A recent survey of fleet professionals done by GreenRoad revealed that reducing the overall costs of fuel, maintenance and vehicle replacement were among their top concerns. Managers were also extremely concerned with driver retention and ensuring those drivers are productive and safe on the road.
With the economy projected to grow at a modest rate through 2013 and into next year, it’s unsurprising that cost management is on so many managers’ minds. But there are a lot of trends besides cost-reduction that companies should be looking to get ahead of if they want to reduce costs down the road. Let’s examine what are likely to be the big issues over the next months and into 2014 as well.
Safety and Compliance Changes
Electronic log mandates are part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Safety Administration's (FMCSA) agenda this year, with a final rule likely to be announced this fall. It’s been one of the highway bill’s most controversial provisions. Bill Quade, Associate Administrator for the FMCSA, said of the rule, “One day, we may consider doing publicly available driver-scoring systems. There are many complications that would go along with a driver scoring system.”
The agency has a much denser schedule of rule-making this year, and new authority allows them to not only order a particular company to cease operations, they’ll be able to tow and impound vehicles if they determine there’s a particular safety hazard. Many of these regulations are aimed at the worst of the worst safety violators, but compliance requirements may affect other fleets as well.
A Further Shift away from Paper Logs
We’ve already talked about likely mandates for on-board electronic recorders for many vehicles, with driving hours enforced to meet DOT regulations. But along with that shift comes an entire raft of data collection and enhanced reporting abilities.
Look for a lot of firms to start implementing changes that require even closer integration of fleet vehicles and drivers with their home offices, with drivers getting real-time communication and feedback from managers. A lot of fleets are taking monitoring beyond drive-time to more accurately analyze driver behavior, trigger critical event alerts and optimize routes for fuel-efficiency and timeliness.
All of this data being collected is happening through fleet management dashboards that give managers a birds-eye view of their operations over time, giving them real leverage to impact fuel costs, recognize corrective maintenance patterns and intervene when driver behavior patterns reveal unsafe conditions.
Driver Satisfaction and Retention
Driver retention is starting to be a growing issue, and driver shortages are projected into the hundreds of thousands over the next decade. That means firms will be taking a closer look at the pain points of their drivers, investing in technology and processes that make sure their employees are happy and safe.
Managers aren’t just putting tablets and smartphones into their drivers’ hands for reporting and communications purposes; they’re making that technology available to help drivers stay connected with family and friends back home and reduce the isolation of drivers from the rest of the company as a whole.
All of that big data is being aimed at driver retention as well. New remediation techniques and predictive analysis are helping savvy managers understand environmental factors that affect drivers’ stress levels and overall safety. Driver-centric approaches to team organization and management are the new normal.
We’ll likely see many large fleets instituting many of these changes to address problems of compliance, driver-retention and cost-efficiency. Managers need to get a start on these things now so that when demand comes roaring back next year, they’ll be ready to scale their new processes as they grow.
Author bio: Derek Smith writes about fleet maintenance, asset management and operations management for ManagerPlus. When he isn’t scouring government reports for new regulations facing companies, you’ll find him in the canyons, hiking, fishing or getting lost.