Controlling costs and supporting public safety are both perennial concerns for fleet managers. Recent trends for meeting those concerns include managing fuel spending, tracking and improving driver behavior, and changes in how companies buy and sell vehicles.
Right-sizing fleets by eliminating redundant vehicles and switching to smaller, more efficient machines is an important place to start. Modern vehicles offer a lot of options for reducing fuel use, from engine governors (which are becoming popular even for light-duty trucks) to reduce wasteful speeding to alternate fuel capability. Increasingly, companies want to cut traditional fuels use both as a way to reduce costs and to reduce their carbon footprints—an important part of good corporate citizenship.
Another option gaining popularity is to keep vehicles in service longer; buying trucks or cars less often seems like a good way to save money. The problem is that the longer a vehicle stays in service, the higher its maintenance costs are and the more likely a catastrophic failure becomes. Older vehicles also have a lower resale value. The trick is to keep the car or truck as long as is practical, but no longer. Some companies now approach a compromise by fully refurbishing old equipment, rather than replacing it.
Those companies that do sell used vehicles are likely to get good prices over the next few years, since buying used trucks is a strong trend in the construction industry. Generally, when construction does well, so does the resale market for trucks.
Maintenance costs are also trending up, unfortunately. New regulations intended to increase fuel efficiency and decrease emissions mean more components to service and replace, among other problems. Replacement tires have also becoming more expensive, in part because many companies are opting for larger tires. Fortunately, savings in fuel costs and company policies aimed at simplifying and streamlining maintenance mean that most fleets at least break even.
The rise of telematics technologies has also made it possible for fleet managers to track both load locations and driver behavior in real time. That makes it much easier to enact new safety and fuel efficiency policies, since they can identify which drivers need more training to achieve compliance. Simple steps, like minimizing speeding and idling and choosing more efficient routs, can dramatically decrease fuel use. Speeding, of course, is also a safety concern. Incorrect turning and stopping can also be addressed through telematics, resulting in much safer roads for everybody.
Everyone knows that “trendy” and “good” are not always the same thing, but the increasing attention to driver safety and environmental issues is good news for everybody. And over the years, the industry continues to develop better ways to keep costs down and get the job done.