Calendar-years 2014 and 2015 will be pivotal years for truck fleet management due to the discontinuation of long-time commercial vehicles and the all-new replacement models and upfit packages entering the market. This is prompting vehicle and equipment specification revisions from the perspective of fleet efficiencies and driver satisfaction. “Whenever one vehicle is no longer produced and another vehicle is replacing it, we have to look at new vehicles and see how best we can utilize them for our needs, redesign upfitting, and work with the supply chain to assure an acceptable OTD timeline,” said Phil Schreiber, fleet manager, North America for Otis Service Center in Bloomfield, Conn.
Trends in Vehicle & Equipment Specifications
- Lightweighting: Specifying lighter-weight equipment that can fulfill the fleet application to help increase fuel economy.
- Ergonomic Considerations: Fleet managers are focusing on ergonomic specifications to enhance driver safety and comfort, which ultimately increases employee productivity.
- Safety Equipment: “Manufacturers are offering safety features on base-trim levels previously only offered on higher-trim levels. Examples include back-up cameras and reverse sensing systems. When not available, these options are being requested by fleets as part of the upfitting,” said Charles Mathew, senior order specialist for Donlen.
- Regulatory Compliance: DOT and CSA compliance impacts most fleets. Fleets are concerned not only about compliance, but ensuring they are maintaining a safety level at a managed cost level. Many fleets are reassessing fleet specs and downsizing to smaller GVW vehicles. “When possible, fleets are avoiding population growth of vehicles exceeding 10,001-pounds GVWR,” said Ken Gillies, manager of truck ordering and engineering for GE Capital Fleet Services.
Trends in Cost-Control Initiatives
- Extended Cycling: This has been an ongoing trend for several years. “Extended lifecycles and increased replacement parameters are creating longer intervals between order cycles,” said Steve Swedberg, truck engineer and ordering for Emkay.
- Consolidation of Upfit Suppliers: “More companies are looking for consolidation of upfit suppliers and spec options for better pricing, interchangeability of parts, and a push toward standardization across their fleet,” said Tom Keilty, senior VP, customer and vehicle services and COO for PHH Arval.
- Fuel Management: “Truck fleets are employing a variety of strategies to cut fuel cost such as lightweight upfitting, reduced rolling resistance tires, synthetic oils, aerodynamics add-ons, reducing idle time, and limiting top speed,” said Wayne Reynolds, operations manager, trucks & van upfitting for LeasePlan USA. In addition, the OEMs are enhancing each new generation of vehicles with powertrain options that offer higher fuel-economy ratings with lower emissions then prior model-years.
- Sustainability Initiatives: Fleets continue to focus on sustainability strategies to limit emissions and reduce fuel consumption, even though fuel costs remained fairly stable in 2013. These sustainability strategies range from reducing vehicle weight and idle time to the use of alternative fuels such as CNG and propane autogas. “The OEMs are offering factory-installed and warranted systems and expanding the vehicle configurations that can be ordered with a CNG engine or a gaseous prep engine that can be converted,” said Mathew. In addition, many fleets are now viewing sustainability and fuel economy as one and the same. “More fleets are interested in their CO2 output, while managing their mpg as well,” said Connie Swenson, account manager for Wheels.
Trends to Enhance Fleet Efficiencies & Safety
- Increased Use of Bailment Pools: “There has been an increased utilization of bailment pools to minimize order-to-delivery times,” said Mathew. “There is a trend for increased utilization of ship-thru upfitting to provide turnkey-ready vehicles at the time of vehicle delivery.”
- Managing Downtime: Driver and vehicle downtime have a major impact on fleet costs. “Fleets are identifying the causes of downtime by tracking vehicles until they return to service and implementing strategies to reduce downtime,” said Gillies.
- Driver & Vehicle Safety: Fleets are focusing on addressing the issue of distracted driving by updating fleet policies banning cell-phone use, aggressively enforcing current safety policies, and driver training. “With the CSA program in full swing, fleets have increased the enforcement of pre- and post-trip inspections to minimize the chance for roadside violations by having safer vehicles on the road. These practices result in reduced costs to the fleet’s bottom line,” said Reynolds.
- Telematics: “The use of telematics is gaining acceptance as a tool to identify cost savings opportunities and to control costs by increasing vehicle efficiencies,” said Mathew. Telematics is also being used by fleets to identify “problem” drivers and reinforce positive driving behavior.
Let me know if there are any additional trends or challenges impacting your truck fleet.