As we looked ahead to the new year, readers had a lot to say about many of the primary issues facing fleets and fleet management in 2021. - Getty Images

As we looked ahead to the new year, readers had a lot to say about many of the primary issues facing fleets and fleet management in 2021.

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Every Fleet Needs an Analyst

The article entitled “Optimize Fleet Operations Through Automation” that appeared in the 2021 Connected Fleet Guide was a great article. Every fleet need an analyst these days. Analysts can easily build dashboards to synthesize the data and provide exception reporting, trends, and KPIs. Microsoft 365 Pro has deployed a bevy of automation tools such as power automate and power apps that fleets can leverage to automate myriad tasks. Overall, automation relieves staff of heavy burdens thus allowing the organization to do more with less without the usual stressors. 

Dave Bagnall

Business Analyst, Washington State, Department of Enterprise Services

Olympia, Wash.

 

Proactive Fleet Maintenance 

Supply chain issues are causing delays in the production of vehicles, and used vehicles are difficult to find or may not meet application requirements causing fleets to keep vehicles in service longer than expected. It’s critical to maintain the vehicles you have; as vehicles reach higher milage intervals, however, additional maintenance and repairs are inevitable. 

The best course of action is to be proactive and avoid preventable problems. Monitor vehicle maintenance compliance, follow up with drivers whose maintenance is overdue, and use telematics to make sure drivers pay attention to CELs (check engine light) or other issues.  Also, don’t overlook pool vehicles—pool vehicles often have the lowest maintenance compliance rates within a fleet.  Small problems turn into large problems when maintenance is not kept up to date causing even longer downtime and potentially more expensive repairs.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep vehicles well maintained, on the road, and out of the shop. Regular oil changes, fluid checks, and inspections will minimize major repairs. Tire pressure checks and rotations will reduce the need to replace tires. When a repair is required, we assist our clients by referring drivers to shops with availability, assisting with locating parts, and ensuring repairs are completed in the shortest amount of time possible.

Brian Simek

Director – Maintenance, Repair, & Workforce Management, Wheels Inc.

Des Plaines, Ill.

 

Strategic Fleet Maintenance 

It goes without saying that the pandemic has significantly altered the way many organizations conduct business and that impact certainly extends to maintenance programs as well. As companies work to navigate changes in business demand, shifts in their operating dynamic, and evolving health and safety protocols, we’re seeing the importance of remaining agile to adapt on the fly. 

In some scenarios, you have vehicles that are now utilized more as business demand spikes or companies stagger shifts to adhere to social distancing measures and minimize employee contact. In other scenarios, you have units that are being driven far less or even sit idle for extended periods of time as business levels decrease. Both ends of this spectrum present unique challenges since most maintenance strategies are built on a foundation of miles driven and/or time intervals, both of which have likely been significantly altered for many fleets.

Each scenario influences maintenance management strategies and there are several factors that need to be considered to both control costs and keep vehicles in top operating condition. You’ll want to reassess your maintenance strategy to account for potential long-term shifts in your business as a result of the pandemic. For example, perhaps your company reduced the number of vehicles in your fleet to account for changes in business volume or maybe you now need to keep units in service longer than anticipated due to new-vehicle supply costs constraints; these types of changes to your operating parameters are going to influence your maintenance strategy.

If you anticipate your vehicles are going to remain in service longer due to limited new vehicle availability, you need to adjust your maintenance strategy (and your budget forecast) to account for this additional utilization during the most costly portion of a unit’s lifecycle. Also be sure to reconsider what maintenance services may now be required as vehicles remain in service longer. For example, if you typically cycle vehicles out at 60,000 miles, your current PM schedule may not include a transmission service but you should add this important preventative maintenance to your schedule if your vehicle now needs to remain on the road longer.

And be sure to keep in mind, you may not necessarily feel the impact of these decisions this year or even next; the results may not become apparent until well into the future. That being said, this is one area in particular where it will be extremely beneficial to partner with a fleet management provider. 

The best thing you can do is remain agile, adjust your PM strategy accordingly, and most importantly, adhere to the recommended PM schedules. Successfully minimizing PM variability (consistently adhering to PM schedules) is among the most effective ways to improve reliability, maximize productivity, and control operating costs. Regularly completing minor PMs—oil changes, brake services, etc.—dramatically reduces the occurrence of costly, more significant component failures. When a fleet has high PM variability, it typically results in significantly higher maintenance costs and increased downtime.

Additionally, as new vehicles become available, you’ll want to be sure to be extremely strategic about which units you replace and when. While age and mileage are certainly important metrics, be sure to consider all the variables as you determine your replacement strategy. Know your vehicles, understand their application and criticality to your business, and let your data guide your decisions. With the limited number of units currently available, it is more important than ever to make fact-based, data-driven decisions rather than simply relying on feeling or intuition.

Chris Foster

Manager, Fleet Management Services, ARI

Mt. Laurel, N.J.

 

Automotive Tech Shortage 

Merchants Fleet is partnering with local technical schools to increase interest and awareness of repair and fleet support career opportunities. Technical school enrollment tends to increase during periods of high unemployment, so it will be interesting to see if that trend results in future technician availability. 

George Albright

Director of Fleet Products, Merchants Fleet

Hookset, N.H. 

 

Staged Accidents

While they are unlikely to prevent the initial fraud attempt, “Dash Cams” certainly flip the table on the true offender when the recorded evidence is presented. 

Rick Smith

Operations Director, LeasePlan USA

Alpharetta, Ga. 

 

Great Update and Insights

The State of the Industry Stoplight video on fleet electrification trends in the United Kingdom was a great update and insight from Ralph Morton. I watch all the regular State of the Fleet Industry video updates from Automotive Fleet Editor Mike Antich. 

Philip Nothard

Insight and Strategy Director, Cox Automotive International 

Rishworth, England, United Kingdom

 

Emission Thefts a Huge Issue

I just watched your State of the Fleet Industry video dealing with the uptick in catalytic converter thefts and want share with you what I just read regarding insurance claims filed on the theft of catalytic converters. According to State Farm claims data, in the 12-month period from the second half of 2020 through the first half of 2021 (from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021), catalytic converter theft grew close to 293% nationwide, in terms of number of claims filed, compared to the 12 months prior (comprising the last half of 2019 and the first half of 2020), reaching more than 18,000 instances, compared to the slightly above 4,500 in the earlier period. In terms of payouts, the total paid to customers during the most recent 12-month period is more than $33.7 million. In the previous 12-month period it was slightly below $9 million. The trend accelerated in the last six months of 2020, State Farm paid out slightly more than $12 million in claims for catalytic converter theft, but in the first six months of 2021, that number has grown to more than $21 million in paid claims. This is becoming a huge issue. Thanks for your fleet video as always.

Richard Sauter

Vice President, Operations, Allstate Leasing

Towson, Md. 

 

Catalytic Converter Thefts

I watched the July 27, 2021 State of the Fleet Industry video about the uptick in catalytic converter thefts. Thanks for putting the word out. I can second that there is definitely an uptick in stolen catalytic converters!

Mary Beth Greenstone

Director of Remarketing, LeasePlan USA, CAR Certified

Alpharetta, Ga.

 

Unnecessary Expense

One of the not-for-profits where I serve on the board of directors had two transportation vans' catalytic converters and airbags taken the first month of shutdown in March 2020. What an unnecessary expense for this great organization in Trenton, New Jersey.

Joe LaRosa 

Global Fleet Consultant

Glen Burnie, Md. 

 

Uptick in Thefts

I watched the State of the Fleet Industry weekly report that covered the uptick in catalytic converter thefts and want to thank you for sharing this information.

Michael Ahart

Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Omnitracs, LLC

Dallas, Texas

 

More Skullduggery

The Market Trends editorial about the uptick in Staged Accidents was a great article. Another precaution to add to the list of skullduggery that fleet managers have to deal with on a daily basis.

Joe Stergios

Vice President, Motorq

Chicago, Ill. 

 

Personal Use Consequences 

The article on “Negative Consequences of Personal Use” was an interesting one. It is another very important reason to add telematics to your fleet management program. Telematics will track and account for employee personal use and monitoring when vehicles are used for moonlighting jobs and reduce administrative time accounting for costs related to personal use.

Leesa Patterson

Business Development Manager/Customer Relationship Specialist, Gascard Partners LP

Midland, Texas

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