme. This is the preferred option by most donors when the vehicle remains within its economic life. Also, it is a convenient solution when closing projects or dismantling local offices with vehicles assigned.
- Destroyed or harvesting for spare parts: vehicles in poor technical condition or not meeting safety requirements should be destroyed or dismantled to recover still usable parts. A public or private institution with capacity to properly perform the task should be identified. Environmental risks assessment needs to be performed and a certificate of destruction may be required by the authorities to update the vehicle registry and to formalize the vehicle withdrawn from circulation (to avoid further tax charges or liabilities).
As part of the decommissioning process, agencies should remember to recover and reassign all the vehicle equipment that could be reused: communications equipment, safety material, recovery kits, identification/visibility, etc. Agencies should also remember to inform authorities and insurance companies once vehicles are no longer in use.
Safety and Security
Duty of Care
Whether the vehicles are owned or rented, it is an essential requirement to ensure that movements are carried out safely, both for the occupants of the vehicle and for other users of the road. It should be noted that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death globally among people between the ages of 5 and 29. Furthermore, of the total number of deaths from traffic accidents worldwide (1.35 million per year), 90% occurs in low- and middle-income countries.
In addition, according to Aid Worker Security Report 2020, the most dangerous place for aid workers in general remains the road, where law enforcement may be relaxed, and where armed groups and criminal elements can easily set up illegitimate checkpoints, roadblocks or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for ambushing
humanitarian actors and convoys. Although security management often falls under the responsibility of other management bodies, it is encouraged to exchange regular information and to integrate as much as possible safety and security procedures into fleet management working processes.
Basic Minimum Standards
To ensure that movements are carried out safely, logistics must actively work on three key elements:
- movement planning,
- vehicle safety and
- driver and team’s competence.
Though, in the first instance, organizations should seek to control risk on the road by reducing or eliminating the need to travel.
- Regarding Movement planning, it is recommended to make an “in-depth” analysis of threats and vulnerabilities linked to vehicle movements, plan movements accordingly and create adequate travel protocols as per context and movement type. Complementarily, an integral system for movement follow-up adapted to the context should be implemented.
- Vehicle safety includes the good mechanical condition of all parts of the vehicle in motion, and to the extent possible, avoiding accidents; braking, steering, suspension, etc. adherence to the ground (tires) and lights. Vehicle safety also includes elements that minimize the damage that can occur when the accident occurs: airbags, functioning seat belts, headrests, and windows/bodywork.
- The driver and team's competence encompasses: personal skills, physical condition, knowledge of the environment and awareness on potential hazards and the ability to properly manage possible critical situations: such as weather events, accidents, check-points, demonstrations, harassment.
Agencies are strongly advised to design and implement an integral management system for crashes. The system should include: reporting mechanisms, basics on crash management and analysis and reporting on road crashes. When possible and available, all these should be coordinated together with security managers.
Reporting a road traffic crash, or a potentially unsafe situation such as a near miss or good catch, is the first step to reducing future crashes. Anytime a vehicle is involved an accident, near miss or other incident, an accident/incident report form should be filled out, detailing all information pertaining to the accident. If operating in an area with functioning police, a police report should be filled out if required, and all information on witness and other vehicles should be capture. A report should only be filled out after the vehicle and persons are safe and free from additional danger, and after all injuries have been attended to. It is recommended that blank copies of accident/incident report forms accompany each vehicle. Fleet Forum offers a comprehensive crash data analysis tool, including actions to take at a crash scene, capturing information at-the-scene and driver post-crash report at the base, insurance claims and basics on logging and recording information about a crash.
Policies relating to how drivers/passengers should respond to a crash vary from agency to agency. As a rule general guide:
- Drivers nor passengers should ever admit fault at any location other than safely back at the office/compound with a security officer present. If a driver or vehicle is at fault, it should be settled by insurance.
- National regulations may require a vehicle to come to a full stop and wait for a police report before a vehicle can move after an accident. The need to stop should be context specific, however - if the area is unsafe, large crowds are gathering, or local law doesn't require it, vehicle may choose to move to a safer location.
- Payments and negotiations for damages should never occur on the scene, nor should they be undertaken by the driver or occupants. All exchange of money and negotiations should occur in a safe location, and between authorized persons following the regulations of the law and respective insurance companies.
The following are considered useful links related to road safety:
- UNECE Road Safety Special Envoy
- WHO Road Safety Strategies
- WHO: “Save Lives” A Road Safety Technical Package
- FIA Foundation
- UN Road Safety Week
- Occupational Road & Fleet Safety Guide
Special movements are all those vehicle movement that require special planning and organization.
Typical special movements might be:
- Movements with heavy planning requirements.
- exploratory missions into unknown areas.
- convoy travels.
- Movements of special items.
- transport of dangerous goods.
- transport of valuable assets.
- transport of special passengers (patients, kids, human remains).
- Movements of special vehicle types.
- Ambulance services.
- Armored vehicles.
Usually, two or more of the above listed movements are combined. For instance, a organization may plan a convoy because of the inherent value of the transported assets.
Basic considerations for any special movements are:
Movements in Unknown Areas
Movement of Dangerous Goods
Transport of Valuable Assets
Transport of special passengers (patients, kids, human remains, etc.)
Armored Vehicles (AVs)
Other Logistics Considerations
In addition to vehicle fleet management, other aspects may be considered when managing a fleet of vehicles. The most pertinent could be the management of special stocks and the environmental impact of the fleet. When managing a fleet of vehicles, it may be convenient to stock particular commodities such as fuel and spare parts. The information in this section is complementary to the chapters on sections on Physical Stock Management and on Dangerous Goods. Rather than focusing in safety issues, the content below is more related to the good conditioning and management of stocks for optimal use:
Self Managing Fuel
There are two commonly used types of storage for fuel:
- Tanks/Fuel Bladders
Tanks or fuel are a preferred option though are less flexible in terms of setup. Tanks and fuel bladders are good for long term projects where there is a known need for refueling and vehicle requirements for the foreseeable future, and where refueling is consistent. The installation of fuel tanks or balder come with their own problems, however large quantities of fuel can be heavy, and installing a fuel tank on infirm ground or an unstable structure can lead to damage and bodily harm. Depending on the size of the fuel tank, there may also be extremely large quantities of fuel that may pose security risks:
- A single flame can ignite the entire reservoir.
- Large quantities of fuel may attract the attention of thieves or armed bandits.
Tanks and bladders should be installed on relatively elevated positions, at least as high or higher than the fuel tanks of the prospective vehicles, usually at least one meter off the ground. Tanks and bladders should only be fabricated out of materials that are specifically designed to hold fuel.
Fuel tanks also usually require refilling from a tankered fuel truck, meaning the tank or bladder must be physically reachable by the refueling vehicle. Compounds should have enough room for a refueling truck to enter and turn, or the tank must be accessible from a hose. A pump will also be required to push fuel from a delivery truck to the tank, meaning if the truck does not have a pump with it, one will need to be available on base.
Fuel tanks can be refilled from drums by hand, but this is time consuming, requires physical labor, and can lead to spilling. If at all possible, if refilling form drums is required, a pump should be used in place of pouring fuel from the drum into the tank.
Fuel tanks or bladders should be well marked and highly visible. The tank and area around it should also be clearly labeled as dangerous.
Fuel is usually withdrawn from drums using a pump. It is strongly advised that any pump has a gauge on it to record how many liters are pumped, both at the time of vehicle refueling, and over the life of the pump itself. Organizations may also wish to use as clearly visible measuring stick outside of the tank to monitor the height of the fuel. Cross referencing the count on the fuel pump vs. the height of the fuel can indicate if fuel is being stolen or if it is leaking slowly.
Inspections around a fuel tank should be conducted several times a year to look for signs of degradation, warping on leaking.
Fuel drums may be used in situations where required fuel quantities are small, where there the only refueling capacity is delivery by drum, or where it is unsafe or inappropriate to maintain a large fuel tank for whatever reason.
Drums should be stored upright on wooden pallets in order to avoid rusting at the bottom of the drum, especially in humid conditions. The pallets should be on waterproof plastic sheeting, and a bed of sand or sawdust should surround the pallets to absorb leaks during handling. Plastic sheeting should be cleaned regularly and the sand/sawdust should be replaced regularly to avoid build-up of hazardous chemicals.
When possible, it is best to buy new, sealed drums directly from the refinery. This to avoid:
- Leaking drums due to existing damage.
- Drums whose content quality is difficult to monitor through transport and storage.
- Drums with rusty inner walls that release particles.
- Drums which have contained products other than fuel and which have not been cleaned properly.
Fuel contained in a leaking drum should be transferred without delay to a drum in good condition. Be aware that there is no effective way to seal a leaking drum that is full. Drums can be sealed by welding, which should never occur around any amount of fuel.
Leaks are often caused by improper handling of drums. For the loading / unloading of vehicles, it is recommended to build a permanent ramp. Alternatively, warehouse or base personnel can use boards designed for the purpose, and built in place. When rolling a drum on the ground, be sure to sweep the surface in front of it to prevent hard points like nails or stone from puncturing the drum or damaging it.
The contents of the drum must always be correctly written on the container to avoid filling a diesel vehicle with petrol and vice versa. It is a good practice to assign a colour for each type of fuel and mark all the related articles - jerrycans, drums, pumps - with it to assist persons with different languages or different reading capabilities.
In both cases, drums or tank, the containers must be waterproof and dustproof.
As fuel settles during storage, all the impurities including dust and suspended matter will settle to the bottom. If water is present in the fuel, it will also separate and settle to the bottom. This natural of settling over time that will provide acceptable quality fuel for users, while impure fuel may damage equipment, increase maintenance requirements, and shorten its useable life span. There are several recommendations to follow to avoid filling the vehicles with dirty fuel:
- Before pumping, the drum or tank should rest for 3 days to allow the fuel to settle and separate.
- Avoid distributing by gravity; use a pump to draw from the container.
- Never pump from the bottom of the tank otherwise all the impurities and water will be transferred to the vehicle fuel tank. The suction tube must be positioned at minimum 20 cm above the bottom of the tank.
- Avoid also pumping from above the first 10 cm on the top of the tank.
- Use retention filters to capture water and impurities, especially when pumping from the last 25 cm of the tank or drum. It is a good practice to replace the filter every year (more often if the quality of the fuel is poor).
All fuels are corrosive and should not be used with plastic accessories, such as plastic buckets or plastic pipes. Also avoid contact with Teflon and tire innertubes.
It is common to use the term “fuel” to refer to different products. Furthermore, equal terms in different languages refer to different product types. The following translation sheet, illustrates the basics on Fuel terminology:
Bottled gas for fridge, heating, etc.
Bottled gas for fridge, heating, etc.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas
Gas used for car fuel, (adapted engine)
Very volatile, fluid, blue colour, same smell as petrol. Very flammable, explosive. Can be used in apetrol engine with 3% oil added
Volatile, fluid, colourless (or almost). Very flammable, explosive. Cannot be replaced by diesel, but can replace Avgas in some aircraft. Various octane indices between regular and super
Turbine engine aircraft
Same as for Paraffin but with aeronautical specifications: filtering, packing and storing.
PETROLE (Lampant), PARAFFINE (Canada)
KEROSENE (Lamp oil)
KEROSENE (Lamp oil), PARAFFIN (Oil)
Lamps, fridges, burner, etc.
Colourless, specific smell. Fuel for so-called “lamp oil” equipment
Greasy, yellowish, frequently coloured, heavy smell. When pure, solidifies at -5°C and requires an additive (or 20% lamp oil). This also acts as the injection pump lubricant.
FUEL, FIOUL, MAZOUT
FUEL OIL, PARAFFIN
Same as diesel without additives for low temperatures and lubrication
Greasy, different viscosities for different uses
Heavy combustible for marine engines and power plants
CRUDE PETROLEUM, KEROSENE
ROCK OIL, PARAFFIN
Adapted from MSF
Managing Spare Parts
It is important to know when to self-manage an owned stock of spare parts. The decision is usually linked to the convenience of a self-managed workshop and the use of owned and standardized fleet of vehicles. Given the complexity, it is not recommended to hold a stock of spare parts if the variety of vehicles in the fleet exceeds 2 or 3 models.
Managing a fleet of self-owned vehicles contexts where a supply chain remains uncertain imposes a high degree of autonomy in terms of spare parts availability. The risks of not having spares at the wrong moment must be assessed. The following matrix can be adapted and used as guidance for decision taking.
Also consider the reliability of local markets: the cost of original parts purchased locally can be double or even triple that of buying internationally. Generally, most of the parts available locally consist of high demand parts such as filters or brake linings, while less demanded parts may be less available, but just as important. Some consumables - such as lubricants and tires - can be easily found locally.
It is therefore recommended to perform market research with a comprehensive list of parts and carefully assess the quality of available parts and validate suppliers. Original quality supplies should be always demanded as the consequences of using counterfeit or substandard parts can seriously affect the condition of the vehicle and jeopardize rider safety.
Once organizations decide to hold a stock of spare parts, they should define the type and quantities of each part required. This can be calculated based on the scale of the fleet, the frequency and types of the preventative maintenance services and the average number of kilometres completed per month per vehicle.
Managing Environmental Impact
Logistics teams must guarantee an efficient use of resources, optimizing costs and reducing the environmental impact of movements.
Movement planners should look for opportunities to combine or, in some cases, avoid travel. Fleet managers should try to reduce the size of the fleet or replace vehicles with smaller, cheaper and more efficient ones wherever possible. Pooling logistics resources, such as vehicles, with other organizations may also provide significant cost and emissions cutbacks through optimized fuel consumption and smaller fleets.
In addition, a vehicle's good mechanical condition and proper use will reduce fuel consumption, extend the life of all vehicle parts, avoid unnecessary expenses, and ultimately, reduce environmental impact.
Guides and Resources
 Adapted from MSF Checklist for vehicle rental.
 Adapted from MSF Guideline for vehicle rental.
 Adapted from MSF Drivers Recruitment Test
 Extracted from MSF Logbook
 Extracted from Fleet Forum, https://knowledge.fleetforum.org/knowledge-base/article/minimum-standards-for-fitness-to-drive
 Transport request extracted from Action against Hunger Logistics Kit.
 Weekly plan template extracted from Action against Hunger Logistics Kit.
 Roadbook template extracted from MSF OCBA Logistics Library
 Fleet Forum, Managing Crash Reporting & Analysis, https://knowledge.fleetforum.org/knowledge-base/article/managing-crash-reporting-analysis
 Adapted from MSF Vehicle maintenance logbook.
 Global Status on Road Safety, WHO, 2018 (https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241565684)