Building a fleet that has the resilience to be future proof is one of the biggest challenges facing fleet managers today.
Being a successful fleet manager is not just about keeping up and reacting to changes, it requires forward-thinking.
We are entering a new epoch of road transport and the considerations for fleet managers have to encompass many technological, environmental, human and legal factors.
1) Future Technology
The two biggest areas of transition to consider are the shift from combustion engines and the increasing influence of Artificial Intelligence.
This is a period of massive technological upheaval. Energy sources which we have relied on since the industrial revolution are dwindling and the race to find cleaner and renewable alternatives is driving technological advancements.
Rise in Electrics
The government has promised to prohibit the sale of diesel vehicles after 2040 and further incentivise the purchase of electric vehicles. The government is also starting to invest heavily in the infrastructure that would support a network of electric charging points. Can your fleet afford the changeover? Is it a requirement of your customer base?
Stop Gap Alternatives
Many of the larger fuel producers are pouring resources into new fuel types such as Shell’s gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology. Shell GTL converts natural gas into products that would otherwise be made from crude oil. Hydrogen fuel cells may also play an important role as they are considered a good option for trucks and larger vans as they charge up batteries on the move.
The rise in Artificial Intelligence
Is having a semi-autonomous fleet the way forward? Research and development companies are exploring new ways of getting to your fleet vehicles to interact with drivers and each other. One of the ideas trialled called ‘Platooning’, allows vehicles to be linked together and travel in a uniformed convoy together. The lead vehicle sets the pace for the following vehicles who are digitally coupled to it and mimic its movements. The lead vehicle changes periodically allowing the drivers to take concentration breaks. Other ways AI will have a big influence on drivers is through the onboard management systems. These systems will monitor driver health and wellbeing as they drive. Through a series of cameras and sensors, in-car conditions will be readjusted for the comfort, convenience and safety of its drivers.
Telematics systems whereby a fleet manager can actively monitor where and how a fleet vehicle is being driven, are growing in popularity. Currently, one in every three fleets use them but there are rumours that they might become a legal requirement for fleet vehicles over a certain size in the near future.
Fitted as Standard
The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) are campaigning for the following technologies to be fitted as standard:
- Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) – ISA not only communicates to drivers the speed limit on any road but can provide a non-override speed limit on vehicles
- Alcohol interlocks – Drivers must take a breath test in order to drive the vehicle, which is linked to the ignition system
- Telematics – Enables fleet managers to monitor speeding, compliance issues such as vehicle checks, driving style and location. This can then help inform driver training/education needs, as well as collision investigations
- Second-generation Advanced Emergency Braking Systems (AEBS) Whereas AEBS to avoid front-to-rear collisions is now mandatory for commercial vehicles, the latest AEBS can now detect pedestrians and cyclists
- Lane keep assistance – This helps drivers stay in their lane or on the road. If they start to veer out of their lane then it will activate and help steer them back into the lane / onto the road
- Seat belt reminders – The latest models include both visual and auditory reminders for all occupants that have not put their seat belt on
- Ownership – There’s also a fundamental shift away from personally owned, driver-driven vehicles towards a world centred around driverless vehicles, and shared mobility, which could mean that fleet managers of the future will also have to handle the needs of employees travelling by alternative means of transport.
Alternative Journey Endings
As part of the government’s ‘Road to Zero’ strategy, initiatives to cut emissions include the use of drones and cargo bikes to undertake the last miles of a delivery.
2) Competitor Analysis
Know your competition
Keeping an eye on your competitors is vital for every business. You can do this either formally or informally.
Employ a specialist company to carry out a study.
Through incidental encounters such as trade shows or marketing events. These events provide senior fleet decision-makers with the perfect opportunity to network with industry colleagues, evaluate new fleet service providers and attend seminars. Industry knowledge is invaluable when planning for the future.
3) Contingency Planning
Building resilience and planning future fleet activity can often rely on creating hypothetical situations with a factual basis in current world events.
Plan for Economic Challenges
What political factors influence your business? Has government policy adversely affected someone in your supply chain? Is there some sort of geopolitical factor affecting your business? How would a restructure affect your fleet? How would you provide service continuity in adverse conditions?
What happens in the event of a major accident? Terrorist incident? Road closure? City centre closure? IT failure?
Have you got enough staff? Have you got any staff on-call? is there a continuous recruitment drive?
Have you got enough vehicles? Have you got enough of the right type of vehicle? Has your fleet got the capacity to cope with seasonal surges in demand? Has your fleet got the flexibility to cope with post seasonal retractions in demand? Is there a defect reporting system in place?
Servicing and Parts
Is a cost-effective plan in place? Does the aftersales package fulfil all your requirements? Are your vehicles serviced by a dealer or independent garage?
Do you have an onsite bunker? Does your company use fuel cards? Do you use fuel cards as a backup for long journeys?
How is risk managed within your business operation?
Is a culture of safety awareness prevalent in the company?
Does the driver have a valid driving licence? Does the licence allowing them to operate the correct vehicle?
Driver health checks
Is the medical screening process rigorous enough? Does a driver have any physical health issues which would affect their performance? Does a driver have any mental health issues which would affect their performance? Do they have a complicated medical history? Can they work at night? Are they on medication? Is there a policy for random drug and alcohol testing? Does your company have a tiredness awareness policy? Is there a channel of communication for reporting changes in health? How do take care of a driver if an issue develops?
Are your drivers aware of the latest regulations and traffic laws? Is there a training programme in place? Do your drivers have to meet a required minimum standard of knowledge? Is there a company handbook available to drivers? Are drivers aware of vehicle specifications?
Is there a policy guide made available for drivers? Are you drivers aware of your company’s values and how it relates to the way they drive?
4) Staying Ahead of Legislation
Company Car Tax
New legislation saw tax rates rise in April 2019, and changes to the Vehicle Excise Duty will be announced later in the year.
As part of the governments drive towards a greener economy, higher polluting vehicles will be taxed off the roads and their less polluting counterparts incentivised.
The Health and Safety Executive release annual updates to their guidelines and regularly promote new safety campaigns. Expect new laws governing Artificial Intelligence, driver mental health awareness, and environmental factors to become more prevalent in the next few years.
Starting with the ultra-low emissions zone in the City of London, further zones will be springing up throughout the UK. The ULEZ in London currently makes £220,000 a day so it’s only a matter of time before they become widespread.
In the last year, the government has issued the Road to Zero Strategy and the Future of Mobility Strategy. Both outlining their vision for the future of transport in the UK. There is also ongoing work on the Road Investment Strategy and Clean Air Strategy.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will build on existing data protection legislation with a particular focus on digitalisation and technology. Which means that fleets will need to be clear about how they use data and to keep their employees in the loop. While data-based decision-making can drive efficiencies, it must be balanced against people having a right to privacy.
If you want take th efirst steps in future proofing your fleet, Cambrian Fuel Card Services provides fuel cards and telematics to companies throughout the UK.
To find out more about Cambrian Fuel Card Services go to www.cambriancards.com or call one of our account managers on 0800 612 6132
For more information about fuel cards, go to www.cambriancards.com/fuel-cards/
To learn more about telematics, go to www.cambriancards.com/telematics/
Further information from the HSE click here – http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg382.pdf
Future of Mobility Urban Strategy – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/future-of-mobility-urban-strategy