Trends in Fleet Management 2021, Part 1

6 minute read

What fleet managers can expect after an unprecedented 2020

Looking back at industry experts’ predictions for 2020, “global pandemic” wasn’t on anybody’s list. Nonetheless, COVID-19 was by far the biggest change in the fleet shipping industry, with wide-ranging and dramatic effects.

But believe it or not, there’s more going on in the world than the coronavirus. Advances in technology could very well be the bigger story in 2021, as telematics continues to revolutionize fleet shipping.

Here’s what to expect in the next year.

Lasting Effects of COVID-19

In the early days of the pandemic, the fleet industry was scrambling to react to a temporary crisis. Today, we’re adjusting to a new normal. While limited quantities of a vaccine could be distributed in 2021, disruptions to the economy will likely continue throughout the year.

“We thought we were in a marathon, and then it turned out we were in an Ironman, and we may have to double down,” General Mills’ Chief Supply Chain Officer John Church told reporters.  

The effects of COVID-19 on the shipping industry have been complex and unexpected (unusually high rates of animal collisions, anyone?).

Even before COVID-19, scientists projected supply chain issues would shut down factories for one to two months every three to four years in the next decade. Sure enough, the pandemic interrupted the supply of a range of products, from toilet paper to tires — and those interruptions could continue to reverberate through 2021. Of course, that affects the fleets that deliver toilet paper, but it also affects the fleets that drive on tires – which is to say, all of them. Analysts predict higher maintenance costs industry-wide stemming from long waits for tires and auto parts. 

At the same time, more and more people will be working from home permanently. This abrupt change is a boon for consumer-end shipping. Companies like DHL expect to do 50% more shipments in 2020 than in 2019 — and they’re investing in additional shipping infrastructure accordingly.

How COVID-19 will affect your fleet depends on what, exactly, you ship — the pandemic doesn’t affect medical suppliers the same way it does retail outfits. Regardless, don’t expect those effects to disappear on January 1, 2021, regardless of when or whether vaccines begin to become available.

Technological Advances

But focusing too much on COVID-19 risks overlooking the revolutionary technological advances the next decade will bring.

The first advance is not flashy, but important, nonetheless — vehicle quality is on the rise. JD Power redesigned its Initial Quality Survey this year, making it difficult to compare it to past results. However, researchers note that problems with transmissions and engines are now extremely rare — which is good news for the maintenance budget.

More good news for the maintenance budget (and accident rates and overall efficiency)? More and more companies are adopting fleet telematics systems. According to a 2019 report from CJ Driscoll & Associates, there are approximately 6.4 million telematics units in service in North America, up from 2 million in 2010. Video telematics, in particular, will bring higher productivity and savings for early adopters. AI-assisted driver cameras can help avoid accidents, while road cameras can provide evidence in the event of an accident does occur. This is especially relevant since insurance rates, nuclear settlements, and accidents are all on the rise.

The effectiveness of these systems will only increase with the diffusion of the 5G network. High-frequency 5G can be as much as 100 times faster than 4G. That speed, as well as 5G’s near-zero latency and high bandwidth, will make large-scale mobile data transfer for video telematics much more feasible.

Telematics systems that connect to the 5G network are an emerging standard. But what about technology that’s further afield?

In California, all commercial vehicles must be electric by 2045. An electric version of the Ford Transit will hit the market by 2022. With increasing regulatory pressure and better vehicle offerings every day, fleet managers should seriously weigh the pros and cons of transitioning to an electric fleet.  

Another development to watch is automation. We’re a long way from driverless commercial vehicles, but driver assistance is becoming more and more common.  

Not every fleet needs to be made up of Level 3-automated, fully electric vehicles by next year. But managers should take advantage of low-investment, high-return technologies like telematics units now that they have their pick of a flooded market. Position Logic provides cutting-edge telematics solutions to prepare your fleet for the next decade, including video solutions what will position your fleet at the forefront of this high-ROI trend.


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Topic(s): Fleet Management

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