When encountering the word “fleet,” you may picture a parking lot full of eighteen-wheeled semi-trucks, a hangar filled with airplanes, or an armada of ships at port. Historically, the word has big connotations—it brings to mind large transportation machines, and lots of them.
Semantically, the definition of a fleet offers a slightly different perspective. Merriam-Webster defines a fleet as “a group of ships or vehicles that move or work together or that are controlled or owned by one company.”
Today, the changing definition of the word means that “fleet” can refer to an international transportation company that owns thousands of big rigs and operates all over the world, or it can refer to a mom-and-pop gift shop that hand-delivers flowers and candies to local homes via two converted mini vans.
Small fleets, despite the name, can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are a few examples of the many diverse types of non-traditional fleets that are on the road today.
Food Trucks: A Thriving Brand of Small Business Fleets
Over the past few years, the food truck market has boomed, popping up in major cities across the U.S. and revolutionizing the food service marketplace. As these restaurants-on-wheels gain popularity and flourish, demand and an influx of capital has allowed many of them to expand. Whereas one year a food truck owner might have operated a single truck that traveled to different areas of town, over time they might purchase another truck, and then another. Before long, this former four-wheel business has transformed into a small fleet of food trucks, scattered in various areas all across a city, and beyond.
Consumer Services: Off-the-Beaten Path Small Fleets
While many consumer services are based in brick-and-mortar stores and shops, a significant portion of these small businesses are mobile. With convenience as a primary selling point and a “we’ll-come-to-you” attitude towards customer service, these small businesses are on the road more often than not. And, if the company has more than one vehicle, it qualifies as a business fleet. A great example of this type of small business fleet is a maid service or cleaning business that offers their services to consumers in homes or at offices. Flower delivery and gift service businesses have the potential to operate as small fleets as well. Other examples include catering companies, roofing/plumbing/electrical/home repair businesses, and restaurant or food delivery services.
Local Governments: Fleet Services in All Shapes & Sizes
Local city and county governments often have a wealth of vehicles as part of their government-owned fleet, many of which are overlooked as a part of fleet services. Schools are a primary source of government fleet vehicles, whether the educational institution is a primary school or a large, public university. A school-specific small fleet can include everything from busses to passenger vans to designated driver’s education vehicles.
Law enforcement and emergency response vehicles are another significant part of a local government’s fleet. Police officers, fire departments, and first responders all depend on their respective transportation to properly fulfill their duties.
Small Fleet Management
While managing small fleets doesn’t necessarily come with some of the same logistical problems and management issues that a large fleet faces, proactive small business fleet management is still important. Establishing driver policies and having comprehensive vehicle maintenance schedules are two good practices to implement into your small business fleet management program. Similarly, having a dedicated fleet commercial roadside assistance plan for your fleet is a good way to prepare for those inevitable issues that stem from having an on-the-road business, whether it’s a flat tire or another type of fleet vehicle breakdown.