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Wide-ranging survey finds fuel costs the top concern among fleets

March 2, 2023
Diesel and gas prices are influencing 23% of the Teletrac Navman survey respondents to explore converting to alternative fuels such as electric power, though they say constrained EV supplies and charging infrastructure worries are holding them back.

A new survey by telematics software provider Teletrac Navman that polled operators of more than 1,800 fleets shows that rising fuel costs (39%), disruptions due to COVID-19 (32%), and supply chain pressures (31%) are the top challenges these fleets face.

“The last 12 months have created new complexities for fleets, but fuel cost rises are the No. 1 concern for operators globally,” Teletrac Navman President and CEO Alain Samaha said in a release about the survey results. “As the cost per gallon of fuel spiked throughout last year, many operators looked to overcome the rising costs with driver behavior programs and EV transition plans.”

Teletrac Navman conducted the survey of fleet operators across North America, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Latin America.

See also: Diesel price declines reach fourth week

In the U.S., the average price for diesel fuel has dropped about 30 cents per gallon in the last month and declined this week, the week of Feb. 27, another 8.2 cents to $4.294 a gallon. But prices for U.S. trucking’s main fuel reached historic highs last summer and only began easing in the fall. The U.S. average still is 19 cents above its level of a year ago, but the year-ago amount was around $1.50 higher per gallon at points in 2022, according to the U.S Energy Information Administration.

According to the Teletrac Navman survey, high fuel costs are motivating fleets (23% of them) to begin the conversion process to other means of powering their commercial vehicles, though challenges remain with low electric-vehicle supplies, the prices to purchase them, and charging infrastructure availability, cost, and reliability concerns.

But about one-third (32%) of the survey respondents did say that the conversion to next-gen fuels is one of their largest areas of expense (second only to purchasing new vehicles), so the survey indicates they are pushing ahead on alternative power despite the many obstacles.

Struggle of EV transition evident in findings

Conversion also is high on the agenda of fleet owners due to concerns about the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels, according to the survey. More than a third (41%) said the environmental impact is their biggest concern about the current economic environment. Outside of transitioning to next-gen fuels—of which 30% said they are looking to transition to EVs in the next 12 months—maintenance of existing vehicles continued to be the largest expense for 39% of survey respondents.

“With supply chain issues continuing to impact EV vehicle availability and cost, some fleets are struggling to start the transition and are having to find ways to safely extend vehicle life through preventive maintenance and more conscientious use on the road,” said Mayank Sharma, Teletrac Navman’s head of global product management and user experience.

“However, those with the available capex to be early movers to EVs could gain a competitive advantage as they won't be exposed to any further rising petrol or diesel costs [and] they'll be reducing their environmental impact, which is coming more into play in customer contracts and will likely benefit from government grants and subsidies that will later be removed,” Sharma added.

Use of telematics solutions nearly universal

Over the course of 2023, fleets are looking to invest in expanding their offerings through technological integrations (48% of survey respondents) while more than a third (39%) also are using technology to aid compliance, according to the Teletrac Navman release. Improving customer experience (39%) and recruiting and retaining drivers (31%) also were high on the list of planned investments for the next year, according to the respondents.

Nearly all (98%) also said they were using either a sourced or manufacturer-provided telematics solution across their fleets. While vehicle tracking (43%) was the No. 1 reason for utilizing telematics, survey respondents said managing driver performance (33%) was their next priority, followed by using the data technology for proof of service/job completion (32%) and for monitoring fuel usage (30%) in tough economic conditions.

See also: Fueling future fleets is just another problem trucking can solve

Regarding driver performance, improved driver safety (37%) was the biggest benefit of using telematics, with nearly a quarter of the respondents (24%) stating it helped prevent fatigue behind the wheel. Moreover, 89% of those surveyed used telematics to benchmark driver behavior, with 91% seeing a reduction in accidents and 24% implementing new driver behavior to help navigate high fuel costs. And with 31% of global fleets concerned about increasing wage demands in a cost-of-living crisis, 37% are using benchmarking to provide performance-based bonuses in a bid to retain their drivers, according to the survey.

“Driver performance benchmarking is a great method of inspiring drivers to perform better and safer on the road,” Sharma added. “And with the growth in mobile applications, it has never been easier for drivers to see how they are performing against targets and peers. In fact, 40% of our respondents say that implementing telematics has helped to build a safe driving culture within their organizations.”

About the Author

Scott Achelpohl | Managing Editor

I'm back to the trucking and transportation track of my career after some time away freelancing and working to cover the branches of the U.S. military, specifically the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Coast Guard. I'm a graduate of the University of Kansas and the William Allen White School of Journalism there with several years of experience inside and outside business-to-business journalism. I'm a wordsmith by nature, and I edit FleetOwner magazine and our website as well as report and write all kinds of news that affects trucking and transportation.

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