When we talk about large corporate fleets, we’re talking about fleets of more than 80 vehicles managed by a business or government organisation. These fleets could be responsible for anything from food delivery, to couriering or home care support services. Smaller fleets face similar demands, but they are more easily managed due to their scale.
No role has been left unaffected by COVID-19, and the management of corporate fleets is no exception. While the pandemic has created a lot of new challenges to overcome, it also presents new opportunities for those managing such large fleets.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the changes brought about by COVID-19 to how we live and do business are permanent. While the immediate effects may seem largely negative, some long-term positive changes get missed in all the noise. The pandemic continues to break down archaic and outdated societal norms and usher us quickly into a new era that better reflects a more flexible and contemporary way of life – remote, yet efficiently connected.
And it is no different for the fleet management industry. Those responsible for managing corporate fleets are well-positioned to capitalise on these new opportunities – with a little help from the latest intelligent technologies.
Before we dive into the latest set of challenges and opportunities presented to corporate fleets through COVID-19, we must acknowledge that there are a lot of fingers in any corporate fleet pie – all with differing motivations.
- A company CEO would view the fleet as an asset to be optimised
- A fleet manager would view the fleet as a group of vehicles which need to be efficiently utilised, managed and maintained
- An OHS Manager would view the fleet as a potential workplace hazard and must ensure that both vehicles and drivers adhere to safety protocol and meet the standard compliance requirements
- An Operational Manager would view the fleet as a vital part of the supply chain that is critical for ferrying goods and services from point A to B.
The following breakdown of challenges and opportunities shows that there are two sides to every coin and takes all the different roles and motivations into account.
Challenge #1: Lengthening hours of operation make it more difficult to manage driver health and safety
Through COVID-19, the traditional 9-5 workday has all but fallen by the wayside. The introduction of more flexible working hours has led to increased demand for home delivery and revised conventional expectations over the delivery of goods and services. In a pre-COVID-19 world, fleet drivers would deliver to central locations (e.g. offices, stores etc.) between 9-5, Monday to Friday to ensure someone was there to pick it up.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, that’s all out the window. Fleet drivers are now delivering to more homes than workplaces, and with people home the vast majority of the time – there is more flexibility in delivery times. From personal experience, we have multiple delivery drivers coming to our home daily anytime from 7 am – 7 pm – even extending to weekends.
While this is great news for consumers and businesses alike, it presents challenges for those overseeing the health and safety of fleet drivers. With a growing expectation that drivers work around the clock, it’s more important than ever that corporates are maintaining a duty of care for their drivers. This includes ensuring that drivers aren’t working longer hours than they should and that they take appropriate breaks between shifts.
Opportunity #1: Lengthening hours of operation create a new opportunity for fleet optimisation
On the other hand, the shift to more flexible working hours means there are more hours in the day available to get stuff done.
In the old 9-5 world, one vehicle could be used by one driver for one 8-hour shift per day – then inefficiently ‘holed up’ for 16 hours. However, with the world now starting to open up for true 24-hour business, corporate fleets have a new opportunity to optimise their assets.
For example, if deliveries can be made around the clock – one driver could do a 7 am – 3 pm shift, then another driver could use the same vehicle to do a 3 pm – 12 pm shift. This means that one fleet vehicle is in action for 16 hours per day, rather than sitting in the depot. Think of the possibilities this could present for a business. Could the number of vehicles and associated costs be reduced? Could the money saved be used to hire another employee?
Could the business then take on more work? All of this is practical so long as there is changeover between drivers and health and safety requirements are still being adhered to.
Fleet management systems that can help monitor driver behaviour, track travel times and routes can ensure that driver safety and fleet optimisation can go hand in hand.
They allow fleet managers to monitor driver behaviour from any location remotely. Information on a driver’s average speed, cornering and braking habits can be communicated to the fleet manager through a technology-enabled interface accessible through the web, or on a personal device.
Driver behaviour information received by a fleet manager could show erratic driving, which is a reliable indicator that a driver has been working long hours and maybe a health and safety risk.
Knowing where their drivers and vehicles are, being able to view their schedules and assigned jobs in one place, and knowing that they’re safe and compliant allows corporate fleets to optimise their assets and get more out of each vehicle, which provides a higher return on investment in the long run. That’s sure to keep the boss happy!
Run your fleet assets round the clock while adhering to driver health & safety requirements
Challenge #2: With people no longer working from one location, it’s more complicated than ever to have visibility over all company assets
Before COVID-19 when we were working out of central locations – like offices and depots – fleet managers could physically check fleet vehicles to gauge what shape they were in.
A fleet manager working out of the depot would come into contact with all of their vehicles daily and could get quick checks on tyre pressure, the engine, or the oil done – all the usual practices that are part and parcel of maintaining a vehicle.
And what about regular vehicle servicing? In my 11-years’ experience dealing with many larger companies, I know that many fleet managers still rely on simple systems – like a sticker on the windscreen – to remind them when a vehicle is due to be serviced. I’ve also seen fleet managers using exercise books to manage servicing, which relies on anecdotal feedback from drivers. I say good luck to anyone who insists on sticking with these methods post-pandemic.
If fleet managers are working remotely, they lose these visual cues that help them keep track of vehicle condition. Going forward, these methods just won’t work.
Opportunity #2: With people no longer working from one location, fleet managers can fast-track adoption of the latest technology to monitor vehicle health
The good news is fleet management technology makes it possible to gauge vehicle health at any time, from any location.
For example, fleet management technology can tell a fleet operator if a vehicle is due for a new battery, needs its brakes changed or is scheduled for service all without that operator laying eyes on said vehicle. A plug-in device can feed live diagnostic information through to the operator’s interface, which can be accessed on a personal device in any place, any time.
Some like Intelematics CONNECT can even predict battery failure in advance, ensuring the problem can be fixed before a breakdown occurs.
Fleet management technology can also alert operators of breakdown incidents to help triage and quickly rectify a situation that could result in revenue loss. For example, if a vehicle carrying perishable goods breaks down, a back-up vehicle would need to be sent to the location immediately to pick up the stock before it spoils. The technology allows the operator to identify the incident quickly and promptly redeploy another vehicle to solve the problem.
Fleet management technology isn’t new, and there are plenty of options in the market. And companies that develop this technology are consistently innovating and creating new features. Is a rich feature list enough for you to sign-on a provider? Not unless the features are tuned to the needs of your business.
What most corporate fleets should be looking for in their fleet management solution is flexibility, especially in the current economic climate:
- The ability for the fleet management solution to fit into and work with their existing tech stack like their CRM systems or internal communications systems
- The flexibility to choose and pay for solutions that are relevant and used by the company for asset management
- The ability to partner with their solution provider to develop custom features, intrinsic to their needs that can help them better manage their assets.
One of the benefits of COVID-19 is that it’s encouraging businesses to re-evaluate how they do things and question where they can adopt intelligent technology to become more efficient. Large corporate fleet operators would be wise to investigate the latest technology available to them to optimise their assets, either as a stand-alone solution or as part of their existing fleet solutions.
Leverage flexible telematics technology that allow you to pick and choose features relevant to your fleet to increase ROI and improve business efficiencies
Challenge #3: As boundaries between personal and professional lines blur, it’s becoming more challenging to differentiate between personal and professional travel
Company cars used by employees, also known as grey fleets, are another form of large corporate fleets that need to be managed.
The business – not the individual – is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of these vehicles, so the fleet operator must have accurate oversight of the condition of each vehicle. If the company car isn’t being driven into a central location each day while many continue to work remotely, the fleet manager must rely solely on anecdotal feedback from the driver about the condition of the vehicle.
Another point for consideration is the Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) charged to businesses based on the provision of company cars. As large corporate fleet operators would know, part of the FBT calculation is based on the percentage of private vehicle use.
However, with COVID-19 blurring the lines between what qualifies as work use and personal use, calculating FBT will become a logistical nightmare. This presents a new challenge for large corporate fleet operators to overcome.
Opportunity #3: As boundaries between personal and professional lines blur, fleet managers can fast-track adoption of the latest technology to monitor vehicle use
Just as it is possible to use technology to monitor driver behaviour and vehicle health remotely, so too is it possible to monitor vehicle use from afar.
If fleet managers rely on drivers to manually read and provide dashboard numbers for record-keeping purposes, they’ll often get it wrong. It’s a time-consuming process that leaves too much room for human error.
Embracing fleet management technology automates the odometer reading process. It enables after-hours use monitoring and can easily gauge whether a driver’s trip is for personal or professional purposes based on the distance and location travelled.
This becomes all the more important as the blurring of personal and professional lines through COVID-19 adds an additional layer of complexity and ambiguity for drivers providing information on their vehicle use. With fleet management technology, out of sight doesn’t have to mean out of mind.
Monitor and manage your fleet from anywhere and at all times with simple to install and use fleet management technology
How can Intelematics help large corporate fleets address the challenges, but also capitalise on the new opportunities presented by COVID-19?
Our flagship CONNECT product means Intelematics can help large corporate fleets fast-track their adoption of the latest fleet management technology. We understand that many corporate fleets already make use of fleet management technology, but many are locked into legacy contracts with outdated features.
Our technology can fit in with any technology stack, so we can work with corporate fleet managers to develop features that can operate within their existing system. If customers want us to deliver their entire fleet management technology system but are unsure about phasing out a legacy system, we help them develop workarounds to ensure a smooth transition and eliminate unnecessary costs.
Finally, we understand that the needs of no two businesses are the same. If a large corporate fleet comes to us and needs, for example, the latest feature to help monitor vehicle use and driver behaviour, but not vehicle health – then we can tailor our feature set to develop an offering that best suits their needs and budget.
Large corporate fleets who want to embrace the latest intelligent technology to help optimise their business in a rapidly-shifting world of new challenge and opportunities brought about by COVID-19 – get in touch with us.