What is the biggest headache you face with operating your fleet of roofing supply delivery vehicles? Safety? Fuel economy? Keeping up with DOT regulations and paperwork? Leasing/financing? Maintenance? Insurance? Recruiting and keeping great drivers?

In many ways, these things are all tied together. 

Fuel Economy

At prices for diesel fuel ranging from $4.12 per gallon in the Gulf Coast region to $6.00 in California, it is fair to say that every gallon counts. You do not have to manage a large fleet to get into some really high fuel bills. Whether your fleet is made up of many or few trucks, there is big money in small, incremental savings in fuel efficiency. 

Getting the best fuel efficiency begins with your selection of trucks, bodies, and mounted equipment. At these prices you may want to consider lightweight materials for your bodies, even though the up-front cost may be greater. And when it comes to financing, you may be better off leasing to lower the average age of your fleet. Year over year, fuel efficiency built into new vehicles tends to improve. And fuel efficiency does not get better as trucks age.

Trucking Technology

When was the last time you checked out routing software? For most roofing suppliers, you do not enjoy the option to always take the optimal route as customer service demands you go where the order is without regard to how you get there. You just have to be on time. There are, however, times when deliveries may be scheduled on a more measured basis. If you have the option, you may want to look into software that will automate routing to optimize efficiency.

Fewer miles equal lower fuel bills, less exposure to damage or injury incidents, lower maintenance costs, and potentially lower insurance rates. As much as all these things cost, even the small things add up.

Driver Instructions

Speaking of deliveries: how about the information you give your delivery driver? Do you just hand them a ticket with a delivery time and address and let them figure out the rest for themselves? I advocate for customer service people who are fully knowledgeable about the delivery process. 

When taking an order for jobsite delivery, the person responsible for taking the order should be responsible for communicating all pertinent details to the delivery driver. Figuring out that the house is fenced in with pitbulls when you arrive with a truckload of shingles is not good timing. Taking a few extra minutes to find and work these issues out at the time the order is taken saves time and always sets the driver up for a safer and more successful delivery. 

Further to this, I believe customer service people and even outside salespeople should routinely take a “ride-along” for a product delivery. This opens up communications between your team members and gives them both the opportunity to understand (and take ownership of) the others’ challenges. 

All this adds up to less time spent solving problems on the jobsite. less time idling (at big bucks a gallon), and happier customers. 

Part of the Team

Speaking of happier customers, let’s face it: If you are not treating your team members like customers, you may need to go back to business school. Day one in business school is that lesson about “supply and demand.” In the 2020s, you are not a slave master. You are a curator and a builder of talent. You need to sell yourself and your company mission every day if you expect to attract and retain the talent you need to win.

Happy drivers equal safer drivers. Ask your drivers how much it matters to them that they have the best-looking truck on the road. Or if it bothers them that their truck is less than clean, attractive, and well-maintained. You may not think these things matter, but if you join your sales folks in taking the occasional ride-along, you will find out.

Keep Up with Maintenance

Speaking of well-maintained trucks, failing to perform all of the prescribed preventative maintenance on your fleet is a false economy at best. At worst, it can spell a premature failure of a vehicle, or even worse than that: a late or missed delivery. Take care of your people and the equipment they work with every day. 

Sounds simple, but I know it is not. In the world of managing a roofing supply company or branch, your fleet may not be top of mind every day. But I think the wise way to look at it is to think of it in terms of the sales and profits you seek. One is nowhere without the other.