In response to the economic downturn and fuel price volatility, fleet managers expect to implement new and advanced technologies, greatly expanding this market, according to a recent study.
The report provides a link between technology and saving money.

In Frost & Sullivan's "North American Fleet Managers Desirability and Willingness to Pay for Advanced Heavy-Duty Truck Technologies," 41 percent of respondents said they expect to purchase new technology within the next six months. Responses were driven by fleets' desire to reduce operating expenses and fuel costs, enhance mobile resource efficiency and productivity, and be more cost-effective.

"The current economic downturn has greatly exacerbated fleet managers' woes and has raised the urgency to integrate cost-effective technologies and solutions that offer their organizations the ability to realize fuel cost reduction, lower lifecycle costs of various adopted technologies, effective time and mission critical knowledge management, and safe, effective, and efficient operating procedures," the report said.

Frost & Sullivan compiled data for the study from 109 surveys, completed by heavy-duty fleet managers who are part of the vehicle purchase decision-making process, are expecting to buy more vehicles in the next two years and have at least Class 6, 7 and 8 vehicles in the fleet. The research was conducted from December 2008 through January 2009.

While most fleet managers will consider price, the study found that there are some technologies, such as remote diagnostics and prognostics, for which fleets will take into account returns on investment, payback potential and operating cost savings.

The study found that regulatory compliance technologies sold better than those unrelated to regulatory compliance, but managers opted for the least expensive regulatory compliance technologies when pricing questions came into play. For example, selective catalytic reduction technology was the most popular choice for the EPA 2010 regulation compliance not only for its regulation benefits but also for its fuel efficiency gains. But when price is considered, fleets would rather sacrifice auxiliary benefits and go with regulatory options that cost less.

In addition to SCR technology, other powertrain technologies expected to experience growth include automatic and automated transmissions, biodiesel and hybrid technologies. Twenty-nine percent of respondents had automatic or automated transmissions at the top of the list. Overall in the category, fuel efficiency was the highest ranking benefit, landing 59 percent who listed it as their first choice. "The recent fuel price volatility causing rapid increase in fuel costs for almost every type of fleet in North America, seems to be driving the shift towards these advanced powertrain technologies," the report said.

On the telematics side, 27 percent of fleets preferred GPS-enabled communication technology, most likely due to the growth of the satellite communication network across the continent, according to the report. The majority of fleets that participated were long-haul fleets. "GPS-based telematics hardware and services are best suited to track, monitor, and communicate with such trucks," the report said. Other growing technologies in telematics included remote diagnostics and prognostics, cellular-based services and mobile asset tracking applications.

When it comes to safety, fleets are most looking to add tire pressure monitoring systems and advanced braking systems, such as air disc brakes and larger drum brakes. Tire pressure monitoring is likely gaining traction because of its fuel-efficiency benefits. The interest in advanced braking systems is attributed to regulation compliance and stopping distance reduction. While safe driving practices was the number one reason for adopting these safety technologies, fleets felt that tangible return on investment and payback was also important, with 17 percent of participants ranking it highest.