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Vehicle Utilization: What It Means and Why It Matters

Vehicle utilization is a metric that measures the effectiveness of a fleet of vehicles in terms of their usage and productivity. It is often expressed as a percentage and reflects how much time vehicles are being utilized versus how much time they are idle or underutilized. Vehicle utilization is an essential factor in determining the efficiency of a fleet and it can have a significant impact on the overall cost and profitability of your business. Higher utilization rates generally indicate that a fleet of vehicles is being used efficiently and effectively, while lower utilization rates may indicate a need for improvement in fleet management factors.

The Cost of Underutilized Fleets

Let's take a look at a couple of different examples of underutilized fleets.

  • In a fleet of 10 vehicles, only 5 are being used regularly over the span of a month. This would equate to a utilization rate of 50% for that period of time.
  • A company has a target goal of 1,000 miles driven per month and the fleet of vehicles only travels 600 miles. This would mean that their fleet utilization rate is 60% for that month.

The cumulative effects of underutilized fleets can be substantial and cause a number of issues for your company.

  • Increased costs: When a fleet is underutilized, it is not being used to its full potential. This can result in unnecessary maintenance and repair costs for idle vehicles.
  • Decreased efficiency: When not operating at maximum efficiency, a company's productivity and competitiveness can be negatively impacted.
  • Wasted resources: An underutilized fleet leads to wasted resources -including vehicles, fuel, and staff- which can negatively effect your company's budget.
  • Reduced customer satisfaction: Underutilized fleets can result in reduced quality of service and longer wait times for customers.
  • Missed opportunities: Underutilized fleets can lead to missed business opportunities, as your company may not have the capacity to meet customer demand or take on new projects.

Demand Vs. Capacity

There are many variables to think about when considering and calculating fleet utilization rates for your fleet. Capacity and demand are two key factors in examining if your fleet is being utilized to its full potential.

The capacity of a fleet refers to the maximum amount of work that a fleet of vehicles can perform in a given period of time. Fleet capacity is determined by several factors: the size of the fleet, the availability of vehicles, and their utilization rate. A fleet with a high utilization rate has a higher capacity, because the vehicles are being used more frequently and for longer periods of time. A fleet with a low utilization rate has a lower capacity, as their vehicles are frequently idle. 

The demand of a fleet refers to the amount of work that is needed to be performed by a fleet of vehicles. Fleet demand is also influenced by a variety of factors, including seasonal fluctuations, economic shifts, and population changes. If the demand for a fleet's services exceeds its capacity, customers may experience frustrations such as increased wait times and lower quality of service. On the other hand, if a fleet's demand is lower than its capacity, it can result in the underutilization of vehicles and the costs associated with idle vehicles.

Capacity and Demand Considerations

There are several factors to consider when evaluating the capacity and demand of your fleet.


  • Are you accurately counting the number of available vehicles as they enter and leave your fleet?
  • If a vehicle is out for service/maintenance, is your fleet's capacity altered?
  • If a vehicle is awaiting a routine inspection before its next use, do you count it toward your fleet's capacity even though it may not actually be available for use?
  • If you temporarily increase your fleet size with additional rental vehicles, does your fleet's capacity increase?


  • If a fleet vehicle is unavailable and an outside rental or personal vehicle is used instead, does this affect your calculation of fleet demand?
  • If you take a vehicle out of a fleet for service/maintenance, do you count that as “use” of the vehicle?
  • If a key is dropped in a manual key drop box and remains there until the next morning, does this affect your fleet's metrics by implying that the vehicle is still in use?

It is clear that factors such as capacity and demand are essential to consider when examining your fleet utilization initiatives. Monitoring and analyzing vehicle utilization data will make it easier to identify areas of improvement.

Benefits of Better Vehicle Utilization

When we take a look at the cause and effect of better vehicle utilization practices, there are many identifiable benefits.

Better vehicle utilization practices can translate into a number of improved operations including optimized route planning, improved maintenance practices, reduction of vehicle downtime, and better communication between fleet managers and drivers. And the effects of making these changes can be impactful, yielding results such as lower maintenance costs, increased productivity, and reduced fuel consumption. By maximizing the use of each vehicle in your fleet, you can also reduce the need for additional vehicles, resulting in lower expenditures and costs.

Improved vehicle utilization can also have environmental benefits, as it can result in reduced emissions and a smaller carbon footprint. Additionally, better vehicle utilization can help improve customer satisfaction by reducing delivery times and increasing reliability. Overall, the causes and effects of better vehicle utilization in a fleet are interconnected. Focusing on improved vehicle utilization can result in a range of benefits for both the fleet and its customers.

The Bottom Line

Effective vehicle utilization is critical for fleet managers to optimize their operations and improve business success. By ensuring vehicles are utilized to their full potential, fleet managers can minimize costs, increase productivity, and improve customer satisfaction. Additionally, with the increasing global focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility, maximizing vehicle utilization can help reduce the carbon footprint of your fleet operations. By effectively prioritizing vehicle utilization and adopting best practices, you can create a more productive, profitable, and sustainable business.  

For more in-depth information about understanding your fleet’s vehicle utilization, download our e-book.

Interested in improving your fleet's utilization? Contact our team of experts now.