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Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize

April 1, 2017, by - Also by this author

Ridesharing, mobility, and autonomous vehicles have been grabbing the spotlight lately. At least whatever spotlight Elon Musk leaves after describing his latest plans for dominating the universe. It’s a lot to keep track of for the average fleet manager who is still trying to figure out how to log in to the new FMC portal or how to manage all the telematics data they are faced with on a daily basis.

We’re in the age of continuous beta testing and constant uncertainty. One day, President Obama is speeding up the review and finalization of the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements, and before you finished doing an analysis on how you are going to run your service fleet with CAFE-friendly two cylinder micro-cars, President Trump is announcing that he’s going to review the standards all over again. And you can go back to designing that eight cylinder diesel Eurovan that your drivers all insist they need.

We can only hope that we’ll wind up somewhere in the middle. But you’ve got to make a choice for your fleet: Do you want to be on the leading edge or the bleeding edge? There is a difference and the successful fleet manager today needs to stay informed but also stay grounded. If you went all in a few years ago on ethanol because you thought switchgrass was the future, you would have been sadly disappointed. If you were willing to bet the ranch on CNG or propane, the jury is still out on that, but you are probably in a position where you have to defend your decision every day. If you bought into downsizing and lightweighting, you are probably getting grief regularly from your drivers but also getting pats on the back from management for cutting costs and protecting the bottom line.

If you are in an urban environment, mobility is a real issue and one that you will be faced with soon. The “War on Cars” is already happening in Europe and it’s just a matter of time before it sweeps across the U.S. You are going to have to take a real hard look at each vehicle in your fleet and decide what level of investment you are willing to make to keep that driver in a car. Using public transit, ridesharing, or pooling are going to be viable options that every fleet and every manager should consider. Don’t fall into the trap of defending your fleet in every instance. There will be times, especially in those heavily urban areas, where market forces, economics, and driver sanity all will point you to non-fleet alternatives. And those non-fleet alternatives will hopefully become more efficient, more economical, and more fleet friendly over time.

Managing a fleet is still an art and a science. If you have a fleet of service vehicles in Peoria, Ill., or Petoskey, Mich., chances are that your alt-fuel and mobility options are going to be severely limited for the foreseeable future. But those same fleets in Manhattan or Miami may be faced with a completely different set of circumstances. Then there are those lucky fleets that have vehicles all across the U.S. in all kinds of markets. Those are the fleets that really need to keep their eyes on the prize. For the foreseeable future, there isn’t likely to be any sort of fleet technology that is “just right” in the Goldilocks and the Three Bears sense of it. You’ll need to stay current with new developments but stay grounded in reality so you can keep your fleet efficient while making sure you are prepared for the future.

If you disagree, let me know

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Sherb Brown

Vice President and Group Publisher

Sherb Brown is the vice president and group publisher for BBM's AutoGroup. Sherb has covered the auto industry for more than 12 years in various positions with Bobit Business Media.

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