Expert Insight: Guest Contribution
By Ken Ehrman,
President & COO, I.D. Systems, Inc.
Date: September 10, 2009

Reduce Costs of Your Forklifts and Other Industrial Vehicles


Many Successful Companies Deploy a Vehicle Management System to Reduce Costs

Powered industrial trucks are the workhorses of material handling operations and managing them effectively has its challenges. A fleet of industrial vehicles is expensive to acquire, operate and maintain, but a vehicle management system will help control cost and damage expenses while improving safety and productivity issues that are so common in fleets.

Introduction to Vehicle Management Systems


The fundamental starting place for a vehicle management system is vehicle access control, or restricting who can operate your trucks. Since it’s impossible for your industrial vehicle operators to keep dozens of keys in their pockets, inevitably, keys are left in the trucks’ ignitions. That means anyone can operate the trucks at any time with little, if any, accountability.

Lack of accountability translates to:

  • Anonymous damage to vehicles, products and your facility;
  • Lack of compliance and increasingly cumbersome paper-based checklist processes to ensure operators use vehicles in safe operating condition;
  • No true visibility of the material handling movements made by industrial vehicle operators;
  • Limited tools and data to measure the complete productivity of an industrial vehicle fleet; and
  • Inconsistent preventative maintenance scheduling.

Because of these significant issues, many of the most successful companies in the world have adopted a Vehicle Management System (VMS) enterprise-wide. Vehicle management systems enable businesses to better use resources and provide a safer work environment, which directly translates to maximizing profits and material velocity.

What are Vehicle Management Systems?


A vehicle management system (VMS) begins with access control to your vehicles. In order to start any vehicle in your facility, the operator needs to present their facility’s badge ID to a card reader installed on the truck. The system is linked to the vehicle’s ignition and the vehicle will only start if the operator is authorized and appropriately trained for that vehicle. Once started, the system monitors and tracks exactly how that vehicle is used (or not). Data is wirelessly collected, automatically and in real time, to provide the visibility you need to manage your business efficiently.


Why Do I Need A VMS?


VMS helps you answer questions, such as:

  • Are my operators driving safely?
  • Do I have the right amount of vehicles in my fleet?
  • How long should it take to do a specific task? How can I measure what the true engineering standard should be?
  • Why does it take some employees much longer than others to do specific tasks?
  • How can I reduce overtime with my current staffing levels?
  • Where do we need to focus our labor resources today?
  • How can I better forecast vehicles and operators needed for future workflow?
  • Can I maintain my vehicles more efficiently? Can I increase vehicle “uptime”?
  • How can I reduce damage to my vehicles, inventory and facility?
  • How can I ensure compliance with OSHA regulations?

Click here to learn more about common industry challenges with industrial vehicles.


Key Reasons to Immediately Implement Vehicle Management


1. Operators are paid for three to four TIMES more hours than actual material movement time. Across multiple industries, upon initial installation, VMS data reveals a very similar and startling pattern of vehicle operation.

Typical Shift Pay                                          8 hours

Operator Logged in to Truck                           4 hours

Truck In Motion                                            2 hours

Truck Moving with a Load                               1 hour

One hour of product moved for every              8 hours paid!

This data has been collected from over 35,000 VMS vehicle installations. Of course, some operators are more productive than others, but a VMS provides operational visibility and productivity metrics that are not achievable in any other way. Once this type of pattern is identified, it’s easy to take action and increase productivity on the floor.

Click here to learn more about addressing lost productivity.

2. Every day you are asked to do more with less. When you walk around your facility, do you see idle and empty trucks? Yet, at the same time, are there also requests to acquire more trucks and offer more overtime? Why does this happen? Without data to assign trucks to changing workloads, it’s almost impossible to reassign vehicles to meet needs of specific areas either temporarily or permanently, without disrupting operations. A VMS can identify the needs of the operation and – based on data – give visibility to a different use of resources.

Vehicle Management Systems provide unique insight into fleet operation by evaluating how your current vehicles are being used and if there any opportunities to better allocate them. The simultaneous usage chart below identifies the use of a fleet by each area of a facility. It shows utilization, including peaks and valleys so that operations can be better balanced over time. Why buy or rent vehicles to meet perceived peak needs when data can provide real metrics to evaluate this decision?


Simultaneous Usage Report

Click here to learn more about fleet reduction.

3. You want to keep your employees as safe as possible. Workplace safety for employees is important to all businesses. In warehouse and manufacturing plant environments, OSHA has put numerous safety regulations in place to help ensure a safe work environment. Specifically:

  • Before use, drivers are required to inspect vehicles for unsafe conditions.
  • Employers need to ensure that only trained operators can operate forklifts and like equipment

Ultimately, everyone needs to comply with these regulations. A VMS can help you do so by enforcing daily vehicle safety checklists, as well as tracking and authorizing drivers’ access to vehicles.

Using a VMS, vehicle checklists are electronic and automated, so each driver must complete the checklist before operating the vehicle. This not only enforces compliance, but it also eliminates the burden of administration and storage of paper-based checklists. Also, if safety issues are identified by a driver, maintenance is automatically notified and based on the severity of the issue, the vehicle can be locked out/tagged out.

Once you have trained a driver, how can you ensure that only those drivers are operating vehicles? By using access control, only trained drivers that are current on their licenses and certifications are permitted to operate vehicles. When an operator logs-in to a vehicle, they also become responsible for all of the actions that follow.  How many times do you see anonymous damage in your facility – to the racks, inventory, and the vehicles themselves? A VMS also identifies unsafe driving, including speeding and impacts. Accountability drives behavioral changes.

A VMS makes the workplace safer not just for the drivers, but for the hundreds of other employees and pedestrians that work so closely around them. The cost of one incident, whether it’s from an untrained driver, or major damage to a rack from careless driving can often more than justify an investment in VMS technology that helps manage these conditions.

Click here to learn more about reducing damage and increasing safety.




The state of the economy is putting significant pressure on all businesses and management to do more with less. Job reduction seems to be the most prominent focus of most companies’ cost reduction strategies. However, when supervisors and middle managers are downsized, day-to-day operations can become less efficient, placing even more strain on the remaining team.

In today’s difficult economic environment, it is more critical than ever to shine a spotlight on your highest cost centers and evaluate readily achievable savings opportunities. Every day your business is paying significant amounts of money to own and operate your industrial vehicle fleet. The cost for each truck can be over $250,000 per year – inclusive of operator salaries, benefits, overtime, truck leases, maintenance, damage, and battery/fuel expense. For a 50-vehicle fleet, that multiplies to over $12,500,000 per year!

Achieving productivity and cost benefits through the deployment of technology is a well established concept, but can it be applied to fleet and operations management? Can behaviors and costs that have long been considered just “part of doing business” be changed? The answer is Yes!

How can you achieve meaningful cost reductions while
simultaneously enhancing throughput?

Reduce costs of your industrial vehicle fleet in the areas of:

          • Labor
          • Fleet Size
          • Planned and unplanned maintenance
          • Facility and vehicle damage
          • Vehicle and operator productivity

To find out how, click here to download the latest whitepaper from I.D. Systems,

 5 Ways to Reduce Costs of Your Industrial Vehicle Fleet


About I.D. Systems, Inc.


I.D. Systems has worked with the most efficient companies in the world to derive significant economic value from the daily use of their PowerFleet™ VMS in their supply chain. With VMS technology, you can have it all – reduced costs, increased productivity and an ROI that supports technology investments in any type of economy. For more information on PowerFleet, please go to or contact us at

Agree or disgree with with our guest contributor's perspective? What would you add? Let us know your thoughts for publication in the SCDigest newsletter Feedback section, and on the website. Upon request, comments will be posted with the respondent's name or company withheld.

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About the Author


Ken Ehrman founded I.D. Systems, Inc., in 1993, brought the company public on the NASDAQ market in 1999, currently serves as President and Chief Operating Officer of the company, as well as sitting on its board of directors. Ken graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and holds several patents in the wireless technology and information networking fields.

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Ehrman Says:

A VMS makes the workplace safer not just for the drivers, but for the hundreds of other employees and pedestrians that work so closely around them.

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