Needless to say, the pandemic has completely reshaped the way all industries operate. In the last few years supply chain issues, changes in labor patterns and new technology have played an integral role for the paradigm shift. Other factors responsible for these drastic changes include fluctuating fuel prices, unpredictable insurance processes, and increased repair costs – many fleet management organizations are still trying to keep up. While normalcy has been restored to some industries and various aspects of daily life, the turmoil of the past three years continues to shape fleet management industry trends. The main responsibilities of fleet managers have generally been logistics and compliance, but many other obstacles have popped up since 2020 when the pandemic first reared its ugly head.
What trends can we see in 2023 in regards to fleet management?
Let us face it – the past three years have been hell! Fluctuations in workforce, supply chain shortfalls, and large technological shifts have each influenced latest fleet management industry trends. So what lies ahead? Take a look:
Supply chain problems
Issues with the supply chain continue to plague the fleet management industry. For instance, starting from microchips and steel to foam and rubber, countless essential materials are backed up in the auto industry. Due to this problem, purchasing new vehicles will be slower and costlier than most fleets have the time or resources for. Without proper planning, these costs increase, which will undoubtedly be catastrophic for fleet budgets. Fleet managers can stay ahead of these disturbing trends via careful preventive maintenance. Sensors powered by IoT (Internet of Things) constantly monitor vehicle diagnostics and send instant alerts if a component isn’t functioning as it should. Thus, inspections can be scheduled right away. The longer a fleet can keep a vehicle up and running smoothly, the better. Avoiding costly repairs and expensive replacements is crucial now more than ever.
Costs are ballooning
Due to lockdowns and restrictions, fleet-based businesses have suffered enormous losses. The problem is several companies will continue to experience financial issues till the economy stabilizes. You have to tighten your cost control measures to minimize expenses in order to remain afloat. Expenditures are going up due to the following reasons:
- Supply chain issues as mentioned above.
- Fuel prices are always on the rise.
- Higher repair costs.
- Labor shortages and turnover harming productivity.
Each of these factors wreaks havoc on profit margins. Fleets are scrambling to find ways to save money in order to boost their bottom line without sacrificing quality or safety. You might not be able to reduce the fixed costs, but try to keep variable costs at a minimum. For example, you can control fuel costs, via route optimization software from Anstel. It helps boost efficiency by identifying the best route and the nearest vehicle to dispatch. Overall, optimizing operations and sticking to the budget will help curb the expenses.
Safety has always been important in the fleet management industry. Post-pandemic trends have included the adoption of new technologies to keep drivers and the public safer. For instance, telematics features such as vehicle tracking and maintenance alerts give fleet managers heightened visibility into the safety practices of all drivers. Fleets are also using in-cabin sensing solutions to alert drivers such as reckless driving, speeding, driving despite being tired and lack of seatbelt usage. Loads of data is being generated, which lets fleets train drivers and respond to emergencies in a much better way.
Implementation of electric vehicles
Sustainable solutions were among the top trends in fleet management in 2022, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that numerous fleets are adopting electric vehicles in 2023. These vehicles have gained immense popularity in the last few years, with Tesla making way for major manufacturers to explore this technology. According to The Guardian, electric vehicles made up 4% of the global car market in 2020, which jumped up to 14% in 2022 and is projected to hit 18% this year. Making a smooth transition to electric cars will help fleets avoid the instability of changing fuel prices while also benefiting the environment. In the next few years, fleet managers can expect to see even more options for electric fleet vehicles and sustainable technology.
How to master post-pandemic fleet management?
Robust software solutions
For many years, technology has been used to streamline fleet operations, but the pandemic has accelerated its usage, which has resulted in significant innovations in a short time frame. We are at a point where fleet management software has basically become ubiquitous, so it can facilitate remote operations, vehicle tracking, and generating data for fleet managers to work with. Thus, fleet managers and drivers are no longer bound by location like they often were in the past. Now there are robust location-independent software solutions that allow fleets to carry out daily tasks like they always would, but without having to be in direct contact, resulting in a much higher level of fleet safety (from a Covid-19 standpoint).
Remote fleet management
As is evident from the term, this solution is specifically designed to grant fleet managers access to information in real-time, regardless of the location. Even drivers can benefit from this software – they can use it to verify location, maintain detailed logs of their journey, and record pre-trip and post-trip vehicle inspections. On the other hand, fleet managers can use the technology to:
- Dispatch drivers and map out cost-effective routes.
- Track vehicle and equipment maintenance.
- Complete administrative paperwork electronically.
- Keep an eye on driver behavior to ensure they aren’t indulging in harmful driving patterns.
- Generate reports on fleet performance.
Thanks to Anstel’s fleet management software, these tasks can be completed from anywhere, without needing direct interaction, which is crucial when it comes to post-pandemic fleet management.
Geofencing technology lets you create virtual boundaries around certain areas, which you monitor from a digital map. Thus, you can keep tabs on activities within that perimeter. For example, you can see when vehicles or equipment arrive and depart from the area and tell how fast the drivers are going. You are alerted to all entrances and exits, while being able to monitor how much time drivers spend at locations. If drivers are using company vehicles for personal errands, or taking detours, you will know immediately. Geofencing creates a high level of transparency without requiring fleet managers to physically be present at a location — something that is extremely helpful for fleet management in a post-Covid world.
Understand consumer demands
The pandemic has certainly impacted everyone across the board, be it businesses or consumers. As you strategize for the future, remember that customers are coming up with ways of adjusting and adapting to the new business realities. For instance, online shopping has shot up big time since people were confined to their homes during the pandemic. They expect same-day deliveries, and shipments to be dropped off within the designated time frame – no one has patience for delays. Logistics and transport companies have to fine-tune their last mile strategy, in order to accommodate customer demands. They have to provide an ETA (estimated time of arrival) to the customer, send regular updates, and deliver on time. Even if there is a delay, a proper explanation, along with updated ETA has to be provided to the customer.
Ensure safety for drivers
Employee health and wellbeing have always been top priorities for fleet managers. But it demands even more attention these days as everyone is striving to maintain a safe working environment, without disruption to operations. Even though the threat of Covid-19 has subsided, it is advisable for both managers and drivers to follow a few guidelines.
- Follow social distancing protocols and face masks if needed (cases could be rising in certain regions or a new Covid-19 variant might emerge).
- Repeatedly wash hands and apply hand sanitizers.
- Routinely washing down surfaces like steering wheels, door handles, and tools.
- Clean off levers, buttons, and touchpads.
- Try to have fleet drivers travel to destinations in separate vehicles.
- Instruct drivers experiencing Covid-related symptoms to stay at home – anyone coming to work with a contagious disease are threatening the safety of others, along with their own.
- Adjust work hours, if possible, to minimize face-to-face interactions.
- Stay updated on federal and local regulations regarding Covid.
- Provide drivers with hygienic items like facemasks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes.
Right-size your fleet
Right-sizing is often used interchangeably with downsizing, but they aren’t really same. The former is a strategy that fleet managers have used to respond to the pandemic, by adjusting the number of drivers and vehicles in their fleet, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. For example, during the early days of Covid-19, some fleet managers scaled back, downsizing their staff and vehicles. This was a necessity to avoid as much close contact as possible, thus preventing the spread of the virus. However, as things continue to normalize, they are re-hiring drivers and staff members, or bringing on additional vehicles.
But here too, fleet managers could be at a point where they don’t require as many drivers as they did previously, so the number of vehicles required is also much less. Right-sizing your fleet is another vital part of thriving in the trucking industry post-pandemic. Take the following aspects into account:
- The number of fleet drivers needed.
- The number of vehicles required in a fleet.
- Vehicles that are no longer of any use, and could be removed.
- Vehicles that are the most cost-effective to use.
- After downsizing, the business has to evaluate if they have sufficient manpower and vehicles to keep up if demand goes up in future.
Step up vehicle maintenance and inventory management
As you forge into the post-Covid-19 future, you are much likely to fare better, if you focus on minimizing setbacks and keeping the business operations at their optimal level. One way of achieving this is by stepping-up the vehicle maintenance procedures. In addition to regular inspections, ensure that you are conducting preventive maintenance. As mentioned above, fitting the fleet with a monitoring device, like IoT sensors, can also be helpful as you endeavor to stay on top of your fleet maintenance. Driver behavior, like reckless driving, is directly related to increased maintenance needs. Using relevant tracking devices can provide insight into the drivers’ behavior and inform appropriate managerial action. If you notice drivers not following traffic rules and safety procedures, then provide proper coaching to rectify this behavior.
Many fleet operators are concerned about the potential supply chain bottlenecks in the coming days. Most parts and equipment are sent worldwide, and stakeholders keep a careful eye on any supply-chain difficulties that could result in downtime. You may avoid stockouts during important times and make the best judgments about usage and reordering by keeping track of inventory levels before essential items are sold out for weeks or months.
So what is the way forward?
It is all about remote management these days, which is why we need location-independent software. Anstel’s fleet management software has several useful features that can help you run your business seamlessly. Here goes:
- GPS tracking to monitor the location of your fleet at all times.
- Detailed reports on vehicle health, maintenance schedules, driver location, etc. have to be maintained, so make sure you install the right fleet telematics software.
- Fuel usage monitoring and reduction of idle time to control costs more effectively.
- Route optimization to efficiently route and re-route drivers to locations, saving time and fuel. This software can even guide drivers during traffic jams, congestion, bad weather conditions, and so on.
- Real-time alerts and in-cabin sensing solutions to reduce risky driving behavior, such as speeding, aggressive driving, distracted driving on a cell phone, or not wearing seat belt.
Rather than having to rely on physical interactions like in the past, most aspects of fleet operations can be conducted digitally so you don’t skip a beat regardless of what happens moving forward in a post-Covid world. For fleet owners and managers, the pandemic has created logistical, compliance, and health challenges no one could have ever anticipated. But with the combination of smart and innovative technology, these hurdles can be easily overcome. Fleet management software from Anstel, with the help of data and telematics, will enable you to take key understanding and changes in your fleet operations. To prepare for any tough times ahead, be sure to keep costs under control, streamline fleet operations, prepare for shifting customer requirements, and leverage technology.