The fleet management industry has always adapted and evolved to find solutions to the problems that challenge fleet professionals. However, as the industry continues to provide solutions for fleet professionals, it’s only natural that the issues facing the fleet industry would evolve as well.
For as much as they assist managers and professionals in overcoming fleet challenges, advancements in technology are responsible for one of the larger paradigm shifts that the fleet industry is facing, which is autonomous vehicles. Other issues facing the industry include ride-sharing through companies like Uber and Lyft, fleet professionals shifting to the pool car fleet model, increased regulations around carbon emissions, and a rising demand for the industry to put a larger emphasis on fleet vehicle safety.
Let’s explore the issues.
Autonomous vehicles are a hot topic of conversation, and are expected to have a significant impact on the fleet management industry. Though the technology is still in the initial phases of development, automakers such as Nissan and Mercedes-Benz are aiming to have fully-autonomous vehicles available for public use by 2020.
In the article "Will Commercial Fleets Embrace Autonomous Vehicles?", Tom Sloan, director of telematics and safety products at Donlen, predicted that, with the eventual full-scale production of autonomous vehicles, new automobile manufacturers will enter the market and existing manufacturers who fail to adapt to emerging technological advancements will be left behind. Autonomous vehicles will have a significant impact on traditional areas of fleet management, including fuel, maintenance, and accidents.
Many fleet professionals have started to wonder how the industry will adapt to the introduction of self-driving cars.
According to John Korte, VP of mobility business development at Donlen, “It’s going to be a long transition into the adoption of autonomous fleets, but vehicles will still need to be serviced on a regular basis, which will still require the tools of a fleet management company. There’s still time for companies like Donlen to manage what that growth looks like, but we certainly need to be ready with a redefined suite of products to be able to help companies as they look to include more autonomous vehicles in their fleets.”
Influence of the “Sharing Economy,” for example, ride-sharing
Ride-sharing is a growing trend within the consumer-driven market. It has become popular around urban areas and is expected to become more prevalent in the near future. However, the rising popularity of car-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft presents a new issue for fleet managers as their drivers may be using company cars to drive for ride-sharing companies in their spare time. This is a concern for fleet managers since their vehicles are company assets to be used for company business. The more time the driver is on the road, especially in urban areas, increases the amount of wear and tear on a vehicle as well as increases the driver’s chances of being involved in an accident.
“If you have a company-provided vehicle, it’s being provided for you to do your job. It’s not for you to drive for Uber or Lyft on the weekends. Most fleets aren’t going to let you drive your company car for a car-sharing company in your free time,” said Korte. “Professionals should address this within their fleet policy so that their drivers know that behavior is unacceptable.”
By setting rules and expectations within their fleet policy, fleet managers and professionals can manage their drivers and highlight the consequences of using their company-provided vehicle to drive for a ride-sharing company.
Increasing regulations around emissions
Increasing regulations around vehicle emissions have been and continue to be a growing concern for fleet professionals. As the restrictions on the acceptable limit of emissions grows tighter, fleet managers are left wondering how to decrease their fleet’s emissions without compromising productivity.
With constant updates and revisions to emissions regulations, fleet professionals are challenged to stay informed and follow the rules. Of course, most fleet management companies recognize that they have a social responsibility and are actively looking for ways to help fleets minimize their carbon emissions. “We consult with and help companies realize their corporate emission goals. To achieve your corporate emission goals, you need the right tools to help you make the right vehicle selection choices,” said Korte.
One such tool is Donlen’s Vehicle Optimization Model®, which allows fleet managers to compare carbon emissions calculations when making vehicle selection decisions. Additionally, fleet professionals can consult fleet management companies on which vehicles they should purchase and other changes that need to be made in order to meet corporate emissions goals.
Shift towards local networks/pool of shared vehicles
Many fleet owners have begun to move towards pooled vehicle fleets, with multiple drivers sharing one fleet vehicle. This allows for greater utilization of company cars as drivers would be given access to vehicles strictly for business purposes rather than for personal use. It is also being viewed as more cost-effective than the traditional fleet management model since it limits the number of company vehicles out in the field.
For many fleets, the shift towards pooled vehicles presents a new challenge in that fleet managers are not able to track individual driver behavior. Data taken from the vehicle only displays how the car was driven and not who was driving it. This has become a cause for concern among fleet professionals and fleet management companies alike as they strive to overcome this obstacle.
One way that Donlen has met this challenge for our customers is with our DriverPoint® Driver Identification for pool vehicles, which allows fleet managers to monitor risky driving behavior by driver instead of by vehicle. However, Korte, and other industry professionals, want to stress that a shift to the pool car fleet model isn’t as bad for business as some might think.
“We look at pooled fleets as an opportunity. The fleet just looks and behaves a little bit differently than having a traditional driver for every vehicle,” said Korte. “It’s a different way of managing it. Instead of communicating with the driver, we may be in communication with the branch manager who has 30 vehicles sitting in his warehouse. Whether it’s a pool or traditional fleet, our strength lies in providing custom-tailored fleet solutions and we strive to help them both succeed.”
Focus on safety
The fleet management industry is constantly searching for ways to increase vehicle safety in the field. According to a video interview with Tom Callahan, Donlen president, risky driver behavior accounts for 90% of all auto accidents. As a result, the demand for safety on the road has necessitated fleet managers to look for ways to more closely monitor driver behavior. Many fleets observe driving behavior to improve fleet safety through a telematics solution, such as Donlen’s DriverPoint® Telematics.
“What DriverPoint allows fleets to do is to really be corrective with high-risk drivers in particular,” said Korte. “With DriverPoint you can monitor risky behavior such as harsh acceleration and deceleration and speeding, and then once that behavior is identified you can assign safety training to those drivers in order to ensure your drivers are safe on the road.”
Predictive analytics are also expected to have a significant impact on the advancement of safety in the fleet management industry. According to the article “How Analytics Will Affect Fleet Safety,” predictive and preventative measures are being taken to more accurately determine which drivers have a higher probability of being involved in an accident. Analytics systems would help to identify this higher-risk behavior and fleet managers would then be able to take the necessary steps to improve the driver’s actions behind the wheel in order to prevent fleet vehicle accidents before they occur.
Most fleet professionals agree that finding solutions to these critical issues facing the industry is imperative to the success of their fleet. Answers to the questions raised by these problems are definitely within reach. Donlen’s DriverPoint Driver Identification, Telematics, and Vehicle Optimization Model are perfect examples of the work being done to meet these challenges head on. In the meantime, we will continue to develop solutions to suit the ever-evolving fleet industry.