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Fleet Technical Congress Debuts in Indy

April 2018, Work Truck - Feature

by Roselynne Reyes - Also by this author

Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of General Motors Fleet, gave the opening keynote address on the future of the fleet industry. (Photo: Roselynne Reyes)
Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of General Motors Fleet, gave the opening keynote address on the future of the fleet industry. (Photo: Roselynne Reyes)

The Work Truck Show 2018 kicked off in Indianapolis with the first-ever Fleet Technical Congress. General sessions at the Fleet Technical Congress, which took place on the first day of the show, covered topics such as the future of commercial vehicles, connected vehicles’ impact on fleet operations, integrating multiple data streams to enhance decision-making, and vehicle replacement strategies.

The Future of Fleet is Sooner Than You May Think

The day began with a keynote address from Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of General Motors Fleet, about the rise of new chassis designs, autonomous technology, and fuel options and how these changes will affect the relationship between OEMs and fleet managers.

He cited General Motors (GM) chief executive Mary Barra’s vision of achieving zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion. To reach this goal, the company is growing its core business while investing in electrification and autonomous technology.

Making autonomous technology available doesn’t mean fleets will buy it. But, Peper pointed to smart vehicle features such as lane departure warning, forward collision alert, and blind spot detection that are popular with fleets. Although these features can mean higher costs, they tend to appeal to fleets interested in safety.

Data Can Be a Huge Benefit – Or Create Risk

One major topic during the Fleet Technical Congress was data. Representatives from multiple companies shared the ways that data can be used to make better decisions, and make them sooner than traditional practices.

But, not all data is equal. Kevin Moore, vice president of OEM sales for Verizon Connect, noted that all telematics companies collect data, but telematics systems offered directly from the OEM may have access to more data than an aftermarket solution.

Of course, the fleet manager decides what tools that fleet will or will not use. But choosing to not leverage data can be a risk. Ken Burns, an attorney, noted that, in the event of an accident between a passenger vehicle and a commercial truck, many juries assume the truck driver is at fault. For that reason, fleets must show their commitment to safety by being proactive and leveraging data.

Claude Masters, CAFM, retired fleet manager for Florida Light & Power, moderated a panel on connected vehicles. (Photo: Roselynne Reyes)
Claude Masters, CAFM, retired fleet manager for Florida Light & Power, moderated a panel on connected vehicles. (Photo: Roselynne Reyes)

What’s Next for Fleet? Depends on Who You Ask

Views across the fleet industry are not standard. A new piece of technology may appeal to a business looking for the next solution, but may not even be on the radar for a fleet manager dealing with day-to-day problems.
By presenting several sessions as panels, NTEA was able to present a variety of views on a common topic.

During a session about data, representatives from a software company, a fuel management provider, and a fleet management company offered their takes on leveraging data. During a session about connected vehicles, the panel included the president of a technology company and a fleet manager, with a discussion moderated by a fleet consultant.

The ‘Smart’ Vehicles of the Future Will Not Replace Fleet Expertise

A lot of the major news in the automotive industry is about the rise of technology: Autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles, and software to detect fleet patterns without human analysis.

George Survant, NTEA’s senior director of fleet relations, moderated the event and noted a common thread between all of the sessions. The speakers highlighted the importance of data, technology, and other tools. But taking advantage of those tools requires fleet knowledge, which is where the fleet manager comes in. 

“It’s really about the integration of your experience and your tools,” Survant said. 

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