Obvious, but true

Focusing on what really matters can make everyone a winner

There’s a new survey out that finds the chief concern of fleet managers is maximizing productivity. They rank working to generate better productivity from their fleet as more important than meeting cost savings goals or understanding the impact of new technology.

In fact, productivity was named as the primary concern almost twice as often as cost control and technology education.

That finding shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with running a truck fleet. After all, businesses invest precious capital in trucks to handle essential work, whether it be carrying freight for profit, supporting a core business with transportation resources, or providing a way to deliver field service.

Nearly one-third of those surveyed identified spec’ing the right truck for the job as the most important element in getting maximum productivity from a fleet. Again, not a surprise. And since it was conducted by GE Capital Fleet Services, you also won’t be surprised to hear that nearly the same percentage indicated that spec’ing the right truck was the most valued service that could be provided by a fleet management company, followed by tracking downtime and reducing total cost of ownership.

To summarize, then, fleet managers told GE they want to get the most work out of their trucks at the lowest cost possible. While it sounds obvious when you put it like that, this is a basic tenet of fleet management that should shape every management decision you make. But that’s not easy when faced with the daily pressures and demands created by customers, regulators and even society.

Sometimes, though, those external forces and your mandate to deliver maximum productivity at the lowest cost can actually be complementary. Take rising fuel prices and sustainability.

I’ve just come across a second survey, this one conducted by a fleet management division of Trimble, among field service operations in the U.K. It identifies rising fuel costs as the number one concern among those fleets. In a separate question, two-thirds of the responding fleets said they expect social and regulatory efforts aimed at fostering environmental sustainability to have “a significant effect on their businesses moving forward.”

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the major sustainability issue for truck operations, with the Trimble study reporting that 280 million commercial vehicle fleets operating worldwide generate 5.75% of the world’s GHG emissions, primarily in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). And it projects those fleet numbers will grow to 400 million by 2020.

The best way for fleets to cut CO2 and meet the growing demand for lower GHG emissions is to use less fuel. Some of the reduction will come from new truck technologies like those we’re already seeing here in the U.S. as we near our own 2014 GHG mandate.

But Trimble’s survey finds that some will also come from operational changes like better route planning that lie outside of vehicle emissions mandates. Why? Because those changes will allow fleets to be more productive while helping them offset rising costs. Whether it’s trucks that use less fuel or fleets that run fewer unproductive miles, fleets will reap tangible benefits from their contributions to environmental sustainability.

Going forward, let’s hope trucking fosters the creativity and talent to find similar ways to serve both its need for ever increasing productivity with the general public’s desire for solutions to big issues like economic development, highway safety and unemployment.

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