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Table of Contents

Common Terms in Vehicle and Fleet Management


Advantages of third-party transport:

  • Flexibility - Organizations can use commercial providers to meet fluctuating demand requirements.
  • No Size Constraint – Organizations that may only transport infrequently, or only transport small quantities of goods or people and may not need self-managed vehicles on hand at all times.
  • Cost – Third-party transporters will have virtually no start-up costs, and the transporter may be able to offer a more cost-effective and a more efficient service.
  • Complexity – The administration of vehicles and drivers is no longer the responsibility of the organization, allowing the administration teams of the organization to focus on other areas.

Disadvantages of third-party transport:

  • Ethics Concerns – Third-party transporters don’t directly represent a contracting organization, and as such may engage in activities aid agencies might find unethical, such as transporting people or equipment for parties to a conflict or employing child labour. Driver standards are also not controlled by the shipper, and activities such as drug use, unsafe driving or sexual exploitation may occur.
  • Additional Risk – Though transporters may utilize additional insurance, there is always an increased risk using third-parties who may assume risks which the contracting organization would not tolerate.
  • Long-term costs Costs – Though start-up costs may be substantially less with third-party transporters, over a long enough period of time, third-party commercial transport may always be higher. Organizations who are in a long-term programme and ship high volumes of cargo might encounter cheaper costs through renting or owing their own self-managed vehicles.


Vehicle Selection and Acquisition


The basic considerations in choosing the most suitable passenger vehicle are related with its intended purpose, number of passengers requiring simultaneous use, and length and frequency of the journeys. Three main options are to be considered at this first stage: motorbike, light vehicle or van/minibus. If transporting cargo, the required cargo capacity should be anticipated. Vehicles with independent trunk or hybrid solutions such as pick-up vehicles can be considered. Visit the Road Transport chapter for more information on truck selection. The operating context, environmental and road conditions will affect the decision and determine technical requirements of the vehicle such as 4WD, air conditioning, or other extra features. Availability of spare parts in the local market and local knowledge and capacity to achieve all type of maintenance and repairs is also an important factor to consider. 

Other factors that can limit the selecting options can be available budget, donor’s requirements or organizational policies on standardization of vehicles. Donor regulations can restrict the type or origin of vehicles that they will fund.


Fleet standardization can be useful when similar functions are to be achieved by the given set of vehicles. Standardizing a fleet consists of reducing fleet vehicle diversity, contributing to significant cost savings and gaining efficiency in key processes such as:

  • Planning: costs, assignments, maintenance, etc.
  • Vehicle daily operation: regular checks, use of controls and displays, driving “feel”, etc.
  • Maintenance and repairs: diagnosis, tools, expertise, etc.
  • Inventory management: spare parts, fuel, fluids, etc.
  • Procurement and vendor relations: market research, contracts, invoices, etc.
  • Monitoring: comparing performance among vehicles and drivers, expenditures etc.

It is important to undertake standardization not only at vehicle make and model level, but also for vehicle major components and equipment. Purchasing one type of filter, for example, can help track consumption and negotiate for bulk purchases. Be aware that the process of standardization, if unproperly managed, can lead to suspicions of collusion: all decisions about standardizing the fleet must be done transparently and with high levels of accountability.




When it comes to vehicle selection and acquisition, the ownership modality becomes a relevant argument. Vehicles belonging to a self-managed fleet can be owned, rented or leased.


Cost – the start-up and investment capital required to obtain vehicles can be substantial, and aid agencies limited to grant funding may not be able to cover costs all at once. Operating in many contexts will also incur substantial insurance costs as well. TCO The total cost of ownership should be evaluated previous to any engagement, as running and indirect costs can have a significant budgetary impact.


Be aware that some countries do not allow particular models to be imported. This is due mainly due environmental or economic reasons: not allowing light diesel cars, demanding a special emission certificate. In some cases, countries put extremely high import and/or registration taxes to protect their manufacturing market. If looking forward to import a vehicle, it is of paramount importance to find out the official and practical procedures for import.

  • Customization – Procured vehicles can be easily modified to be adapted to specific operational context or perform particular tasks.
  • Administrative – For all new vehicles, the pertinent circulation permits must be obtained and the vehicle registered. In some countries, safety and environmental impact inspections could be required.
  • Whole life-cycle management – An owned vehicle must be duly managed until its property is effectively transferred to another party, including the update of property records by the local authorities. The organization can be held accountable for any liability related to the vehicle during the ownership period.
  • Single Point of Failure – Organizations that own or manage their own vehicles, run the risk of mechanical issues or an accident completely halting use of that vehicle at any time.




Rented vehicles have become available in almost every corner of everywhere in the world. Depending on the context, rental is offered by private companies or individuals, with or without driver. The reasons to choose the use of rented vehicles can be of different nature: ; financial, programmatic, technical or due to insecurity:


. Some key factors to consider when renting a vehicle might include:

  • The duration of the activities is unknown, and recovering the investment of a vehicle purchase may result uncertainbe difficult.
  • The cost of importing a vehicle is too high and there are no vehicles of suitable quality in the country of operation.
  • There is an urgent need for increasing the fleet and procuring one or several vehicles takes will take an unworkable time (during a rapid onset of operations or a short intervention).
  • There is a punctual sudden increase of demand for transport (assessment, new activity, visits, etc.), such as rapid assessment or new activities. 
  • There is insufficient work for a full-time vehicle.
  • The standard type of vehicle is not suitable for the work, the context or the environmental conditions.
  • Insecure environments where risk of damage or theft is so high that economically it is not worth the risk of purchasing a vehicle.


  • A proper inspection of the vehicle.
  • Validation and induction of the rental driver.
  • Drawing Developing a contract for the service provision.

Technical and administrative inspection of rented vehiclesAdministrative Inspection of Rented Vehicles

When renting a vehicle it is of key importance important to assess its general , mechanical and administrative condition. This is done with three purposes:

  • avoiding Avoiding delays to programmed activities due to vehicle breakdown.
  • safety Safety of the people involved in the movement.
  • avoiding Avoiding being blamed of damages already present in the vehicle.
  • ensure Ensure compliance with all national and local regulations.

Ideally all inspections should be performed by a qualified mechanic. It is recommended to use an inspection template that will allow automatic and homogeneous inspection of all vehicles, enabling a reasonable comparison and validation prior to contracting. It is suggested to keep the records separately for each vehicle inspected. The template could cover the following fields[1]:


It is required to cross-check the vehicle identification (chassis number and engine number) with the administrative documents and the owner identification. Any uncertainty on the ownership or mismatch between the vehicle and the presented documentation should immediately disqualify the vehicle from service.

Validation and induction Induction of rental driversRental Drivers

Equally important to the mechanical condition of the rental vehicle are the rental driver’s health condition, driving skills, administrative permits, driving and working behavior and required knowledge to operate, such as speaking local language and the geography that will be travelled. For further information on this matter, refer to the below section on Recruitment: selecting and testing drivers.

If rental is a long-term modus operandi, consider keeping a pool of “rental” drivers that can be engage upon request. In this situation, validating and instructing batches of several drivers in a single session will reduce the time spent in this important activity.

Rental agreementAgreement

In order to draw up a convenient rental agreement, the following should be considered[2]:


Drivers are an essential component to self-managed fleets, equally as important and the vehicles themselves. Even if an organization has a perfectly maintained fleet, if they are using poor quality drivers, or don’t invest in training drivers, then accidents, damages, cargo loss and possibly issues with fines or lawsuits may occur.

Required Skills and Competences

Organizations must ensure that employees involved have the necessary competence to drive safely. Competence is about ensuring appropriate knowledge, skills, attitudes, as well as behaviour.


Driving for work, can often entail lone driving, without reference to supervisors or other colleagues, over prolonged periods, and drivers could be required to travel and stay outside base overnight.

Recruitment, Testing and Selecting 

Agencies seeking to maintain their own vehicles and have a staff pool of drivers should ensure that the hiring is carried out conscientiously and skills and knowledge are clearly demonstrated. When recruiting drivers, agencies might consider: