There are two different ways one could look at the current state of fleet and safety management. On one hand, leaders are struggling to recruit and retain the next generation of drivers, all while rising costs and fewer new, available vehicles are disrupting operations. On the other hand, however, advances in fleet and safety technology are transforming the industry at a foundational level. Tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics are maturing at an incredible rate, driving efficiency and growth among fleets large and small. It’s a fascinating, unique moment in time—with challenges and opportunities colliding in ways never before seen.
How fleet managers and leaders navigate the coming year will have an outsized impact on their long-term organizational growth. From improving customer experience and transparency to optimizing resource deployment, every choice matters. With the fleet management market size set to reach $45 billion by 2027, standing out among an increasingly competitive field will be the difference between growth and stagnation.
As the list of high-level concerns grows longer and longer, what strategic areas should fleet leaders focus on? Rather than playing disruption “whack-a-mole,” a targeted, purposeful approach can ensure that your fleet organization focuses on the trends and opportunities that will have the most meaningful impact. These are the areas that will stand out over the course of the coming year:
Safety and Technology
Fleets play a vital role in success across multiple industries, such as construction, landscaping and utilities, among others. Drivers and the vehicle assets themselves ensure that customer satisfaction is met and exceeded. They are, however, an inherent risk. Whether it be a distracted driver or an unanticipated weather event, fleets (and their subsequent productivity) are at the mercy of safe driving conditions. A single accident can have ramifications not only for your business but for those who share the road with your employees. Safety concerns have reached such a boiling point, in fact, that it is increasingly likely that regulations will require nationwide fleets to restrict all nonemergency cellphone usage in commercial vehicles.
That said, safety technology in and of itself can present a powerful opportunity to improve efficiency in 2022. Many fleets currently in use are not equipped with standard features that can save lives and improve the bottom line. For example, backup cameras, multiple sensors for lane departure or seat belt sensors have been standardized in consumer vehicles and reduce the rate of accidents, but this level of built-in safety technology isn’t consistent among fleets today. By leading with technology to improve incident prevention within commercial vehicles, fleet managers can more reliably do their jobs. With all of the macroeconomic factors at play, the organizations that wait to modernize their safety strategy and processes will be the first to experience high-impact losses from more accidents, rising insurance premiums and driver retention issues.
Strategic Deployment of AI
It has become a common question among fleet leaders: Is this the year for AI adoption? Anecdotally, there are proven benefits to implementing an AI solution within fleets, such as improving the driver experience or intelligently anticipating customer needs to improve operational flexibility. That said, every organization is unique. Further, when you consider that AI sits at the center of a complex ecosystem of predictive analytics, machine learning and several other technological innovations, knowing what’s exactly right for your fleet can seem like a tall order.
Instead, consider 2022 to be the start of an AI journey, one that allows for experimentation, iteration and growth as needed. In fact, deploying AI-powered solutions on a smaller scale can have big impact. For example, modern in-cab video solutions with an AI backbone can intelligently identify problematic driving behaviors, course correct and coach better behavior in real time. When issued across an entire fleet, this can improve average performance scores among the entire driver community. Safer and happier drivers improve retention for your best drivers, help improve lower performers rather than trying to replace them in a difficult hiring environment and attract new hires who see the advanced, in-cab coaching support as a way to immediately improve their driving game. Consider this the foundation to explore further opportunities for AI to shape success in years to come.
Managing Supply Chain Disruption
A key challenge for fleets in 2022 is one left over from recent years: sustained supply chain disruption. Consumers and fleets alike have been watching firsthand as microchip shortages roil the auto industry, in addition to the rising cost of materials as key transportation routes are subjected to Covid-related lockdowns. Across industries, everyone is feeling the impact. While these issues are likely to continue through the coming year, there are ways for fleet leaders and managers to minimize their influence.
Namely, in the face of uncontrollable external factors, you will drive operational efficiency by doubling down on the areas of the business you can control. For example, using technology to optimize route assignments or even eliminating time-consuming manual processes altogether. In the case of the latter, by automating administrative tasks such as time sheets, fleet managers can reduce human error for a healthier—and more accurate—look into their business. When as little as possible is left to chance, leaders have more leeway to adapt in the face of evolving circumstances.
Cause for Optimism
Despite ongoing challenges for fleets large and small, today’s environment is rife with potential. Between technological innovation and growing demand, the pieces are in place for fleets to improve their organization and deliver better experiences to customers and employees alike. By embracing the opportunity afforded by intelligent operations, 2022 may prove to be a banner year for the next generation of fleets.