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What Are Fleet Vehicles?

By Mike Howells
Updated May 23, 2024
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Broadly speaking, fleet vehicles are cars, trucks, or other automobiles that are owned by a business or organization for official use. Sometimes fleets are used in delivery services, or they can be assigned to employees in sales or other occupations that require a lot of travel throughout the day. Other examples include ambulances, police cars, and taxicabs; city buses also usually fall into this category. Fleets, whether easily recognizable or not, are usually marked with numbers or some other identifying information, and are usually subject to a routine system of maintenance and inspection. In nearly all cases they must be returned to a headquarters or the center of operations at the end of the driver’s shift, which differentiates them from company cars that are often leased to or otherwise lent more permanently to employees. Companies usually have streamlined management systems for servicing and maintaining the fleet, and in most countries there are also tax advantages to purchasing everything in bulk and performing service in a routine way. The costs can often be deducted or used as credits, and depreciation can sometimes be credited back, too.

Basic Concept

The most obvious fleets are owned by companies that are in the transportation business, and in these cases, having an inventoried list of cars including a detailed log of their maintenance and mileage is efficient as well as money-saving. The fleet concept also works well in organizations that require employees to travel in an official capacity. Checking out or borrowing a car from the fleet is often a lot more streamlined than using a personal vehicle, and can be more reliable, too. Employees who operate fleet cars or vans usually don’t have to worry about things like gas, mileage expenses, or insurance, either.

Types of Vehicle at Issue

Fleets can be made up of almost any sort of vehicle, depending on the needs of the business and the expected use. In most cases, they’re a popular make of car, truck, or van with easily obtainable parts and service. The most recognizable examples include buses, taxis, emergency response vehicles, rental cars, and delivery trucks. Most of these are painted in unique or company-specific colors to make them easy to spot. Less prominent fleets — usually for state or employee use — may not be color-coordinated, but they do typically bear some type of identification or placard.

Depending on the company or organization, types of fleet vehicles can range from cars to vans to trucks. They tend to endure much harder use than personally-owned vehicles due to demands of the job for which they are intended. A single vehicle may be subjected to constant use by a number of different operators, for instance, not all of whom may use the same degree of care or attention. Additionally, fleet vehicles, by the nature of their ongoing operation, are more likely to be subjected to mechanical and cosmetic wear and tear. They are also routinely used to travel several hundreds of thousands of miles (or kilometers), far beyond the typical lifespan of a privately-owned car or truck.

Fleet Management

Tracking, financing, maintenance, replacement, and other ongoing activities related to the upkeep of a vehicle fleet are collectively known as fleet management. Governments and companies with large fleets will often have entire departments devoted to fleet management, or outsource the work to dedicated companies. In the delivery industry, for example, a fleet management employee's duties may range from monitoring the global positioning system (GPS) tracking of vehicles to performing automotive diagnostic and maintenance checks.

Tracking and Performance Analysis

Most commercial fleet management programs also monitor the mileage, fuel economy, and other statistics related to the performance of vehicles, and use the data to optimize routes and minimize costs for such things as fuel consumption and maintenance. Vehicle tracking can also be used to generate profiles of particular drivers, providing for quantitative analysis of their performance. A crucial aspect of fleet management relates to the eventual, but inevitable, need to replace old vehicles with new ones. Since many governments and organizations purchase replacement fleet vehicles in cash on an as-needed basis, fleets tend to consist of older models. In most cases there are industry standard databases that allow fleet operators to plot the life cycle of vehicles and their replacement needs.

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Discussion Comments

By John57 — On Sep 13, 2011

Sometimes you can get a pretty good deal if you buy a used fleet vehicle. We have a friend who buys all of his cars from his company when they are done using them as fleet vehicles.

There are several advantages to buying them as he knows who has owned the vehicle and has all the maintenance records that were done on it.

They don't usually have a ton of miles on them when they are sold, so there is still quite a bit of good driving time left for them.

If you are looking for a car that has a lot of extras, this probably wouldn't be something you would be interested in. Most of them just have standard features and don't have any luxuries on them.

By winslo2004 — On Sep 13, 2011

Selling commercial fleet vehicles is the best job in the car business. You don't sell one car at a time, you sell 10, or 20, or sometimes 100 or more. You might make a little less per car or truck, but you sell a whole bunch of units so you still make out.

The trick to this kind of job is that you have to be the type of person who is really good at building relationships. Big corporate buyers tend to deal with people they know. So you have to make sure they know you.

If you ever want to try selling cars, figuring out what you need to do to get into fleet sales is the smart way to go. At least it was for me.

By BigManCar — On Sep 12, 2011

You can sometimes get a good deal on a used fleet car or truck. Some companies with large fleets, as well as some government agencies, offer their fleet vehicles for sale at certain intervals. You know they maintenance and inspections will have been done over the course of the car's life.

The only concern is that they usually have a lot of miles. Like any used car, I would have a mechanic take a look at it, but I have bought a couple of trucks like this and they have served me well.

By Nepal2016 — On Sep 12, 2011

I used to work for Ford, and one of the nice things about it was that if you had to go somewhere during the work day you could sign out a pool car and use it instead of your own. Saved wear and tear, also saved on gas since they had an onsite gas station that required a swipe card to use but billed the gas to some department or other. I don't know which department, but I know it didn't cost me anything.

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