Not much notice is taken of the fact that probably by far the most popular tool used for managing fleets is not designed for that purpose at all. It’s Excel, the Microsoft spreadsheet.

This isn’t just the case in small fleets. We quite regularly come across organisations who have adopted a combination of spreadsheets and paper systems to run fleets of more than a 1,000 vehicles.

However, compared to specialist software, this approach cannot help but produce poor results.

Just look in general terms at the capabilities of these products. Good fleet management software will automatically draw in data from a wide variety of reliable sources, enable you to put in place a policy infrastructure, and essentially only demand your attention when tasks need managerial action. It will also provide a high level of transparency over your fleet, operationally and financially, as well as aid compliance.

I’m a big fan of Excel and use it every day in my working life but it simply cannot deliver a fraction of that functionality. Essentially, it will just allow you to calculate some of your costs and compile some useful information, all of which will be done on a reactive basis.

For this reason, we believe the fleet software industry should do more to educate businesses about the limitations of spreadsheets when it comes to managing company cars and vans. If the sector could persuade just a relatively small percentage of fleets to set aside their spreadsheets and use specialist software, both fleet software companies and general standards of fleet management would grow exponentially.

How can this be done? It’s won’t be easy. People are often very attached to their spreadsheets but it seems to us that a good first step would be if more of the sales and marketing effort that goes into fleet software recognised that the biggest competitor in the market is not another fleet software company – it’s Excel.