What’s Trending in Truck Fleet Management?

Steve, what are some of the trends you are see­ing in the mar­ket­place?

First, I would say alter­na­tive fuels. We are being asked about every­thing from CNG to diesel fuel, as well as B5-B20, propane, elec­tric, alter­na­tive elec­tric over fuel. With fuel being fleets’ num­ber one expense, this is one area that they (fleets) are real­ly try­ing to home in on and try­ing to con­trol.

Telem­at­ics would be anoth­er trend that is very high on everyone’s list. The ques­tions that we are asked are “Will your telem­at­ics read hard stops, quick starts?” This ties back to fuel; they are using telem­at­ics to reduce fuel costs. “Can we bread­crumb? Can we see where my vehi­cle has been all day? Will your telem­at­ics read if there is an engine fail­ure? Will we get a fail code off the engine that we can see back on our PC with­out rely­ing on our dri­ver?” I would say telem­at­ics is the next big trend that I am see­ing.

Anoth­er trend that goes with­out say­ing and is becom­ing more and more of an issue is safe­ty. Not just safe­ty as a big pic­ture prob­lem, but spe­cif­ic issues like rear sens­ing and back­ing issues. Back­ing still remains the num­ber one prob­lem that fleets are hav­ing and the num­ber one cause of acci­dents. We are get­ting a lot of calls about spec’ing a back­ing cam­era and oth­er types of back­ing alarm devices. These warn­ing devices help pre­vent dri­vers from back­ing over mail box­es, oth­er cars and more impor­tant­ly pedes­tri­ans and pets.

Anoth­er trend is appli­ca­tion selec­tion. By that, I mean buy­ing the right vehi­cle for the right appli­ca­tion. Before, fleet man­agers would buy a fleet of 350s, 3500s, a one ton pick­up. Now, they are going back, ana­lyz­ing and say­ing that dri­vers don’t real­ly need that big of a vehi­cle, let’s get him a 150, or let’s get him a small­er van instead of a full sized van. Clients are start­ing to real­ly focus on get­ting the right vehi­cles for the job instead of hav­ing one spec avail­able to every­one so that nobody is upset because they have a big­ger truck or a small­er truck. Here again, back to fuel — if you don’t have to dri­ve the large truck why don’t I buy you a small­er truck and save on fuel costs.

And the last one, being dri­ven more from the finan­cial side of the com­pa­nies, is a fixed term lease. CFOs like this type of lease for a cou­ple of rea­sons: when they are fore­cast­ing they are able to fore­cast the same amount for 60 months that the vehi­cle is in ser­vice and they are also able to take advan­tage of low rates for the next 5 years. They know exact­ly what the lease cost is going to be. This has real­ly grown in pop­u­lar­i­ty; and is a prod­uct that we do real­ly well at Donlen. Ulti­mate­ly, providers have to do a very good job at pro­vid­ing the right solu­tions.

What are some of the oth­er issues that your clients are bring­ing to you?

Many of our clients are ask­ing for our help on under­stand­ing fleet data, and how to lever­age the data that is in front of them. Our Strate­gic Con­sult­ing team ana­lyzes our clients’ data. They extrap­o­late data from fuel to fleet age to repairs as well as how long it takes to get a pre­ven­tive main­te­nance done, how long it has been between pre­ven­tive main­te­nance cycles and if they are over­due for main­te­nance. With oil being the lifeblood of the vehi­cle, we can help clients iden­ti­fy if the oil is being changed at 5,000 miles like it is called for, or are they let­ting it go to 7,500 miles? Ulti­mate­ly you can have some fail­ures that you shouldn’t nor­mal­ly have.

Our Strate­gic Con­sult­ing group does a phe­nom­e­nal job. They can help with cycle times and they can show that PM repairs are high­er because PMs are not done as rec­om­mend­ed. We have so much fleet data out there it can be over­whelm­ing if not ana­lyzed cor­rect­ly. A lot of the com­pa­nies that we work with want to take advan­tage of their ana­lyt­ics so our Strate­gic Con­sult­ing group ana­lyzes, and rec­om­mends solu­tions to prob­lems that are vis­i­ble specif­i­cal­ly through the data.

Anoth­er issue that clients have chal­lenges with is toll man­age­ment. Dif­fer­ent states have dif­fer­ent tolling sys­tems. Does a dri­ver receive a 5 dol­lar bill at the begin­ning of the day and the com­pa­ny col­lects what­ev­er is left? Do we let him pay $3.00 dur­ing the day and reim­burse them? Dif­fer­ent states have dif­fer­ent tolling sys­tems. With a toll man­age­ment pro­gram, cus­tomers can track expens­es.

We get a lot of cus­tomers ask­ing us if they are pay­ing too much for the repairs by not being on a main­te­nance pro­gram. “I know a fleet man­age­ment com­pa­ny can prob­a­bly do a bet­ter job… prove it to me.” We have an entire main­te­nance team com­prised of mas­ter mechan­ics and world mechan­ics for truck and cars that are all ASE cer­ti­fied mechan­ics. They are on the phone advis­ing on appro­pri­ate repairs and nego­ti­at­ing the price of every repair with the ven­dor. As an exam­ple, a ven­dor will call in with a pick­up truck that needs an alter­na­tor. He will talk to our ASE cer­ti­fied mechan­ic who at one time could have been the mechan­ic on the oth­er end of the phone. He may have even worked for an OEM. He used to work with alter­na­tors and he knows every­thing that the ven­dor is call­ing about. He knows exact­ly what they are talk­ing about. So, if the guy wants $400.00 for the alter­na­tor and says it will take three hours to change it, our team says stop, wait a minute, let’s dis­cuss this.

I will men­tion that with our FleetWeb plat­form, we can track all POs as well as any activ­i­ty that affects clients’ vehi­cles. When our tech­ni­cians type in ‘alter­na­tor,’ they auto­mat­i­cal­ly can see the cost of alter­na­tors on that vehi­cle type with­in the same geo­graph­ic area. This includes labor. Our tech­ni­cians then go back to the mechan­ic on the phone and advise him that we only paid $250.00 for the last ten repairs, and that the $400.00 quote needs to be adjust­ed. Our clients then will be able to see the data and they are con­fi­dent that the sav­ings are gen­er­al­ly bet­ter than they real­ized just because we have pro­fes­sion­al tech­ni­cians talk­ing to a mechan­ic on the oth­er line. That is kind of what peo­ple are com­ing to us for.

What do you believe sets Donlen apart from the com­pe­ti­tion?

What sets Donlen apart from some of the oth­er fleet main­te­nance com­pa­nies are our peo­ple. I remem­ber when I start­ed at Donlen; I was so impressed with the cus­tomer ser­vice focus that res­onates through­out the whole com­pa­ny. We can track all of the ques­tions that our clients have called in with and any­body in our com­pa­ny can answer our clients’ ques­tions quick­ly and accu­rate­ly. I have done this type work for a long time and this is one of the great­est groups of peo­ple that I think I have worked with. Cer­tain­ly, our peo­ple set us apart in the indus­try.


Steve Jansen, Direc­tor, Truck Fleet Ser­vices, Donlen

Steve Jansen has more than 35 years of expe­ri­ence in the trans­porta­tion are­na. He has held a vari­ety of posi­tions that includ­ed respon­si­bil­i­ty for more than 4,000 dri­vers, 850 mechan­ics, and labor con­tract nego­ti­a­tions, as well as Gen­er­al Man­ag­er for a large trail­er deal­er­ship.
He holds a CTP cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the Nation­al Pri­vate Truck Coun­cil, Haz­ardous Mate­r­i­al cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and has suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed TMI’s COURSE III — Heavy trucks and trac­tors.

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