Summer is a busy time in fleet. There’s an abundance of next-model-year OEM fleet meetings, new-model intros, and industry conferences, which offer ample opportunities to “talk fleet” with the movers and shakers of our industry. Here’s a snapshot of what I’m hearing from fleet managers.
Safety, Safety, Safety: This is what one fleet manager succinctly told me. Safety continues to be a top priority, but it is getting expensive to load up a company vehicle with the latest safety tech. How can you acquire all the latest safety tech while being fiscally responsible? A corollary concern is the difficulty in getting the latest safety tech in lower-trim level models or full-size vans. Significant strides have been made; however, more needs to be done.
Management Tight-Fisted About Spending for Safety: Everyone believes in safety, but this isn’t always apparent when you try to obtain management’s approval to add more safety equipment to a vehicle. Management may talk the talk, but they often don’t walk the walk. It’s an ongoing struggle to get senior management to absorb the extra expense of ordering new safety tech on company vehicles.
Concern That New Safety Technologies May Have a Counter-Intuitive Effect: Fleet managers wonder if employees will drive less carefully, assuming automated safety technology will protect them. Fleet managers say they notice drivers are becoming overly reliant on these technologies, especially in the use of back-up cameras.
Driving Is now a Multi-Task Function: Education doesn’t deter distracting driving. What works are policies such as Shell’s zero tolerance and Unilever’s MOMO (motor on, motor off) that fire employees who use a cell phone while driving a company vehicle. The data shows it works.
Driver Productivity vs. Cost Savings: The dilemma faced by fleet managers is how to reduce costs while keeping drivers happy, especially when there are complaints that cost-saving measures impact productivity and morale.
Educating Drivers and Management: Management and drivers may think they understand fleet management, but how can they say so when most don’t understand the fundamental principal of total cost of ownership?
Working with Procurement: This is a nightmare for some fleet managers, but many are adjusting and thriving.
Medical Exceptions Are Getting Out of Control: Fleet managers are wringing their hands over the ever-increasing number of exceptions being requested for a larger vehicle due to medical condition or physique. The dilemma is determining which requests are legitimate versus requests from less than honest drivers angling for a larger vehicle.
Lackadaisical Response to Recalls: Getting a recalled vehicle to a dealer is not a top priority for many drivers.
Modifying Driver Behavior: The way a company vehicle is driven can improve (or decrease) fuel economy; extend (or decrease) the life of wear items, such as tires, brakes, etc.; decrease (or increase) preventable accidents, and maintain (or degrade) the overall condition of a vehicle, which directly influences resale value.
Contract Compliance Issues with Upfitters: I am hearing increased complaints about upfitted vehicles having contract compliance issues, which is necessitating their return to the supplier for changes, extending OTD.
Mysterious Damage to Vehicles: There is an ongoing occurrence of drivers reporting unexplained damage to vehicles. Often damage is discovered by the auction.
It’s Always About the Money: Everything in fleet revolves around money. How can you squeeze every penny out of operating costs? Today, companies are facing headwinds with lower resale and the need to forewarn their internal customers of these additional depreciation costs.
Sustainability Struggles: Management supports sustainability (at least conceptually) but has unrealistic ROI expectations and are hesitant to commit to expensive up-front costs for alt-fuel vehicles. It doesn’t help when incentives are dwindling and gasoline/diesel fuel prices remain low. Getting management to buy into a break-even investment for the sake of reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions continues to be a difficult sell.
Pulse of the Fleet Industry
I love to get out “into the trenches” to learn more from fleet managers in different business segments about their assessments and forecasts of the fleet market. I’ll keep you posted on what I learn.
Let me know what you think.