Many people track their business mileage, whether for tax purposes, for a mileage reimbursement, or to keep a car allowance tax free. For companies that require employees to calculate mileage, an outdated mileage log can become prohibitively expensive.
How do businesses track employee mileage?
In a survey of 500 mobile employees from various organizations, mBurse discovered that most organizations are using outdated mileage logs to the detriment of their organizations. The vast majority of respondents—87%—reported that they estimated their mileage when they recorded it on their company’s log, whether a paper form, a spreadsheet, or some other electronic form.
This traditional practice of relying on employees to report business mileage creates three costly problems. We'll explore these problems and then offer a list of requirements for an up-to-date, cost-effective mileage tracking program.
1. Mileage tracking can create administrative fatigue
Paying close attention to business mileage and calculating it carefully to the mile feels tedious to many employees. They would rather save time by guesstimating and then use the extra time on more obviously valuable activities like meeting with clients or pursuing new leads. This problem is compounded by the requirement of some companies that employee drivers file both weekly and monthly reports that overlap in the information they contain.
No one enjoys tedious, redundant tasks. But some people are conscientious enough to go by the book. As a result, while some employees will take the shortcut of guessing on their mileage, others will spend hours each month carefully calculating and recording their mileage. They may report more accurate mileage, but is it worth the opportunity cost of less time spent on sales or client relations?
2. Mileage tracking leads to mileage buffering
Administrative fatigue leads to fuzzy math. It’s hard to blame an employee for quickly estimating mileage and then moving on. But do you think that employee will err on the side of caution? Overestimation of mileage is very common, and it adds up as more and more employees do it throughout the organization. Consider this also: mileage rates do not typically fluctuate with gas prices, so in times of high gas prices, employees will feel financial pressure, leading to further buffering of reported mileage.
Any mileage reporting process that depends on employees for accuracy prevents the company from controlling costs associated with business vehicle reimbursement. When choosing a mileage tracking program, it is vital to take this problem with traditional mileage logs into consideration.
3. Mileage logs lead to inaccurate business activity data
A smart organization will use business activity data to its advantage. For example, you might track the sales activity patterns of effective employees and use these to train new and underperforming employees. Or you might look for geographic areas where business activity is leading to higher sales conversions. But if your employees are not supplying accurate information about their mileage, how can you rely on the data?
To effectively gather data and use it well, you might provide CRM software to employees. But will this additional administrative process fix the problem? More likely, administratively averse employees will underutilize the CRM or avoid it as yet one more tedious task.
Solving the mileage log problem with a mileage tracking mobile app
Innovative alternatives to the traditional mileage log exist. The next generation of mileage log takes the form of applications that leverage GPS and map data to automatically track and report business mileage. Even better, a mileage log app can integrate with existing systems and software, including CRMs, to deliver accurate data while saving employees time they can devote to the business activities that form the core of their jobs.
Here's a list of the must-haves in an up-to-date mileage tracking app:
Mileage tracking reliability
Any GPS mileage tracker should be reliable and accurate. There’s nothing more frustrating than either showing up to the wrong address or calculating inaccurate mileage after trusting your GPS.
Ease of use
The mileage tracking app should be as easy to use as a screwdriver. The more time spent figuring it out, the less time spent doing business. A simple, intuitive design that allows for automation is a must.
A mileage log app should afford employees the use of their phones all day without severely draining their batteries. Optimally, that means using no more than 10% of the battery over a 5-hour period, with options to increase or decrease energy settings.
Mobile device compatibility
Your chosen mileage tracking app should be flexible enough to work on both the Android and iOS platforms. Whether a company phone or personal device, these are the most popular platforms.
Functionality beyond tracking mileage
Your mobile mileage app should offer helpful features such as scheduling, capturing business mileage, recording client information, and options for tracking mode (manual entry vs. fully automated tracking).
Mileage tracking privacy
This is the single largest feature that your mobile mileage tracker should have. The majority of GPS mileage apps on the market do not respect employees’ rights to privacy, recording 24/7/365, even after hours. Choose an app that places trust in employees to turn tracking on and off and report mileage every month.
Additional resources for choosing a mileage tracker for your business
Here are a couple of resources to give a better perspective on your mileage tracking:
1. Our comprehensive guide to mileage tracking covers everything your business needs to know about mileage tracking
2. Our white paper “Unlocking the Hidden Value of Mileage Logs” provides a more in-depth examination of the problems with traditional mileage logs and to find out exactly how to use innovative solutions to cut costs, supply accurate data, streamline mileage reporting, and boost employee productivity and morale.