Green Shipping

It’s Tough Out There for Vehicle-Dependent Businesses. Fleet Automation Can Help

Any business that is dependent in some way on a vehicle is suffering from an array of challenges right now – and that’s true whether it’s a plumbing business with two or three trucks on the road, or a delivery company that relies on thousands of them.

For starters, there are supply chain issues that make getting a vehicle in the first place difficult (read as: limited inventory at dealer lots and long wait times for specific makes and models if you happen to be choosy about what vehicle you want).

These same supply chain kinks can make finding a replacement part when a component fails a painful and drawn-out affair. If you're a small business whose vehicle breaks down and the part is on backorder, what do you do? Hang a “Gone fishing” sign on your front door and twiddle your thumbs for a couple weeks?

At the same time, labor shortages mean drivers are hard to find, as is the skilled labor to maintain the vehicles and keep them roadworthy. In a time of ongoing budget cuts, this means that many companies – large and small – are being forced to “do more with less”, stretching their already thin resources.

Add it all together, and you have an environment that’s making it harder for companies that depend on a vehicle to run their business.

More complexity to manage

To make things all the jollier, companies are under increasing pressure – either self-imposed or from external entities – to become more sustainable. After all, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for roughly 29 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are a way to deal with this challenge because they eliminate tailpipe emissions. However, incorporating EVs isn’t as simple for a business with a fleet as it is for a consumer or a business with a single vehicle. Vehicles have to be matched to jobs based on the range they have, which means having to view traditional internal combustion engine vehicles and EVs as two entirely different creatures depending on the job at hand.

Without a way to effectively manage this complexity, businesses will find an already challenging environment only becoming even more difficult to navigate.

An automated approach

Fortunately, fleet automation offers a path forward that can be more efficient and cost effective for businesses that depend on vehicles – as well as better for the environment.

It’s helpful to see what this looks like in practice. Take the example of a business with a large delivery fleet. One day, while a driver is out making deliveries, the check engine light flashes on.

That data is useful information – but what is even more useful is if as soon as that error message comes up, a work order is automatically opened up for a mechanic in the main yard to attend to this vehicle once the driver pulls in at the end of their shift. Meanwhile, a different driver who was scheduled to use that vehicle later in the day will be automatically reassigned to a different vehicle and given digital keys to that replacement vehicle. The whole process is automated.

This means that potential problems with vehicles are proactively dealt with, helping to avoid costly breakdowns – and when there is an issue, it is dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible, so that the vehicle can get back on the road and serving the business.

Accelerating sustainability

Fleet automation also allows effective control over small but powerful aspects of vehicle management that contribute to both efficiency and sustainability. Take tire pressure as an example: Underinflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in average tire pressure.

When a “check tire pressure” alert automatically triggers a work order for an employee to hook that vehicle’s tires up to an air pump when it pulls into the garage, that problem takes care of itself – reducing overall fuel costs as well as carbon footprint.

Additionally, fleet automation makes it easier for businesses to incorporate environmentally-friendly EVs into their fleet by successfully managing the complexity around charging and utilization of these vehicles.

Fleet automation also benefits vehicle-dependent businesses by providing smoother and more efficient operations to car rental and car sharing services. As more businesses find themselves temporarily without a vehicle – either because it’s in the shop waiting for a replacement part, or because there’s a long wait to take delivery of a new purchase – they will turn to these car services for a short-term rental that can fill the gap.

Fleet automation, in turn, allows these companies to solve problems of efficiency and sustainability at scale and more effectively service this ever-growing market. That’s a win-win for all parties.

Fresh thinking for the future

The demands being placed on vehicle-dependent businesses are growing and the ability to meet those demands is becoming more and more difficult. This is where fresh thinking like fleet automation has to come in. Increasingly, this is not just a nice-to-have for companies that want to address the twin goals of efficiency and sustainability in this current environment – it's a must have.

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