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With pressure mounting from economic uncertainty, industry consolidation, and evolving competition, commercial fleet managers are relying on investments in technology to remain profitable and increase ROI. Consumer expectations around e-commerce—now a year-round consideration instead of just during the holiday season—are stronger than ever, and the amount of data available to fleet operators continues to grow. Over 60% of operators are planning to increase their tech spend within the next year, and will target a pivotal set of solutions.

Shaping the Future of Fleet

Fleet managers are exploring investments to support several initiatives across the industry: cost management and reduction, driver acquisition and retention, safety and liability, and asset utilization, among others—allowing fleets to track drivers, vehicles, and cargo in almost real-time.

Lower fuel and maintenance costs are key considerations favoring the adoption of electric and hybrid vehicle options, with drivers also preferring to operate newer vehicles and contribute to greener environmental efforts. Although limited infrastructure and current restrictions in technology have narrowed early adopters to larger enterprises, many OEMs are forecasted to bring more electric and hybrid vehicles into their fold throughout the next decade.

With a shortage of long-haul drivers and frequent turnover within the industry, companies are exploring the use of autonomous operation. While addressing driver shortage, autonomous operation software can also help lower operating costs, often in conjunction with electrification, and operate efficiently under controlled environments such as shipping ports, airports, and universities. Early commercial deployments of SAE Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) will provide easier and safer operations for drivers. Commercial shipments are expected to surpass 27 million in 2019, and early adoption is expected for more advanced levels within five years.

Managers are also looking for predictive insights to better anticipate any type of tendency, from at-risk drivers to unplanned vehicle downtime, where optimizing asset utilization becomes crucial. In light of driver shortages and cost management, fleet operators are cognizant of avoiding partial or empty loads. Asset utilization is a primary driver of operational costs, which averages $1.74 per mile.

With driver safety and liability in mind, additional vehicle monitoring and verification are also primary considerations for fleet operators. An increased spend on monitoring would be offset by more comprehensive insurance coverage at decreased rates, with the added benefit of more accurately tracking cargo and delivery times. With drivers wary of the perception that "big brother" is watching, the possibility of increased turnover will remain prevalent.

No Universal Solution . . . Yet

While we can expect investments in technology over the short- and long-term to be fruitful, no singular technology will address every need or provide the same benefit to every fleet. To succeed, operators will need to develop greater knowledge of the fundamentals at a minimum, and form trusted relationships with external experts. The ability to integrate and scale ought to be a strong consideration for growth, as well as taking a long-term perspective on how future investments will be best suited to each provider's needs and capabilities.

These findings are part of Freight Transportation & Logistics Research Service. As a leading source of next-generation commercial transportation and logistics market intelligence, ABI Research provides technology influencers with prescriptive insights to help future-proof their business models by examining industry trends in emerging form factors, robotics and drones, electrification, ADAS/autonomy and prognostics.