There are over 750,000 motor carriers currently active in the US, and nearly 96% operate ten or fewer trucks.  


Small fleets play an indispensable role in the transportation industry and global economy yet face unique challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining quality drivers while remaining competitive in today’s market.  


Are you a small fleet owner wondering how these challenges could affect your operations? Keep reading to find out the difficulties of managing a small fleet and what solutions could help keep your company ahead of the curve.  


Operational Challenges 

Some of the most difficult problems faced by small fleet owners occur in daily operations. Although there are many benefits to being a small fleet owner/operator, such as the independence, lower tax burdens, and smaller workforce to pay and be responsible for, operational challenges remain daunting.  


Without the cushion of resources larger carriers have available to fall back on, any of these common operational challenges can have a major impact on the success and longevity of a small fleet.  


Vehicle maintenance is a crucial part of operating a fleet of any size, but it can be costly. Regular maintenance ensures driver safety and prevents breakdowns, which can be even more expensive. It’s important to implement preventative maintenance schedules and address any issues promptly.  


Upholding DOT compliance is essential to being in the transportation industry and requires remaining up to date on local, state, regional, and national regulations. Vehicles must be regularly inspected to ensure compliance with safety standards, and any required reports on vehicle maintenance, inspections, and driver qualifications must be submitted to the DOT.  


Route optimization and fuel efficiency are key factors every small fleet must consider. Inefficient routes cost carriers time and money, as fuel remains one of the most significant operational expenses and empty miles directly affect the overall profitability and sustainability of a business.  


Recruiting and retaining qualified drivers remains one of the most challenging parts of operating a small fleet in today’s highly competitive market. High turnover affects operational stability and increases spending on hiring and training, which can be especially detrimental for small fleets. Coupled with the industry-wide driver shortage and post-pandemic influx of carriers, focusing on reversing driver turnover is an essential goal for every fleet.  


Financial Challenges 

Operational expenses and financial obligations can’t be avoided by carriers of any size, but increasing efficiency and optimization can help mitigate these costs and improve financial stability. 


High fuel costs remain a challenging and unpredictable factor for fleets. Although the US Energy Information Administration predicts gasoline and diesel prices will decrease throughout 2024 and 2025, small fleets must still focus on route optimization and implementing fuel-efficient strategies.  


Minimizing empty miles can help fleets become more fuel efficient and cut down on lost revenue. Without utilizing strategies to increase load optimization, such as digital freight matching technology, empty miles can have a major impact on overall profitability.  


Insurance costs are a nonnegotiable part of operating a carrier, but there are ways small fleets can limit spending on pricey premiums and vehicle policies. By prioritizing driver safety with extensive training and using GPS and telematics to monitor driver performance, carriers can decrease accident rates and lower insurance premiums.  


Strategies for Small Fleets to Overcome Challenges 

Implementing the right strategies is critical for successful fleet management, especially in today’s competitive market.  


The importance of fleet management software cannot be understated, including route optimization, maintenance scheduling, and using data-driven insights and analytics. Although the up-front cost for installation and training can be daunting, the revenue gained through streamlined operations and fuel-efficient runs will quickly make these technologies more than worth it.  


Focusing on driver retention and recruiting qualified drivers can impact many of the challenges faced by small carriers.  


Consider offering incentive programs to reward safe driving practices and performance excellence, which can increase driver morale and workplace satisfaction. Driver engagement surveys or one-one-one meetings are another great way to demonstrate your commitment to being a driver-centric employer.  


Small fleet owners face unique challenges when it comes to attracting and retaining drivers, such as connecting with qualified drivers and competing with the marketing and brand recognition of large carriers. Small carriers must focus on differentiating themselves from competition while utilizing the right resources to reach drivers where they’re at.  


Recruitment platforms, such as Drive My Way’s own small business driver recruitment plan, can connect small fleets to qualified drivers that are actively seeking new opportunities. This cuts down on the need for other expensive advertising campaigns and guarantees exposure to experienced and available drivers.  




Looking for more industry advice and strategies to successfully operate a small fleet in today’s competitive market? Be sure to check out the rest of our Employer Blog posts and learn more about our commitment to CDL drivers on our social media