For businesses, agencies, and organizations which rely on vehicles for moving people or cargo, making service calls, or delivering and picking up cargo, fleet management is a key element for effective and cost-efficient operations. Fleet management services, which can be handled in-house or contracted to a fleet and asset management company, can include a number of different functions, including vehicle maintenance, vehicle financing and acquisition, optimizing fuel efficiency, managing driver behavior, and heading up safety efforts and legal compliance.
Although some aspects of fleet management are likely to stay the same over the long run, although probably benefitting from updated tools, the rapid advancement and adoption of mobile computing and transportation technology is likely to bring a number of changes to fleet management over the next few years. Here are a handful of upcoming fleet management trends and their potential entry points for transit and transportation professionals.
- Automation and driver-assist technologies:
With the advent of more driver-assist technologies on the market, such as automatic braking systems, lane departure warning systems, and video backup and monitoring systems, fleets can begin to take better advantage of some of the benefits of intelligent controls and AI-driven technology. And thanks to the increasingly connected nature of components and sensors, a suite of vehicle sensors, data-logging platforms, and diagnostic assistance systems are available to give fleet management personnel up-to-the-minute insights into each vehicle's performance, which can allow them to catch maintenance issues before they turn into repair issues. When considering new vehicle acquisitions, inquire about the availability of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and wireless and remote monitoring options. For current fleet vehicles, explore the options available from the provider or manufacturer for retrofitting vehicles, or consider implementing off-the-shelf solutions until vehicles are replaced with new models.
- More data, better analysis:
Everything from payments to budgets to route and driver performance can be made into a data point and tracked over time and against industry benchmarks, and thanks to the proliferation of relatively cheap computing power and an increasingly large suite of telematics and data analysis programs, fleet management professionals can rely on hard data and effective analysis to make better decisions, thereby improving both operations performance and fiscal viability. Organizations and companies looking to improve their own data capture systems and analysis capabilities can either task an in-house group to assess the current state of data collection and analysis, or may choose to outsource it to a firm that focuses specifically on setting up better systems for collecting and parsing all of the relevant inputs.
- Autonomous and electric vehicles:
By far the biggest changes likely to come to the entire transportation sector are autonomous vehicles (self-driving vehicles) and electric vehicles, both of which are predicted to make a big impact across a variety of industries. For fleets, putting autonomous vehicles, which are expected to be able to radically reduce accidents, into service to handle most if not all of the standard routes and functions, could reduce costs in both labor and repairs. Although these types of vehicles may initially need human operators as backups, the continued advancement of AI and autonomous systems are expected to enable safe and effective self-driving fleets. Electric buses, trucks, and vans are also making a splash in fleets, as their lower operating and maintenance costs are making them more of an economically viable investment for fleets every day. Although autonomous fleet vehicles for a wider range of applications other than passenger delivery may not be ready for primetime just yet, companies can already look into purchasing or leasing electric vehicles for new fleet acquisitions, and make cost of ownership comparisons over the lifetime of the vehicles in order to see how that choice might impact the bottom line.
2018 is already shaping up to be another big year for technology advancements in the transit and transportation sector, and while not all of these trends are likely to impact the work of all fleet managers and mobility companies, learning about and understanding what's coming down the pike in the next few years is one key to effectively meeting the challenges and opportunities of fleet management in the near future.