It’s time to put another year in the books and look forward to 2016. The past year had some massive changes in our industry. Consolidation among the FMCs, some major OEM issues regarding safety and fuel economy, and oil prices plunging to levels that would have never been imaginable a few years ago.
As you make your fleet plans for 2016, there are a few things you can probably count on to remain constant: Fuel prices are not going to increase dramatically, we are in a serious oversupply situation, we have a lot of available capacity, and OPEC doesn’t seem willing or able to reduce production. So, prices should stay low. That used to be a great thing.
For some reason now, Wall Street has taken the position that low oil prices are a drag on the economy. I’m going to be the glass-half-full guy and suggest that all that money that used to go for fuel can now be reallocated to more useful places in our economy. I’m also going to suggest that, no matter what the price of oil is today, fleet managers need to think about prices three to five years down the road. You can enjoy those reduced fuel bills today, but consider the used-vehicle market in 2019 and 2020, when you are filling out those selectors. If prices spike down the road you may find yourself with a “white elephant” fleet that no one wants to take off your hands.
As you make your plans for dealing with your FMC this year, you might find yourself pondering the constant rumors about further consolidation. It’s certainly possible, but the more likely scenario is that the industry will remain stable this year and the FMCs will focus on fine-tuning their operations, driving more efficiency in the market, and spend less time worrying about sales or acquisitions.
As you make plans for dealing with your senior management this year, consider pushing with a little more gusto to implement that new safety program or that new telematics program that you have been considering.
This is not the time to be a shrinking violet. Vehicle technology is changing at a frightening pace, while fleet technology is changing at an even more blinding pace. These programs are no longer bleeding edge, they are now standard operating procedure at most well-run fleets. You don’t want to be the last one to catch on. We beat this drum constantly with AF and we will continue to do so. Top fleet managers are doing whatever they can to make their drivers safe and their fleets as efficient as possible.
As you make your travel plans this year, think about pushing for some extra budget to attend some fleet events. Whether it’s AFLA, the Fleet Safety Conference, the Fleet Technology Conference, or even NAFA, you owe it to yourself and to your company to get out there and interact with your peers so you can see first-hand what the best and the brightest in our industry are doing to stay ahead of the curve. Take the time to explain to your senior management that any time and money spent on furthering your fleet education will pay itself off tenfold. Jump up and down on your desk if you have to because this is the best opportunity you have to elevate yourself and your fleet to elite status.