Keep Your Business Rolling

Most security systems contractors agree they need trucks or vans to carry their staff, products and equipment from call to call. However, the handling of these vehicles and the issues that invariably follow can be a challenge to companies that don’t have experienced fleet management on board.

What should I buy? Should I own or lease? What kind of aftermarket equipment should be included? How do I effectively handle routine maintenance? How long should I keep our vehicles? These are just some of the questions novice and even veteran fleet managers ask themselves.

The answers to these and other questions depend on the vehicle application, company fiscal policies, availability of capital, taxes, corporate culture and executive preferences. Weighing all of these factors – as well as knowing some fleet management basics about topics like maintenance, leasing and vehicle selection – are the first steps in effectively controlling and utilizing your company’s trucks, vans and cars.

Prevent Unnecessary Expenses: Select Appropriately Sized Vehicles

Class II (light duty) vans or trucks often are most appropriate for security systems contractors. Still, some dealers provide their sales staff with cars for a more professional image. On the other end of the scale, larger trucks might be necessary for applications requiring heavy equipment or towing. For most contractors, however, their payload capacity requirements lie somewhere in the middle.It is important to buy a vehicle with just the right Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) (curb weight + average driver weight [180 pounds] + gas weight + payload) for your needs. Unfortunately, many managers of smaller fleets, in an attempt to save money, are tempted to buy smaller trucks and load them down with too much equipment. This will cause premature wear on tires, brakes and suspensions.

  Safety Equipment Reduces Accidents, Injuries

When selecting a vehicle, it’s important to address the safety issues that are common with service vans and trucks. Proper mirrors should be installed to increase visibility and prevent backing accidents (the No. 1 type of accident for vehicle fleets). Additionally, some companies, such as Brink’s, use low-profile toppers so there is clear rear-view visibility.

A barrier screen can prevent objects in the cargo area, which might become flying projectiles during a sudden stop or accident, from injuring the driver.

Leasing Allows Vehicles to Be Replaced When Needed

Once you have chosen a vehicle, you’ll have to decide whether you’ll lease or buy it. Your decision will depend on your company’s fiscal philosophy and cash on hand. If cash flow is an issue, leasing may be your best option.

The processing of vehicle titles, license renewals and the keeping of records is normally done by the lessor, relieving a fleet manager of that responsibility. Despite this, in the long run, using a leasing company may actually require a greater amount of paperwork (for the processing of requisitions, verification of orders, and reviewing and processing of monthly leasing invoices).

Another disadvantage is the fact that a leasing company acts as a third party between the security company and car dealer. This may slow down the entire process because of additional clerical work.

In recent years, leasing has become less appealing to many fleet managers because rates have increased.

If you do decide to lease, you should chose your amortization rate wisely.

Because of Higher Lease Rates, Ownership Is More Attractive

Many security companies prefer to own their vehicles. Ownership, however, does not guarantee lower costs.

Despite these issues, buying vehicles outright is more attractive now that leasing rates have increased.

Another reason why security systems contractors like Benson and Keyth Technologies of Highland Park, Ill., own rather than lease their vehicles is the expensive artwork and logos that adorn some or all of their vehicles (Benson was an SSI SAMMY finalist for best vehicle design in 2001, while Keyth won in 2003).

Some dealers pay the full purchase price but go through a leasing process so they can capitalize their vehicles. ADT, on the other hand, leases its vehicles (and returns them to the lessor at the end of four years or sells the vehicles to ADT employees) because it has chosen to focus on its core business rather than fleet management.

Well-Maintained and Clean Vehicles Make Good Impressions Once the vehicles have been acquired via either a lease or purchase, there is a whole world of management issues that must be addressed. Maintenance is first and foremost.

Part of this comes back to payload capacity and being certain it is not exceeded. But it also comes down to basic vehicle upkeep. All vehicles must be maintained regularly and often. The oil, wipers, tires, cooling system, transmission, brakes, chassis, lubrication, battery, front axle and steering, and rear axle (when applicable) should be changed/inspected monthly or even weekly.

Some dealers/integrators have onsite employees complete the maintenance. Others make arrangements with mechanics from local shops to come onsite and do routine maintenance while the technicians are in meetings or training seminars. Still other security contractors provide employees with coupons they use at local shops to pay for upkeep.

An adjunct to maintenance is appearance. Your vehicles are rolling billboards, so if they are dirty or the paint jobs are chipped or faded, it can leave a bad impression with clients and the public in general. It behooves all security contractors to regularly wash their vehicles and maintain their appearance. This, however, is easier said than done. Many security systems contractors work in construction environments where there is a lot of dirt and dust.

Additionally, if your vehicles regularly travel in harsh climates, upkeep can be downright difficult.

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