As experts in building and outfitting trucks and vans for a variety of fleet operations, we’ve learned a great deal of things over the past decades. We’ve seen incredible shifts in not only what the jobs demand but also, in what fleet managers and owners expect vehicles to do. In the early 1990s, a van with a few shelves or a truck with a topper and ladder rack was about all that was needed.
Today? Sure, those trucks still serve a valuable purpose, but for fleet use, the game has changed radically. Let’s take a look at some of the trends we’re seeing in the industry and trends that fleet managers are sharing with us on how companies are shifting their focuses on the vehicles they oversee.
First and foremost, companies are looking at the overall cost of ownership. How much will it cost to not only fully outfit that truck or van, but also, how much will it cost over the expected life of the vehicle? Salt on the roads, congested streets, and even the durability of drivetrains all have to be considered these days. Sure, it might be “cool” to have a diesel, but if the body is going to rot away from road salt long before the engine reaches a likely failure point OR the cost of operating that engine increases when fuel costs are higher, it may not be the fiscally responsible choice, Company insurance premiums are playing a far bigger role than in years past, too. This “Total Cost of Ownership” isn’t anything new, but with more and more software available to users, accounting departments can make far more accurate calculations than before and, in the competitive environment we see today, pennies do add up to profits.
Another trend we’ve identified in recent years has been PM. Preventative maintenance has always been an important part of fleet operations, but with so many manufacturers doubling down on warranties or including extended maintenance packages in purchase agreements to secure sales, fleet managers are faced with an interesting problem… Do they handle all the maintenance in house, as they have for decades, do they sub out the job(s), or some combination of the two? The sheer costs of investing in diagnostic equipment for even simple sensor-based failures can cause fleet managers to turn back to the dealership, but extended repair times and, let’s be honest, the costs of having anything done at a dealership is forcing most fleet managers to look for a reliable third-party to handle the vast majority of the maintenance on their vehicles. This, of course, feeds right back into our earlier point – the overall cost of ownership of a truck or van.
Yet a third BIG worry for fleet managers is ensuring their fleets are capable of doing the work the job demands. As we said earlier, thirty years ago, a “work” truck or van was stripped down, with few options, and based on reliable powertrains that had been in production for decades. Not today! In fact, one of the most common questions our team hears concerns the need to ensure everything their team needs is built into the truck or van we’re designing for them. It’s easy to understand why – today’s customers have been conditioned to expect fast results – if your team is on-sight today, the problem is expected to be remedied today or the parts to fix the problem better be here in the morning. Of course, this goes back into the overall operating costs of the vehicle – does the team need on-board air? A hydraulic liftgate? A stable power source to run a wi-fi connection? Not only are fleet managers asking more questions, we’re ensuring our team is asking them, too. Why? If a truck or van is “over” or “under” built, that cost of ownership is driven up immensely. Upfitters like Expertec have a responsibility to build out the right equipment for the job to ensure that our clients have the correct “tools” in their “toolbox”.
One of the last – and most critical internal things fleet managers are often stressing about is the men and women who are driving the vehicles. It might seem like a funny joke about the driver who never mentioned an oil light coming on in the dashboard display, but training programs (and even software loaded into the computers of the vehicles themselves) are making it far easier to ensure companies have not only safe operators in their vehicles, but also that proper maintenance procedures are being done in a timely fashion.
It’s never easy running a fleet, but our promise to every Expertec customer is to make sure they are aware of the tools and solutions we can offer and to provide up-to-date options that can make managing any size of fleet easier for owners and, of course, the fleet managers and procurement directors of those companies.