Commercial vehicle fleets are a popular tool for doing business, from transportation and trucking to school busing to local package delivery. While some companies outsource entire fleets or their management, many others manage their fleets internally. Maintaining vehicle oversight is critical to optimizing vehicle “up” time and minimizing costs.
Before uncovering current trends and challenges, it is worth defining vehicle fleet management in more detail.
What is Vehicle Fleet Management?
Simply put, vehicle fleet management oversees the vehicles that perform functions for a company. It is a growing market that Global Market Insights projects to reach $45 billion by 2027. Recording performance data such as those listed below create an opportunity for analysis and fleet operations optimization:
- Fuel usage economy and fuel consumption
- Asset utilization (or percentage of time in operation)
- Fleet maintenance history
- Route mapping
- Vehicle health and prognostics
- Driver behavior
- Incident management
- Route planning and optimization
Many fleet management systems use software like Connecteam, FMS, Air, Go Fleet, or Websleet. Each system has advantages; most can use the web, iOS, and Android platforms. In addition, these software packages are constantly adding functions to enhance the fleet management experience.
With Industry 4.0 charging ahead, technology enhancement is also evolving vehicle fleet management. Here are 6 trends and 3 challenges of automotive fleet management in 2022.
Trends in Commercial Vehicle Fleet Management
1) Increased vehicle purchases
The COVID-19 pandemic caused automotive OEMs to trim production. This trend is exacerbated by the continued chip shortage hindering complete vehicle build rates. Still, companies play catch-up to close the production shortage gap as the world emerges and travels again. In addition, increased production volumes of new, technology-packed vehicles provide fleet managers the advantage of having a fleet with a high percentage of vehicles connected and capable of gathering and reacting to data.
2) Enhanced cabin technology
With the rush of vehicle enhancements, the in-cabin environment receives as much attention as performance or emissions. As a result, vehicle engineers are upgrading the vehicle air purification system to protect driver health, seat heating and cooling, and passenger massage. These benefits improve the driving experience during a climate where drivers are in high demand (more on this in ‘challenges’). In addition, maintaining a locally-optimized in-cabin temperature through the seat and massaging the driver during a trip can reduce tension and stress while improving circulation.
3) Increased EV adoption
A significant trend in fleet vehicle production this year is electrification. While not news in general, 2022 will usher a considerable percentage of battery electric passenger cars and commercial vehicles into fleets. This year may well be many drivers’ first experience driving an electric vehicle.
Another technology driving EV adoption is hydrogen fuel cells for commercial vehicles. Hydrogen is an alternative power source to batteries. It is an attractive option to power heavy trucks due to the advantages of its high mass-based energy density compared with the size, weight, and charge time of traditional EV batteries.
Getac’s parent company, the Mitac-Synnex Group, has recently signed an MOU with U.S. company Hyzon Motors. The partnership will help bring hydrogen fuel cell trucks to Taiwan to support decarbonization efforts. The first trucks are expected to be on the road in 2023.
4) Increased vehicular autonomy
2022 fleet vehicles will incorporate more autonomous features like an adaptive cruise, hands-free park assist, and driverless delivery. Adaptive cruise helps vehicles maintain safe spacing with the surrounding cars on the road. This can be done by collecting and analyzing data to set the spacing.
Park assist allows the driver to place the car where needed. This removes human error from the process and accelerates the learning curve for new drivers. Finally, the rise of driverless delivery creates an opportunity for fleet management to monitor progress and optimize routing. This helps shorten delivery times and optimize for last-mile deliveries.
5) Remote vehicle fleet management
5G networks can deliver vehicle data to IoT sensors closer to real-time with reduced lag and faster speeds. These networks improve communication quality with fleet management software, expedite optimized route change notifications, and enable more immediate predictive maintenance notifications.
This trend is beneficial for remote fleets that may utilize slower networks. Additionally, more 5G coverage increases the likelihood of a remote fleet car smoothly communicating with the fleet management entity.
6) Increased safety emphasis
A common concern with fleet vehicles is driver safety. Drivers can log up to 25,000 miles each year, double that of conventional drivers and the approximate circumference of the Earth. It is not surprising that the commercial fleet incident rate is around 20%. This is due to long distances and a higher likelihood of distracted driving at some point during long trips.
One corrective measure, dashcams, can assess driver behavior and alert them of a risk. In addition, vehicle fleet management systems can enforce safe driving mode on the driver’s cell phone, preventing it from functioning correctly.
For example, the Getac Driving Safety Utility provides reliable in-vehicle safety during dynamic operation. A third mechanism is a speed enforcer that can adapt to conditions. This type of tool can also aid in optimizing fuel economy.
The many positive trends of automotive fleet management that will help companies and drivers are not without challenges.
1) Unreliable supply chains
A remaining pandemic-driven challenge, supply disruption, can knock any fleet management strategy off-center. At least for now, just-in-time manufacturing may not be the best approach. Building in dual- (or more) supplier resiliency into the supply chain can mitigate disruption for fleet managers. In addition, technology-enhanced predictive maintenance can enable procurement teams to prioritize must-have components, saving lead time when ordering.
2) Labor shortages
Commercial trucking is still woefully understaffed with drivers, a challenge that does not seem to have an end. However, fleet management systems can implement a mitigation strategy to add autonomous delivery. While it is a potential non-starter for heavy trucks, offloading smaller company deliveries to autonomous cars can repurpose the skilled drivers’ time for trucks. It can also unlock time untrained drivers can learn to operate heavy-duty vehicles.
3) Fuel cost volatility
The wild swings and spikes in fuel cost can break the economics of a fleet delivery. With unrest in Eastern Europe and BEVs finally making a dent in the global automotive market, it is difficult to project where fuel costs will be at a given time.
To address the challenge, automotive fleet managers can identify the lowest fuel price in the desired radius to direct the driver if they need to refuel the vehicle. Another course correction is capping the vehicle speed at an optimal level, around 55 mph.
Trusted Technology for Vehicle Fleet Management
Rugged mobile devices are used throughout the fleet management value chain. This allows for high-performance computing capabilities in sometimes the harshest and remote locations.
Rugged PCs in the form of handhelds, tablets, and notebooks are an enabler to the digital transformation of the fleet-based workforce. Typical applications can be found around Electronic Data Logging (ELD), Workforce Management, Route Optimization, Access to Technical Information, Vehicle / Machine Health Check, Break Fix Diagnostics, and Collection / Delivery of Goods and Services.
When using mobile computing in vehicle fleet management, it is also essential to consider the vehicle docking that best fits the environment and transportation type.
Technology and the IoT are enhancing the way the world operates. Vehicle fleet management will be no exception. As more BEVs and autonomous vehicles are deployed into fleets, access to vehicle data becomes more critical to the fleet and workforce managers. Much of this data will come directly from the vehicle itself.
As digital transformation continues, there is still a multitude of tasks that the workforce will need to perform. Rugged devices will not only be the most cost-effective option throughout the life of ownership. They will also prevent avoidable disruptions and keep the workforce focused on the task.