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Cruise Control

Whether you've got 3 or 30, there's a program to help you manage your vehicles.

Business budgets for transportation can go haywire without the proper controls and procedures. There are several programs that can help you manage your fleet by keeping track of your vehicles and scheduling maintenance and repairs through your auto dealer. Most dealers' fleet managers offer various plans that are created especially for entrepreneurs whose fleets may number two to five and up. If your business fleet is small enough to handle in-house, you can buy fleet management software to help you out.

Among the most comprehensive fleet management systems is Ford's. It also offers Truck Commercial Connection, which assists in selecting a fleet, offers incentives and reimburses qualified buyers for ordering extra shelving and other interior truck equipment. Ford's Business Preferred Network has a staff of certified account managers and commercial service managers to work specifically with business owners. If you prefer to manage your account in-house, the company's Quality Fleet Care simplifies the maintenance and repair processes for you with a monthly centralized billing service.

GM's support of fleets is exceptional, with its FleetTrac program that consolidates billing services, Goodwrench maintenance and repairs plan, and the ACDelco Key Fleet program. Among services provided are fleet oil life monitoring to avoid frequent, unnecessary and costly changes, and programs to increase efficiency and reduce downtime. Roadside assistance can be crucial to meet delivery deadlines, so GM's programs include the feature. Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Nissan and Toyota will work with fleet owners through their local dealerships.

Independent fleet management companies, such as PHH FirstFleet, provide both financial and operational programs. To handle your fleet in-house, check out ManagerPlus software, which organizes work orders, repair histories, parts inventories and warranty tracking. Its fuel and oil tracking monitors performance by odometer, hours, days or calendar dates and can help detect signs of vehicle fatigue. TMW Systems' Transman Fleet Maintenance Management software manages fleets from dispatch to billing with detailed reporting, and it helps control your company's transportation assets and work flow processes.

Most manufacturer fleet management programs offer solutions to better handle fuel management depending on the size and scope of your business, such as Dodge's Fuel Solutions paired with employee credit cards to track expenses. Independent fleet leasing companies, such as Merchants Leasing, also offer fuel management programs, including a card to keep track of fuel and nonfuel vehicle expenses, a spending restriction, and monthly reports to help reduce internal administrative time handling receipts and determine the fuel efficiency and usage per driver in your fleet.

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This article was originally published in the April 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Cruise Control.

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