Keep On Truckin': How Fleets Are Driving Technological Innovation
August 03, 2023

Avi Feldman

Paraphrasing writer Stewart Brand's insightful comment, "If you're not driving the truck of innovation, you're part of the pavement." This captures the challenge faced by fleet operators. Although they are frequently misconceived as being conservative or change-resistant, these operators are in fact the vanguards of technological demand and early adopters in the mobility industry.

To maintain a competitive edge, commercial fleet operators prioritize efficiency, cost reduction, driver comfort, and sustainability — effectively steering the course of industry innovation. A recent study revealed that 94% of fleet managers in the UK are investing in new technologies to modernize operations and improve the driver experience.

By injecting capital into data analytics, AI, autonomous vehicles, and electric mobility, fleet operators are becoming catalysts for technological advancements that will shape the future of mobility.

Source: Frost & Sullivan

Embracing Advanced Fleet Management Technologies

By harnessing data analytics and AI, and integrating them with established technologies like GPS and telematics, a transformative wave is sweeping the fleet sector. This change facilitates task automation and real-time asset tracking, enhancing operational efficiency, championing sustainability, and, critically for fleet operators, cutting costs.

Amazon serves as a prime example of this shift, having fine-tuned its route planning via collaboration with 16 diverse third-party map vendors and the use of machine learning models. Consequently, trucks sidestep unnecessary idling in unfavorable traffic conditions, curbing wasteful fuel consumption. Meanwhile, drivers are supplied with optimized routes, bolstering safety and ensuring adherence to schedules.

Safety can also be reinforced through monitoring driver behavior using telematics. A telematics company has demonstrated an 80% reduction in risky driving behavior through behavior monitoring and vehicle health tracking. A major telecom company has taken safety measures a step further, introducing AI-backed dashcams to provide an additional protection for fleet vehicle drivers.

Moreover, AI and data analytics contribute tangible environmental benefits through advanced route optimization and predictive maintenance. Circuit, found that effective route planning could reduce CO2 emissions by 20% — FedEx, through technological optimization, targets carbon-neutrality by 2040. In terms of predictive maintenance, a 2023 report suggests that such systems could reduce vehicle downtime by 25%, keeping fleets running and mitigating costly repairs.

The marriage of AI and data analytics with fleet management has become a prerequisite for efficiency, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness. Fleets adopting these tools are reaping considerable benefits and securing a competitive edge in an increasingly data-driven industry.
Fleets are also leading the way in advancing autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, driving its evolution and gaining public acceptance.

Driving the Electrification of the Mobility Sector

Fleet operators are spearheading electric vehicle integration. A case in point is Amazon's commitment to deploying 100,000 EVs by 2030, marking the largest ever order of EVs and showcasing the vast scale of potential fleet-led EV adoption.

The adoption of medium and heavy-duty zero-emission trucks (ZETs) in the US is on a steady rise, with notable year-on-year market growth. This widespread adoption does more than just popularize EVs; it also propels the development of necessary infrastructure and industry best practices.
Take California, a state renowned for its embrace of EVs. It boasts over 80,000 public chargeing outlets, with plans underway to boost this number to 250,000 by 2025. This growth, fueled partly by fleet demand, will ease the transition for individual consumers considering EVs, enhancing their accessibility and convenience.

Fleets are charting the course for effective EV maintenance procedures. The more extensive fleet operators are spearheading these best practices, providing a roadmap for individual EV owners and smaller fleet operators. This will ultimately pave the way for more manageable and sustainable EV ownership.

Leveraging Customer Proximity to Drive Innovation

A fleet’s proximity to their consumer base provides a unique advantage in understanding and adapting to evolving consumer needs. It makes them well-positioned to introduce and diffuse new solutions in the mobility landscape.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many fleets quickly adjusted their operations to support last-mile delivery services, meeting the increased demand for online shopping. This agility and responsiveness highlight the crucial role of fleets in staying attuned to customer needs and driving innovation accordingly. Their emphasis on customer feedback and their ability to swiftly adapt to changing demands demonstrate their pivotal role as innovation catalysts.

Recognizing the Unsung Pioneers

While it is the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier-1 suppliers who are often credited as the driving force behind mobility innovations, fleets must be recognized as the unsung pioneers in shaping a more efficient, safe, and sustainable mobility future.

Their active adoption, implementation, and diffusion of new technologies, along with their proximity to consumers, make fleets invaluable in driving innovation and reshaping the mobility landscape. It is through their efforts that the industry continues to progress towards a more advanced and customer-centric transportation ecosystem. With 94% of fleet managers making active investments in new technology, fleets are not just passive implementers, but are active players in the ongoing mobility revolution.

Avi Feldman is Founder and Managing Partner of Mobilion