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It is common for humanitarian agencies manage a fleet of vehicles (cars, vans or motorbikes) to transport people. Agencies specialised 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 on 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.

Alternatives to Vehicle Fleet Management


Other Humanitarian Agencies

It is very common for humanitarian agencies to operate simultaneously in certain locations. Pooling resources is a simple manner of optimising costs and recovering 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 might be sufficient. In situations where agencies might make regular use of other agency fleet resources, both parties are strongly recommended to formalise 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 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 major 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. A taxi's flexibility, affordability and ease of management make of it a very good alternative or complement for the organisation’s fleet in urban operations. Taxies can be very useful for managing unplanned requests, and for scaling-up of transport based on need.

Safety and reliability of the taxi 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

Although third-party transport providers are usually specialised 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.

When regularly using third-party transport providers, a framework agreement can be useful to ease 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.

Please reference the road transport section of this guide for more information on the advantages and disadvantages of using third-party transportation, and the recommended terms for developing contracts for third-party transport.

The topic on rental of light vehicles (with or without driver) is covered below.


All these workflows should be monitored - individually and as a whole (fleet) - ensuring due performance, 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 dysfunctions that should be addressed. All four of the main categories flow into a fifth basic work stream: Monitoring.

1.  Drivers 

2.  Vehicles


3.  Users


4.  Movements 


5.  Monitoring 

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Fleet Management Functions


Fleet management can be looked at as a sequential set of steps. This overview is especially advisable when the scale of a fleet is large and when an agency owns of most of the fleet related assets and services.

1.  Planning


2.  Selection and acquisition 

3.  Commissioning 

4.  Use 

5.  Maintenance and repair 

6.  Monitoring


7.  Decommissioning and replacing


Fleet Planning

Fleet planning is a key strategic activity used to shape fleets and their corresponding management model to support adequate and sustainable solutions to organisational needs. Fleet planning encompasses the operational, technical, administrative and financial dimensions of individual organisations, and therefore tends to be very organisational specific.


The basic considerations in choosing the most suitable passenger vehicle are related with its intended purpose, the 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, the required cargo capacity should be anticipated. Vehicles with independent trunk or hybrid solutions such as pick-up vehicles can be considered. Visit the road transport chapter for more information on cargo truck selection. The operating context, environmental and road conditions will affect the decision and determine technical requirements of the vehicle such as 4WD, air conditioning, or other extra features. Availability of spare parts in the local market and local knowledge and capacity to achieve all type of maintenance and repairs is also an important factor to consider. 


If an organisation decides to acquire its own vehicles, there are a number of areas to be considered. For more information on the advantages and disadvantages of managing self-owned vehicles, please reference the section on self-ownrd owned vehicles in the road transport section of this guide.


  • 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, dashboard 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:

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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 about the ownership or mismatch between the vehicle and the presented documentation should immediately disqualify the vehicle from service.


Equally important to the mechanical condition of the rental vehicle are the rental driver’s health condition, driving skills, administrative permits, driving and working behaviour and required knowledge to operate the vehicle in the required context, 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 of vehicles is a long-term strategy, consider keeping a pool of “rental” drivers that can be engage upon request. Validating and instructing batches of several drivers in a single session will reduce the time spent in this important activity.


  • Define the time-frame of the rental and the time unit used for the rate - hour, day, week, month. If the rental exceeds a single day, it is recommended to agree on a daily rate and charge based on days word. If a monthly rate is used, clarify if calendar month, a period of four weeks or 30 days is covered in the contract.
  • Clarify who provides the driver - the humanitarian agency or the owner. If the owner provides the driver, clarify that the driers drier's 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.
  • Define the party responsible of providing fuel:
    • If the agency provides fuel, make sure that the tank is full prior to its first use.
    • If the owner/rental company who provides fuel, ensure that the quantity in the tank is enough to achieve the programmed daily movements, avoiding losing valuable time going to the fuel station.
  • Identify the site where the vehicle will be parked at night -  the the agency’s compound or the owners. Where fuel is provided by the agency, the vehicle should be parked in the its a compound.
  • Ensure that there are no restrictions as to where the vehicle can go in any given country. This is especially important on particularly bad roads or in conflict areas.
  • Ensure the owner provides insurance and proof of insurance cover. Are passengers already 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.
  • Define who is responsible for breakdowns and regular maintenance. It is strongly recommended that responsibility for recovery and repairs falls under the vehicles 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.
  • Conduct a complete inventory of tools/utensils, keep a record of these items, and ensure the vehicle carries at least the minimum required tools in case of flat tire or minor repair.


It is advised that professional drivers pass a fitness testevery test every year and to install bi-annual checks for staff that drives occasionally. All staff should be advised to undertake a health check whenever they suspect they have a problem. Eye tests should be carried out by qualified optometrists, and should include a test of the driver’s horizontal and vertical range of vision.



Blantyre - Lilongwe


4h 30min

LAST UPDATE: 24/5/2010




305 Km






Comms coverage




0 km 



Round about


7 km






15 km 


trading centre



31 km



trading centre



42 km






52 km



police station

Cross M1 - M6


53 km






81 km 





99 km






108 km






115 km 


police station + 1st petrol station

Cross M1 / M5 / M8







137 km



trading centre 


147 km



Border Ntcheu DC



149 km



Capital District - Hospital DC



158 km 


Police station + border Malawi-Moç



195 km



Trading centre



207 km



Diversion secondary Rd to Mangochi



219 km



Police station + petrol station



243 km



Trading centre



272 km






283 km



Customs police



292 km 


Trading centre



295 km



Border Lilongwe DC



297 km



Police station + petrol station



305 km



Town entry

The road-book has indications or milestones based on data points form along the route: distance, time and other relevant information for the journey, such as communications coverage, hospitals, police stations, petrol stations, etc. Road-books can also help for briefing during driver’s induction or to determine communication points for movement tracking purposes.


It is recommended to calculate the consumption after each refill. To make the calculation for a consumption in litter per litre per 100 Km:

  1. Take the distance between 2 fill-ups.

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:

80 litterslitres

4. Fuel consumption per 100 Km is:

80/666 x 100 = 12 L/100 Km


Before starting the vehicle engine for first use in the day, 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 for abnormal noises, check indicators, lighting and dashboard warning lights, and look for the presence of all required equipment.

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 axle 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 stabiliser bar bushes control.
  • Check functioning of doors, locks, seat belts and (warning) lights.


In case of any identified problems, the driver should record them in the vehicle logbook and inform the fleet manager, who will evaluate the scale of the damage and to plan all relevant arrangements.


For an overview of self-managed fuel supplies, please review the section on stocking and managing fuel at the end of this 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 authorised persons following the regulations of the law and respective insurance companies.


  • UNECE Road Safety



Special Movements

Special movements vehicle movements that require special planning and organisation.


Movements in Unknown Areas

  • Organise the planned movement well in advance.
  • Minimise the number of passengers.
  • Define the roles and responsibilities among the team members. Ensure that at least one driver plus a passenger are in each vehicle.
  • Communicate with relevant stakeholders in the area and assess their capacity to deliver assistance in case of need. Inform them about the journey schedule and itinerary.
  • Assistance may be unavailable: bring vehicle recovery kit. A second vehicle is highly recommended in order to provide assistance in case of severe breakdown.
  • Resources could be scarce: bring food and water.
  • Depending on the duration of the journey and if overnights are possible, consider bringing additional fuel and the appropriate number of sleeping sets.
  • Assess communication networks in the areas of the planned movement
  • Bring several communication devices using different technologies.
  • Ensure one person is monitoring the movement and recording all milestones through the planned journey. Allocate a back-up for this person.

Convoy Movements


  • Define positioning within the convoy, especially the first and the last car in the convoy.
  • Define the distance between convoy elements.
  • Allocate sufficient time for preparation before departure.
  • Agree on basic procedures to be applicable by the vehicles to ensure certain discipline within the convoy: departure, stop-over and contingency plans for common scenarios: vehicle breakdown, accident, checkpoints, etc.
  • Define which are the communication means internally and external to the convoy. Agree on the hierarchies.
  • Compile a vehicles list, drivers list, passengers list and any other list that could be useful during the journey.

Movement of Dangerous Goods 

Transport of Valuable Assets 

  • Be discrete. Don’t disclose the nature of the movement.
  • Inform the occupants of the vehicle about the nature of the movement, but not in advance. Give them the chance to decline the assignment and remain at departure point if not comfortable.
  • Avoid regularly scheduled movements, schedule for different days and different hours.
  • Consider organising as part of a convoy.
  • Reduce the number of stopovers to those strictly necessary.

Transport of Special Passengers (patients, kids, human remains, etc.) 

  • Ensure that the vehicle is fit for purpose and has the necessary equipment to transport the specific passengers.
  • Have clear rules on who is allowed to travel and in which conditions: who authorises the passenger, how much luggage is allowed, safety considerations, point(s) of destination, etc.
  • Brief passengers about the movement: schedule, itinerary, stopovers, etc. Consider including information about the return trip.
  • If minors are transported, they should be always accompanied by an adult.

Ambulance Services 

  • Ensure that the vehicle is fit for purpose and has the necessary equipment and medical supplies to transport patients.
  • Children patients should always be accompanied by an adult.
  • One medical staff should be present during the transfer in case medical needs are required.
  • Provide basic PPE and Infection Control SOPs and training to the staff working in the ambulance to avoid cross infection from transported patients.
  • If the patient is seriously ill, inform the receiving medical facility in advance that the patient being transferred.
  • If providing oxygen to the patient, for safety purposes, oxygen concentrators are a preferred option rather than Oxygen cylinders.

Armoured Vehicles (AVs) 

  • Ensure that the vehicle is fit for purpose and is armoured according to the threats present in the area of operation: armoured steel floor, armoured rear cargo area, etc.
  • Technical specifications should be provided by a subject matter expert.
  • Consider import and export restrictions, and any laws regarding use of the vehicle around the planned area of movement.
  • Ensure that drivers have gone through specific training programs and certification required for AVs.
  • The costs of managing a fleet of AV increases significantly compared with a fleet of regular vehicles.
  • Maintenance of AVs requires specialised knowledge and capacity as vehicle configuration differs from regular vehicles, especially the electronic components. Spare parts are often manufacturer specific, and can be very hard to come by.
  • All communication equipment must be operable from the inside, which may impact some communications devices such as regular mobile phones. Additional communication equipment and specific installation and setup will be required.
  • Disposal at end of life is not easy and should be planned far in advance.


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 useful 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:



English (US)

English (UK)



Handling Specifics


(Motor fuel)

(Motor fuel)

COMBUSTIBLE (Carburante) 






Town gas












Bottled gas for fridge, heating, etc.






Bottled gas for fridge, heating, etc.






Liquefied Petroleum Gas

Gas used for car fuel, (adapted engine)

Essence Avion




Aviation Gasoline:
for piston engines

Very volatile, fluid, blue colour, same smell as petrol. Very flammable, explosive. Can be used in a petrol engine with 3% oil added


- super
- normale
- sans plomb


- premium
- regular
- unleaded


- super
- regular
- unleaded


- super
- normal
- sin plomo 

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)



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.






Same as diesel without additives for low temperatures and lubrication






Greasy, different viscosities for different uses











Slow engines

Heavy combustible for marine engines and power plants





Road surfaces






Natural state


Adapted from MSF

Managing Spare Parts


Managing a fleet of self-owned vehicles in 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.

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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.


TEMPLATE - Daily Movement Plan

TEMPLATE - Daily Cargo Vehicle Checklist

TEMPLATE - Discharge of Liability


Guide - Vehicle Servicing

Full Template Package 

Sites and Resources



[1] Adapted from MSF Checklist for vehicle rental.