Work Truck’s editorial advisory board had its first meeting on January 25, 2022. The inaugural class of fleet professionals wasted no time in getting straight to the issues that matter most to them, which will help guide the direction of future content so readers can benefit from the insight they bring.
Hottest Topic: Electrification
It’s obvious that as mandates are made and hype explodes, many fleets are struggling with determining how electric vehicles (EVs) are going to fit into their operation. Matt Betz, expert fleet optimization for DTE, said his organization has developed a change management program to ensure drivers are comfortable with EVs and other aspects of the lengthy, complicated process.
Retired fleet executive and independent consultant Pete Silva, who also has experience as an environmental liaison, noted the process isn’t just about buying vehicles and installing chargers.
“I get a lot of calls from investors trying to figure out where they should put their money in the electric vehicle space. That is putting pressure on the whole industry to figure it out and everybody's trying to get their leg in to be a player,” he explained.
Fleet managers are used to buying trucks, putting them on the road, maintaining them, and getting rid of them. Large fleets can only implement 10 - 20 EV trucks at a time due to the experimental nature of such a project. Obtaining grant funding, dealing with long lead times on vehicles, and installing infrastructure adds months and even years onto such a project.
“There's got to be some breakthrough on the ease of implementation from start to finish so fleets can do more than five at a time,” Silva stated.
Betz suggested Work Truck could help create an outline, and each fleet who wants to use it can tweak it to make it their own.
Amy McAdams, CAFM, fleet manager for Farmer Brothers says while her company tries to operate as sustainably as possible, the problem with implementing EVs lies in having service techs who serve a two-state area where they might not have time to stop for a long charge or there might not be charging stations near enough for them to complete their route in one go.
Saving Money by Preventing Theft, Improving Maintenance
McAdams mentioned catalytic converter thefts and suggested it might be possible to develop the same technology without the rare metals that are so enticing to thieves.
“I use technical education from OEM’s. Making sure we are getting the root cause analysis on all repairs is critical. Subsequent failures following a repair can hit our utilization and budgets hard. Gaining knowledge into the function of each manufacturer engine and certainly aftertreatment has been a key component in saving money and lost utilization,” Sandy Martin, corporate fleet manager for Ram Tool Supply, stated.
“Setting expectations that all repairs/diagnostics are following the manufacturer’s troubleshooting charts and utilizing warranty on progressive failures for failed parts is key in initial and annual conversations with manufacturers. This is a great topic when doing pilot reviews and spec revisions with the dealers and manufacturers. Many times, a unit will go to a dealership and we experience delays in diagnostics, parts swapping, etc. Setting the expectation initially with a dealer is a great way to do business. It never hurts to be the expert when you experience duplicate failures, either.”
Telling Your Story
As companies grow and ownership changes, how do you properly tell your story to a board, corporate ownership, or even drivers to get certain things you want to accomplish, done?
Betz said part of properly doing so is asking yourself how you can change your own behavior to make sure people understand what you’re doing and communicating that better.
McAdams said, “I’m not going to go screaming from the rooftops about everything I've done; my work speaks for itself. But I sometimes will drop a little knowledge that the CEO might not be aware of. For example, the last two years we had 75 nonoperational vehicles sitting around, and I sold them and brought a million dollars into the company. We have to learn to do that more because nobody else is going to sing our praises better than ourselves.”
Prioritize Digitizing, Fixing Small Issues
Betz stated a topic worth looking at is how fleet managers can catch up quickly after coming into an organization that has yet to digitize its important files.
The importance of repairing minor collision damage was another point he was interested in learning the benefits of. When mechanics skip over small chips and dents, vehicles continue to deteriorate and can only be sold for scrap. Naturally, it may be more worth a fleet manager’s time to be vigilant and made abreast of smaller repairs.
What’s Up at the Ports?
Toward the end of the meeting, Silva brought up the bottleneck issues at the ports, stating it would be interesting to see how drayage companies are dealing with it.