Photo via Automotive Fleet

Photo via Automotive Fleet

In the next 10 to 15 years, fleet maintenance will be increasingly influenced by vehicle complexity, the growing suite of vehicle connectivity tools, and a sophisticated array of safety options that, in many cases, are the stepping stones to ultimately introducing autonomous vehicles. Interviewed subject-matter experts foresee fleet maintenance increasingly being governed by predictive analytics, which will transform maintenance practices to be more proactive instead of reactive.

Here are the top trends identified by industry subject-matter experts that will impact fleet maintenance in the next 10 to 15 years:

1. More Sophisticated Vehicle Connectivity

“As vehicles get ‘smarter,’ maintenance and repair diagnostics will be sent directly from the vehicle and, based on the diagnostic results, the vehicle’s interface screen will route the driver to the appropriate shop,” said Tony Blezien, vice president, operations at LeasePlan USA.

2. More Dealer-Based Repairs

“In five to 10 years, we’ll be seeing more dealer-based repairs of fleet vehicles. Many non-dealer shops will only provide preventive maintenance services, due to more sophisticated technology. We anticipate the service process to become more complex and specialized, resulting in more reliance on dealerships,” said Joy Schnetzka, manager, strategic alliances at Element Fleet Management.

3. Vehicle Complexity to Increase Downtime

“Manufacturers have improved the quality of vehicles in many ways, but we have definitely seen an increase in downtime related to complex, lengthy repair diagnosis on some vehicles. As manufacturers race to implement new technology that improves safety and fuel economy, isolated delays due to complex failure diagnosis will increase,” said Jeff Whiteside, director, maintenance assistance program (MAP) and collision at Wheels Inc.

At A Glance
Changes in vehicle maintenance trends in the future will be mainly impacted by: 

  • Sophisticated vehicle connectivity.
  • Increased vehicle complexity, which will result in increased vehicle downtime.
  • Longer PM intervals due to use of synthetic oils.
  • Improved vehicle maintenance analytics.
  • Continued parts shortages.
  • Ongoing technician shortages and resulting higher labor rates.

4. Maintenance Data Management

“Similar to many other areas, when it comes to maintenance, managing technology, information, and data will be our biggest challenge in the future. Each and every day our customers ask for more, expect more, and deserve more. We continue to see incredible growth in the amount of vehicle data and information, and the challenge going forward will be how we manage all the information and turn it into useful analytics that result in best-in-class recommendations,” said Charlie Guthro, vice president of North American fleet management at ARI.

5. Predictive Maintenance & Analysis

“Our ability to sort mechanical condition data in real time affords us opportunities to provide predictive analysis like we have never seen before. Our ability to manage large amounts of data creates the opportunity to predict component failure, provide real-time transactional repair cost intervention, provide best-in-class maintenance policies and procedures, and identify and provide economic equipment specifications and procurement,” said Guthro of ARI.

6. Expansion of Preventive Maintenance Reminders

“There will be an increase in onboard reminders for preventive maintenance beyond traditional oil changes and tire pressure. Sensors in filters and fluids and other maintenance items will trigger dashboard reminders to alert the driver of due or overdue maintenance. This growing technology should help reduce related component failures and roadside breakdowns,” said Eric Strom, maintenance & safety product manager at GE Capital Fleet Services.

7. Use of Big Data to Support Predictive Analysis

“At ARI, we are working with increasingly complex fleets that need to manage Big Data to support predictive analysis, downtime management, driver safety, productivity, and total cost of ownership. New technology means better communication, including equipment that ‘talks back to us,’ providing mechanical self diagnosis, increased driver behavior data, and driver support systems, among other things,” said Guthro of ARI. “In a nutshell, the ability to access and manage the Big Data that fleets now return will allow fleets to ‘build right, buy right, and maintain right’ — better than ever before — leading to the best alternatives with regard to total cost of ownership.”

8. Changing Preventive Maintenance Parameters

“We are already seeing advancements in maintenance where we now schedule preventive maintenance based on fuel burn and appropriate utilization supported by telematics, rather than just time and miles. This trend will continue,” said Guthro of ARI.

A Tire Revolution
There are two trends that will influence the types of tires fleet vehicles will use in the coming decade:
1. Run-Flat Tires will Become More Prevalent in Fleet
"We expect there will be more original equipment run-flat tires as the OEMs continue to seek vehicle weight reductions by eliminating spare tires. There will be greater consumer and fleet acceptance of run-flat tires as manufacturing improvements will enable less road noise, a less rigid ride, and longer tread wear life. An extra bonus is that the trunk will have more capacity," said Eric Strom, maintenance & safety product manager at GE Capital Fleet Services.
Others also see a proliferation in the use of run-flat tires by fleet operations. 
"Recent technology advancements to maintain vehicle mobility when a tire is punctured. They are self-sealing tires, self-supporting tires, and tires supported by a auxiliary system. I think it is entirely possible one or all of these technologies becomes a standard offering on new cars in the future," said Jeff Whiteside, director, maintenance assistance program (MAP) and collision at Wheels Inc.
2. Tires will Become 'Smarter' 
“Goodyear has recently developed new technology for truck tires that monitors tire pressure and will automatically inflate the tires to maintain ideal performance. One of the single biggest causes for premature tire wear is under inflation. This technology has the ability to significantly extend tire life and reduce replacement cost for fleets. We’ll see this predominately in the trucking industry, due to the cost of tires, but may see this in some automobiles also,” said Whiteside. 

9. Longer PM Intervals

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen maintenance intervals lengthen, largely through the use of synthetic oils. The extended intervals make it critically important for drivers to monitor oil levels as all engines consume some amount of oil, and, over time, an engine failure can occur from low oil levels. Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in these failures and I expect this trend to continue until oil level sensors warning drivers of low oil levels are standard equipment,” said Whiteside of Wheels.

10. Greater Tool Standardization

“The continuing move by OEMs to develop global vehicle platforms will help reduce the need for unique tools required by automotive technicians. A single tool will be able to function across multiple vehicle models. This will help control repair providers’ tool costs and simplify the tool selection process,” said Strom of GE Capital Fleet Services.

11. Improved Communication with Drivers

“More automation and interactions with vendors will provide improved communications for drivers (such as text messaging repair status updates and apps to schedule service appointments, and communicate local pricing promotions) as well as improved data for FMCs to monitor and rate a shop’s performance,” said Whiteside.

12. Lightweighting of Parts

“We will see more parts being made from carbon fiber and composite plastics. This will reduce the weight, which improves fuel economy, but will also be more expensive to replace,” said Whiteside of Wheels.

13. Diesel Engines Become Mainstream

“The growth of automobile diesel engines will help the OEMs achieve the government fuel economy goals. Customers will be more accepting of diesel engines and past complaints of smelly exhaust and noisy engines will be reduced with improved emissions and quieter engines. The automobile diesel engine evolution in the U.S. will require some repair facilities to recruit diesel engine technicians while the auto/truck industry is facing a shortage of trained technicians,” said Strom.

14. Ongoing Parts Shortages

“We will continue to see isolated cases of part shortages due to manufacturer redesigns and manufacturing plant issues,” said Whiteside.

15. Ongoing Technician Shortage

“Enrollments in auto and truck trade schools have also been slowly declining. I believe this trend will continue, which could cause a slight shortage of technicians in future years,” said Whiteside.

16. Higher Labor Rates

“The complexity of new technology will cause higher demand for highly skilled technicians. The impact of this will be labor rates increasing at a rate higher than normal inflation as well as some increased repair downtime,” said Whiteside. singly, the most fundamental. “Lock your doors,” she said.

About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Former Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Global Fleet of Hal in 2022. He also won the Industry Icon Award, presented jointly by the IARA and NAAA industry associations.

View Bio