Another year has come and gone. While the COVID-19 outbreak did a lot to shake up the commercial fleet management market, there are still numerous trends from earlier years that are continuing despite the disruption.
Many of these trends are being driven by the primary goals of commercial fleet managers and the companies they work for—such as improving driver safety, minimizing fleet management costs, increasing operational efficiency, and achieving compliance with state and federal regulations.
Not every company has a formal “commercial fleet manager” or “VP of fleet management” in their organizational chart. So, it’s important to establish what commercial fleet management is before getting into the specifics of what fleet managers are responsible for and the trends they need to watch out for in the coming year.
What Is Commercial Fleet Management?
Commercial fleet management consists of all of the practices and activities involved with overseeing, organizing, maintaining, and controlling an organization’s fleet of vehicles.
To put it in simple terms, if it involves a company-owned or operated vehicle (or the driver/operator of a vehicle), it can be considered part of a company’s commercial fleet management activities.
Commercial Fleet Manager Responsibilities
Commercial fleet managers (or those in an organization charged with fleet management tasks despite not having the “fleet manager” title) are often responsible for:
- Setting up vehicle maintenance plans.
- Tracking vehicle lifecycles for optimal replacement timing.
- Recruiting/onboarding new drivers in the fleet.
- Creating plans for optimizing fuel costs.
- Planning routes that drivers take with fleet vehicles.
- Overseeing driver performance and addressing any issues.
- Tracking vehicular assets and overall fleet performance.
- Ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations.
10 Commercial Fleet Management Trends for 2022
Now that we’ve covered what fleet management is and what fleet managers are responsible for, what are some of the major commercial fleet management trends to watch out for?
Many of the trends in this list have been ongoing for a few years now, but that doesn’t make them any less relevant as their impact on the fleet management industry continues to grow.
1. Continued Adoption of Electric Vehicles in Commercial Fleets
Consumers and the auto industry are both starting to embrace electric vehicles (EVs) in earnest. So, it’s only natural to assume that some commercial fleets will start using electric cars and trucks as the technology continues to improve.
However, this isn’t going to happen overnight—despite resolutions from certain politicians and organizations to go emission-free by a set date.
There are a few obstacles to this particular trend, such as:
- Long recharge cycles for electric vehicle batteries. Even with fast chargers, it can take upwards of 30 minutes for an EV to recharge (and 12 hours or longer with regular electric outlets).
- High costs to replace existing fleet vehicles. Electric vehicles have a high upfront cost compared to traditional gasoline vehicles.
- Limited driving ranges for electric vehicles. Right now, the longest-range electric vehicle is the 2022 Lucid Air Dream Edition R all-wheel drive with a range of 520 miles. At $169k, this is a prohibitively expensive vehicle that has a sedan form factor—which isn’t ideal for many commercial applications. Larger vehicles tend to have shorter ranges.
These obstacles are balanced against the positives of a purely electric drive, such as:
- Reduced Fuel Costs. As of February 11, 2022, the average price of gas across the USA was about $3.48 per gallon (Source: AAA). Meanwhile, the average price per kWh for electricity in the USA was about $0.15 (Source: BLS). To travel 540 miles, the average EV will consume about 180 kWh of energy—costing about $27 (180 x 0.15 = 27). Meanwhile, a vehicle that gets 25 miles to the gallon will consume 21.6 gallons of gas—which will cost about $75.17 (520/25 = 21.6, 21.6 x 3.48 = 75.168).
- Reduced Maintenance Costs. Another major cost factor for vehicle fleets is the cost of basic maintenance—such as oil changes. One advantage of a purely electric drive is that you don’t have to worry about oil changes (or any of the moving parts found in fossil-fuel-powered engines). This helps to streamline and minimize maintenance costs for the fleet over time. In fact, EVs cost about 31% less to service over the first three years than gas cars (Source: Business Insider).
2. Expanded Use of Autonomous Vehicles
Another technology that is growing alongside the use of electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles (AVs) have been in testing for several years. In fact, the first autonomous cross-country commercial freight trip was conducted from Tulare, California to Quakertown, Pennsylvania in 2019.
The autonomous trucking startup TuSimple completed its first fully autonomous (i.e. no humans) run on roads open to the public in 2021.
FedEx has also started to leverage the power of autonomous trucks—though they still have a “safety driver” in the vehicle to monitor the autonomous driving of the vehicle and intervene if needed.
Without the need for lengthy rest stops, autonomous trucking has the potential to help companies massively increase their productivity. The introduction of bills like the SELF Drive Act also encourages the growth of AVs in commercial fleets.
3. Increased Use of Remote Fleet Management Technology
Even before the COVID-19 global pandemic spurred the closure of offices across the globe, many companies had been investing in remote technology to let key employees “work from home” to reduce stress and increase productivity.
However, the outbreak of the coronavirus spurred that remote work trend even faster—leading to the increased adoption of remote fleet management solutions. With the right mobile fleet management solution, managers can track important fleet information from their phones and get important alerts right away—improving their speed of response to emergency situations.
4. Increased Reliance on 5G Technology
The trend towards mobile fleet management has been further empowered by the introduction of 5G networks that improve the stability and speed of mobile device connections. The technology rolled out nationwide in 2021. The impacts from this new technology are being seen even now—such as:
- More Efficient Routing. Fleet managers will be able to quickly alert drivers to emergency road conditions and re-route them through their fleet management software with no delays or downtime. Artificial intelligence (AI) will also be on hand to help out.
- More Responsive Networks. This will improve fleet-wide communication between drivers, managers, and customers.
- Improved Sensors. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors will improve safety by keeping drivers in their lanes, helping them avoid collisions, and automatically calling 911 should an accident occur.
- Improved Vehicle Maintenance. 5G will be able to provide faster transmission between vehicle parts and software for real-time diagnostics.
- Real-time V2V Applications. These apps have the potential to significantly reduce the number of – and severity of – crashes. Every fleet vehicle will be able to share data on routes, speeds, and traffic, making every truck responsive to its surroundings.
These advantages will make mobile technology solutions even more practical in the future—leading to increased adoption of technology of all kinds in vehicle fleets.
5. Increased Adoption of Dash Cams (and Other Vehicle Cameras)
Although there were fewer drivers on the road in 2020 (and early 2021) due to the pandemic, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) early estimates show that approximately “38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes—the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007.”
According to the NHTSA’s report, the largest increases in crashes included (but were not limited to) factors such as speeding (up 11%) and alcohol involvement (up 9%).
Distracted driving is another contributing factor to many crashes. This can include things like:
- Eating and drinking
- Personal grooming
- Watching videos
- Conversing with passengers
Commercial fleet management has an enormous responsibility to increase the safety and efficiency of drivers to avoid serious incidents. A distracted driver can put a business’ reputation on the line and cost them billions in insurance and legal costs.
One way that companies and government agencies are trying to fight distracted driving is through the use of dashboard cameras. Using dash cams is a valuable tool towards maintaining driver accountability so that fleet assets and other drivers are left safe on the roads. Rastrac is poised to help with ensuring compliance with safe driving standards by offering dash cams to track in-cab and out-of-cab activities on the road.
6. More Focus on Redundancy in Fleet Management Supply Chains
Another effect of the COVID-19 pandemic was the massive disruption the closure of businesses across the globe caused to international supply chains. This disruption was further exacerbated by the Suez Canal being blocked by the container ship Ever Given in 2021—which held up an estimated $9.4 billion in trade before the ship could be cleared and refloated.
The closure of so many businesses and the disruption of international trade routes for goods put a squeeze on fleet managers who needed timely delivery of replacement parts for their fleet vehicles.
To counter this instability, many fleet managers are having to look for alternative sources for critical vehicle parts and maintenance supplies. This way, if one supplier runs out of resources, the fleet manager can turn to an alternative vendor to keep their fleet vehicles in good condition.
7. Increased Security for Commercial Fleet Vehicles
Stolen vehicles can be a major expense for any company to deal with—even when insurance covers the theft of the vehicle, the loss of productivity from being a vehicle short can be damaging to the company’s bottom line. This is why preventive measures such as GPS tracking devices have long been used to reduce the risk of auto theft.
Rastrac offers versatile fleet management capabilities that allow you to upload your own maps. With our geofencing tool, you can be alerted either by text or email whenever a vehicle enters or leaves specific areas. This documented data also gives law enforcement details that can help them locate your fleet vehicle in the event that it is stolen.
Another security feature of Rastrac’s fleet tracking devices is the starter disable function, which allows a fleet manager to disable the starter for a programmed period of time and then re-enable the starter when it’s time to move again. It won’t stop the engine if it is already running, but the next time the ignition is turned, the vehicle will not start. This can be vital for ensuring that vehicles aren’t stolen straight out of storage or when they’re sitting at a rest stop on the road.
8. Increased Focus on Recruitment Efforts
“Good help is hard to find” has moved from the realm of being a simple platitude to becoming a truism of the modern job market. The COVID-19 pandemic led to many jobs being lost due to business closures and companies in all industries struggled to recruit new talent for all roles during the “Great Resignation” wherein 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July of 2021.
The sudden loss of talent has led many (including fleet managers) to start focusing on increasing recruitment. In fact, Bloomberg reported that “The U.S. economy added a record 6.4 million jobs in 2021, rebounding strongly from unprecedented losses in the year prior.” However, this increased focus on recruitment means that there will be more competition for skilled and qualified drivers.
9. Increased Accessibility of Fleet Data and Analytics
For years, fleet tracking solutions have been available to increase the transparency of driver and vehicle performance in the field. Fleet managers highly benefit from this cost-effective strategy with the countless streams of data fleet management software provides.
Along with monitoring driver performance and providing route optimization, commercial fleet management software offers data and analytics on lane departures and whether a seatbelt is used; it also gives predictive maintenance analysis on areas of fleet vehicles that need attention.
10. Increased Use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to Integrate Disparate Software Platforms
To help drive the use of data and analytics in vehicle fleets, many fleet managers are turning to custom software APIs to integrate a variety of tools that were not originally built to go together. The ability to use an API key to connect databases from outside sources not only expands the functionality of a fleet tracking device but offers deeper data analysis capabilities in reviewing the performance of your fleet vehicle and driver.
The range of software platforms that can integrate with fleet management software greatly extends the involvement fleet managers have in daily fleet operations. A fleet manager can find themselves able to do a variety of tasks such as:
- Transmit messages directly to a driver’s device.
- Review daily fuel expenditures through their fuel card.
- Track a driver’s hours by punching in and out directly from their vehicle.
Are You Ready for the Future of Fleet Management? Get Prepared!
These latest commercial fleet management trends are proving to be a huge step forward in fleet management. Rastrac’s diverse selection of fleet tracking and monitoring devices can fit any of your fleet management needs.
Our continued dedication to evolve and adapt with fleet technology is to ensure our customers have the most relevant commercial fleet software updates and upgrades. If you’re looking to invest in quality fleet management software, contact Rastrac for more information!
Like what you're reading? Subscribe to our blog.
Get our latest posts straight to your inbox.
Subscribe to Our Blog
A Fleet Manager's Cheat Sheet to Calculate ROI
Download the SheetDownload Now