Good fleet safety management is about two things:

  1. Reacting rapidly and effectively when things go wrong.
  2. Spotting the elements and trends that are likely to cause things to go wrong in the first place.

Master the second, and you will minimize the need for the first.

Often, the key to that mastery is using the data you already have – just in a more effective way. Crack that, and you can spot those drivers, routes and times of day when your risk is being pushed to the limit. This allows you to focus your management, safety and training resources on those critical points to reduce risk.

The ocean of data is in motor vehicle records, telematics reports, dashcam videos, tachograph downloads, driver reviews, phone apps, incident reports, training records, corporate systems, compliance documents, operations software and more.

And where is all this data commonly brought together for analysis and insight? In Excel spreadsheets.

On the surface, this makes sense, as Excel is used around the world, a basic office skill, and therefore provides a simple-to-deploy solution that is familiar to its users. However, just because it’s a ubiquitous skill doesn’t mean it is the right tool for fleet safety management.

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Why Is Excel Dangerous for Fleet Risk Management?

It’s Not Precise

A top reason why you shouldn’t use Excel for fleet safety management is that it isn’t as precise as you may think. Studies have shown that close to 90% of spreadsheets contain errors. These range from human errors and programming errors to the capacity limitations of Excel.

Matching cells have to be identical. Whole afternoons can be lost in trying to manipulate all the data into one sheet or getting it to connect to someone else’s spreadsheet. Then when you’ve done that, someone changes their report structure, and it messes yours up.

It’s Time-Consuming

Excel can also be very time-consuming, as although it has automation tools, these are often of an advanced user level, which many (or most) users are not at. They will rely on cut and paste operations or manual inputs – both of which are by their nature prone to error.

It’s Not User-Friendly

Excel seems easy to use at the beginning, with simple actions and calculations. But when more complex operations are required, such as coding macros, it isn’t that easy and bugs can arise that are difficult to identify and fix. It tends to require an Excel expert to keep it running.

You’ll Lose Historical Data and Audit Trails

Unless you have the discipline to keep a separate file or tab snapshot of each previous reporting period, you are at risk of losing your historical data and the related audit trails of that data – which means you lose the ability to dive into the detail or re-analyze historical performance.

Of course, if you do have that discipline, you’ll end up with an unsustainably large Excel spreadsheet, which as mentioned above is prone to error. And with no track changes capability, if data is accidentally deleted or changed, you have no idea that it’s happened.

You May Need to Rely on Multiple Spreadsheets

The alternative option to an unsustainable large Excel spreadsheet – the use of multiple spreadsheets – is also a real challenge.

For example, if you’re working on numerous spreadsheets, say one for each team or branch, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to modify multiple spreadsheets, email them out to appropriate colleagues and make changes as necessary. Keeping up with all the actions in this scenario can become a nightmare – one that increases the likelihood of human error in fleet safety management and data analysis. Which is our next key issue with using Excel for fleet safety management.

It Puts Fleet Safety Management at the Risk of Human Error

With Excel, it’s very easy for someone to accidentally corrupt a data set, change a file’s structure or simply change a cell’s format – and for those actions to have an impact on your reports and insight. And if (when) that happens, one of the main issues with Excel is how to find those errors. Excel spreadsheets have no error control, and are therefore error-prone.

It’s easy to inadvertently change a cell or make mistakes. For example, users may realize that a macro was wrong by one cell after using the process for a long time. To correct this, they have to go back and figure out what and when the error happened. This is a challenging feat, as there is no debugging tool or testing capability to inspect whether all cells keep working as expected, for example after a change.

All of this gives rise to a situation that we’ve all experienced: a well-intentioned colleague updating our Excel spreadsheet, making an innocent error, which makes our reporting inaccurate, and then us losing an afternoon figuring out what went wrong.

What Are Your Company’s Options Beyond Excel?

Ultimately, Excel is a great tool for simple, ad hoc calculations. But its lack of formal structure, complexity in automation and lack of error control make it error-prone. This in turn compromises its capability to support a robust fleet safety management strategy and program.

For effective, data-driven fleet safety management strategies and programs, fleet managers must move away from using Excel and make the shift to using a more effective and resourceful platform.

A platform that takes away the tasks of collecting, analyzing and interpreting data.

A platform that has automatic data standardization, quality monitoring and data audit logs.

A platform that significantly reduces the chances of human error.

A platform that gives fleet managers the ability to review risk at any time in the past, via data visualization features that they can tailor to their fleet safety management needs.

A platform that leaves the fleet manager focused on what the data is telling them about fleet safety management, rather than spending time importing, exporting and arranging data.

To learn insightful strategies that will transform your approach to fleet safety, download this guide and discover our top tips for leveraging telematics solutions.