The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Vehicle Transportation: What's the Right Choice?

While there is no single best way to transport a fleet vehicle, there are criteria that fleet managers can use to determine the best method for an individual move.

August 2012, by Chris Wolski - Also by this author

Carrier services are less expensive than driveaway services, but can take longer to deliver a vehicle.
Carrier services are less expensive than driveaway services, but can take longer to deliver a vehicle.

Transporting a fleet vehicle can present a fleet manager with a dilemma if the vehicle is out of state: how to most efficiently move the vehicle to the fleet and get it into productive service.

Fortunately there’s a solution, a vehicle transportation service.

Carrier Versus Driveaway

Broadly, there are two options available for fleet vehicle transportation:

  • A carrier service involves transporting the vehicle with several others — usually between three and five — using a specialized trailer.
  • A driveaway service provides a professional driver to drive the vehicle to its destination.

According to Steve Gibson, SVP of sales & marketing for AmeriFleet Transportation, there are three factors to evaluate when deciding between using a driveaway or carrier service: (1) when the vehicle is needed, (2) how long it will take to get to its destination, and (3) the costs involved.

“A carrier is a little less expensive if you have the time,” noted Don Kreft, principal and chief marketing officer for Transport Solutions of America (TSOA). He added that it can take up to 24 additional days after a sale to receive a vehicle via a carrier, since the transporting trucks must be full before they’re dispatched.

Rochelle Hall, project manager for Posey Transport Group, said that carrier move times, noting tha they typically take three to 10 days.

Carrier services are a good option if several vehicles are going to the same location. Driveaway services are more immediate — albeit a bit more expensive — but offer a number of advantages over the less expensive carrier service, according to Lori Rasmussen, president of PARS.

“Carrier services will pick the vehicle up and deliver it as is,” said Rasmussen. “It may have service engine lights on, physical damage, windshield chips, expired plates, etc. A driveaway service will alert you of these items and fix them prior to delivery. This is critical for some companies. Shorter moves usually make more sense for a driveaway service. Most carriers will not move vehicles distances under 350 miles without a significant premium.”

Hall noted that a carrier service can be faster, easier, and cheaper than a driveaway service for a longer move.

She added that the repair services offered by driveaway companies are part of their fees. “And, we go through an inspection process with damage noted at pick up and delivery,” Hall said.

For Rodney Ruth, president/CEO of Auto Driveaway, the answer is less of one method over the other; it’s more of an issue of getting a vehicle to its destination. For instance, the company has experience moving alternative-fuel vehicles, such as natural gas and electric trucks and sedans. The lack of infrastructure often means moving the vehicles using a combination of methods. “A driver may drive the vehicle part of the way, then, when he gets to an area without the fueling infrastructure, switches it to a carrier for that stretch of the move,” he said.

Other options for moving fleet vehicles are flatbedding. But, according to Kreft, it is “prohibitively expensive.”

Another issue that may make a carrier service more attractive is that, unlike driveaway services, it doesn’t accumulate miles on an odometer.

For Gibson of AmeriFleet, who came from a fleet management background with ServiceMaster, mileage is a moot point. “From my research, mileage is not an issue. I came to the realization when I was in fleet management that extra mileage didn’t make a difference in the resale value of the vehicle,” he said. “You’re not focusing on the big picture if you’re just worried about mileage.”

Kreft of TSOA echoed the point, but with a caveat. “If the vehicle already has 25,000 miles, then it’s no big deal to add 700 miles to it. However, if it’s a brand-new car, then unnecessary mileage is a consideration,” he said.

Ruth of Auto Driveaway noted that the answer “depends on where that vehicle is in its lease cycle.”

He added that a short move of 300 to 400 miles wouldn’t impact the vehicle condition, but a cross-country move of 2,000 miles could add unnecessary wear-and-tear on the vehicle beyond mileage. “It’s no different than an employee putting those miles on the vehicle. Using a carrier can help alleviate that,” he said. The type of lease should also be a consideration, for instance a closed-end lease may have mileage restrictions, necessitating the use of a carrier service to transport the vehicle.

One point all the experts tended to agree on: no matter the other variables, time trumps mileage and cost.

“We want to get the vehicles in the hands of the clients so they can be productive,” Gibson commented.

To simplify moving a vehicle, fleets can turn to a broker — most often to secure a carrier service. The advantage of working with a broker is making sure a quality firm is moving the fleet asset. “A broker checks motor carrier (MC) numbers, carrier safety ratings, insurance updates and amounts, workers’ compensation documents, and has relationships with trusted carriers all over the nation,” said Hall of Posey Transport Group.

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