The Work Truck Editorial Advisory Board gathered for the second quarter of 2023 to discuss the latest improvements in their fleets and their 2023 outlook.
The group shared their experiences with topics related to the state of the interstate system, fleet management, and electric vehicle (EV) adoption.
Regardless of your experience in fleet management, the advisory board is here to provide support in this wild world.
Bumpy Roads Ahead: Adapting to Interstate Infrastructure Challenges
Interstate quality affects everyone, from people commuting to their jobs to fleet managers trying to manage a healthy fleet.
We are acutely aware of the interstate system’s vital role in ensuring smooth and efficient transportation for our fleets.
However, in recent times, concerns regarding the quality of the interstate system are growing.
These challenges have significant implications for operations, from deteriorating road conditions to congestion and inadequate infrastructure.
Pete Silva, independent consultant, spends most of his time on the road. He expressed concerns about the need for more quality in the interstate system. He emphasized the need for fleet managers to address suspension issues, delays, and other challenges caused by poor road conditions.
We can’t control everything, and interstate construction is one of them. But fleet managers can prepare their drivers and operations to get ahead.
For example, salt damage due to harsh winters in states like Michigan impacts trucks. Fleet managers can prepare drivers to prevent maintenance issues and accidents.
Transitioning to Hydrogen: The Messy Middle
As fleet managers, we constantly seek ways to optimize our operations and reduce our environmental footprint.
Recently, more fleets are taking the plunge to transition to hydrogen-powered vehicles.
With their zero-emission nature and long-range potential, hydrogen-powered vehicles offer cleaner, greener alternatives.
Fleet managers can proactively choose hydrogen-fueled vehicles by evaluating the feasibility, infrastructure requirements, and long-term benefits. But it’s not always that easy.
Brian Thompson Jr., general manager of transportation DTG Recycle, is in the process of adding electric-hydrogen vehicles to his fleet. But he is in what the industry calls a “messy middle.”
One of the key concerns expressed during the meeting is that he wants to make the fleet more sustainable, but switching to EVs isn’t the perfect option for his heavy-hauling fleet. So another option is hydrogen-fueled trucks. But the infrastructure for hydrogen is not widespread yet — hence the term “messy middle.”
While fleet managers are still in the “wait and see” period of alt-fueled vehicles, Thompson advised them to exercise patience and closely monitor the progress to identify solutions that align with their fleet’s requirements.
Enhancing Fleet Safety Measures
Driver safety was another topic the Advisory Board brought up. If a reoccurring incident continues to happen with drivers, fleet managers must take immediate action to help prevent the incident from occurring again.
Recent rollover incidents on job sites have served as a wake-up call to the industry, prompting a renewed focus on enhancing safety measures.
Thompson is installing RollTek seats, which deploy side impact airbags to enhance driver protection. These advancements aim to mitigate potential risks and ensure a secure working environment. DTE’s fleet had a couple of rollover incidents, which Thompson took immediate action to help prevent.
“We've had a couple of rollover incidents on some job sites with some of our roll-off trucks. So now we're looking at RollTek seats, which are very useful. They have a side impact airbag deploy and remove the driver from the seat,” Thompson added.
Thinking Outside the Box with EV Adoption
Fleet managers throughout the U.S. ask themselves, will EVs meet my fleet's requirements?
As the industry evaluates the transition to electric vehicles, fleet managers grapple with the complexities associated with EV adoption.
Some challenges are the reliance on public charging infrastructure, which may not be suitable for work truck operations that require flexible charging options. Drivers who do not own homes and park their vehicles in shared spaces face additional hurdles in adopting electric vehicles.
Fleet managers are actively working to understand upcoming regulatory changes, particularly in regions like California, and develop strategies to maintain compliance while avoiding disruptions in service delivery.
Amy McAdams, CAFM, fleet manager, Farmer Brothers, shared her experience transitioning Farmer Brother’s fleet to sustainable vehicles.
“We’re trying to figure out how to plan the upcoming regulation changes. It is still a challenge. For instance, in California, how are we going to be able to be compliant and still operate and not have any disruption of services? We are also in the ’messy middle’ of waiting to see what kind of allocation we’ll get for medium-duty trucks and cargo vans,” McAdams explained.
McAdams advises those in the same predicament: Think outside the box. “We're starting to think outside the box on what our future will look like. The fleet industry is changing, and we must ensure we are ahead of the game to continue succeeding.”
Creating a Fleet Network of Support
The Work Truck Editorial Advisory Board meeting provided valuable insights into the industry’s challenges and opportunities. From the deteriorating quality of the interstate system to the complexities of transitioning to alternative-fueled vehicles, fleet managers are navigating a landscape that demands adaptability and forward-thinking strategies.
As the industry evolves, fleet managers are encouraged to think outside the box, embrace change, and share challenges with others to grow their support network.
The journey toward a more sustainable and efficient work truck industry requires collaboration, adaptability, and a forward-thinking mindset.