Heavy thinking: Latest global truck fleet management trends in focus

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Philippe Stolbowsky, partner, Fleetcompetence Group, on the latest developments in the global truck fleet management sector.

Philippe Stolbowsky, partner, Fleetcompetence Group

While the internationalisation of fleet programmes is now a relatively common procedure for those running passenger cars and vans, the situation is slightly different when it comes to trucks. Here, fleet programmes typically tend to operate on a local, standalone basis, as opposed to one that involves global procurement organisations.

However, some of the trends that are happening in the heavy-duty sector could facilitate and speed up the movement towards regional and global approaches.

Firstly, fleet operating expenses are increasing. The regulatory environment is getting tougher and tougher and most of the taxes associated to the trucking business are rising in most of the locations. The same can be said when it comes to acquisition and fuel costs and the price of oil-based products such as tyres.

All of this pressure on costs and, ultimately profits, is having a profound impact on businesses. As a result of this pressure, operational fleet costs are being put firmly under the spotlight as a target to be controlled. Rightsizing, volume consolation, vehicle standardisation and fuel efficiency are all items high on the agenda when it comes to combating these cost increases.

Most of the truck manufacturers offer some regional and global solutions, which adds some tangible benefits to the fleet programmes. The same applies for finance, fuel, insurance and tyre providers in mature markets. The consolidation of upfitting vendors is also possible, even if it is a bit more complicated when it involves different global markets. It’s important to bear in mind that the value creation of a fleet can be further maximised through an international approach, consolidation of the supplier base and appropriate supplier development programmes.

The second point that is leaning the truck industry to a more global approach is the fact that technology is everywhere. Telematics solutions have been used for decades by the industry for delivery scheduling, route optimisation and communication to the drivers. However, as the industry enters a new era, there is the accelerated release of new and innovative technologies disrupting the trucking industry.

This scenario, combined with big data, artificial intelligence and enhanced analytics capabilities, is unlocking additional benefits for fleet managers. They are starting to see possibilities in many areas such as safety, driver behaviour monitoring, fuel efficiency, predictive maintenance and reduced downtime across the fleet.

Those new sophisticated solutions can easily be deployed and managed centrally, allowing benchmarking           and best practices sharing across different locations.

And then we come to the growing interest – and deployment – in alternative powertrains. Even though there are still some questions to be answered in relation to range, payload, infrastructure, standardisation of charging equipment and overall return on investment, there is a clear interest towards a move away from diesel and the chance to take advantage of green fleet initiatives. Those initiatives go most of the time hand-in-hand with corporate social responsibility programmes and can be facilitated by central consolidation and steering.

A word of warning regarding all of the topics above – transforming a currently fragmented truck fleet programme into an international one will be a long journey. It will require the change process to be carefully managed right from the beginning but also keeping an eye on the wider fleet landscape because it is a fast-moving landscape. Fleet managers should be flexible and stay open for new approaches: tomorrow’s solutions most probably do not yet exist today. There should also be a collaborative approach across different geographies, with no-one left behind on the roadside. There is a high level of complexity and sophistication in truck fleet management and most of the local logistics, transportation and fleet managers have a deep business knowledge; make sure they embrace the transformation and be part of the change.

Finally, it’s important not to forget the basics. Before embarking on a fleet revolution, make sure there is a clear project outline and ensure that the appropriate governance body is in regular contact with key stakeholders. There should also be a clear mandate from the top: ‘Communicate, communicate, communicate.’

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