There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything — upending the world and making business as usual highly unusual and exceptionally challenging across all industries. For the fleet industry, the pandemic has caused a seismic shift in how fleet managers handle operational, logistical, and financial challenges while safeguarding employees and keeping business productive and profitable.
No one can predict when uncontrollable forces and events are going to strike. But with the COVID pandemic, there will be challenges, uncertainties, and complications from its aftermath. For fleet managers, the time is now to be proactive and plan for recovery — to examine existing approaches and measures and establish new ones so you emerge more robust and competitive in a post-COVID world.
Let’s look at three solutions to accomplish that.
1. Focus on Cost Control
With already tight budgets becoming even tighter since the pandemic, controlling costs is more critical than ever before. When precisely the economy and fleet budgets stabilize is anyone’s guess. Still, fleet managers should take time to examine expenses and implement solutions that keep costs at a minimum in the future.
With fuel being a top expense for every fleet, looking at ways to lower fuel costs is a great place to start. Leveraging route optimization software is a solution well worth considering and provide capabilities including route planning, route efficiency, identifying the nearest driver to dispatch, and if drivers took the approved route. Route optimization software can significantly reduce miles traveled and reduce fuel spend typically by 10% to 30%.
Vehicle utilization is another area to examine to reduce costs.
Total fleet costs are proportional to the number of vehicles in operation, which drives all fixed and operating costs, such as fuel, tire replacement, vehicle depreciation, maintenance, and repair. A vehicle utilization study can help fleet managers lower these costs, improve productivity, boost profitability, and increase revenue potential.
Analyzing fleet utilization helps you right-size your fleet and determines how many and what type/class vehicles are needed to meet business needs and the optimum miles driven over a set timeframe to conclude that a vehicle is adequately utilized.
The increasing pressure on fleet managers to reduce costs isn’t going away post-COVID. Fleet utilization is an effective strategy to relieve the pressure and is the most proven way for fleets to reduce overall costs.
2. Stay on Top of Vehicle Maintenance
Staying competitive and profitable in a post-COVID world requires minimizing setbacks and keeping business operations running at optimal levels. Get slack with maintenance and what lies ahead is hardly optimal — vehicles in the shop, lost productivity, lost revenue, and unhappy customers.
Staying on top of maintenance helps ensure optimal vehicle performance, and implementing fleet tracking and management tools can help you accomplish that. With the right tools, you have actionable vehicle data at your fingertips. This includes the constant state of vehicle engines, the ability to track diagnostic data such as battery voltage and identify problems such as powertrain malfunctions and intake valve issues.
Additionally, maintenance can be scheduled and tracked with proactive reminders for oil changes, tune-ups, and other routine services. This helps extend vehicle life and keeps your fleet rolling and productive by reducing the likelihood of breakdowns or accidents.
Because of the COVID pandemic, some of your vehicles may not have been used as frequently. In this case, routine service on these vehicles may not have been performed. Since more of your vehicles will hopefully be on the job post-COVID, it’s a good idea to check if any are overdue for regular maintenance before they hit the road.
3. Recruiting and Retaining Drivers
Before the COVID outbreak, last-mile delivery fleets were the fastest-growing fleet segment. Since the outbreak, e-commerce sales have grown over 30% and last-mile deliveries have exploded post COVID. This will continue to surge, with e-commerce sales forecasted to grow from 3.53 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 to over 6.44 trillion in 2023.
Finding and keeping qualified drivers is not an easy task. Driver shortage was the top industry issue in 2020, and over the next decade, the driver shortage is expected to grow to a need for 1.1 million drivers.
For fleet managers, the writing is on the wall. With e-commerce sales and last-mile deliveries increasing post-COVID, reviewing your driver retention programs/policies, determining what is working and what needs to be tweaked is key to having enough divers to meet customer demand.
Not to be overlooked is promoting driver engagement. Engaged drivers make the best employees, are safer drivers, and are more likely to stay on board longer. Open up the communication lines with your drivers, regularly ask for their feedback, and act on what they have to say. Drivers are your greatest asset and a little extra attention to help them deal with uncertainties in a post-COVID world will go a long way in ensuring they remain your greatest asset well into the future.