How Digital is your Fleet Management
In January I had the chance to interview Jeff Schlesinger, CEO and President of LeasePlan USA. For those who don’t know Jeff, he’s been a leader in the fleet industry for more than a decade and if anything, his vision reflects conviction and knowledge. When asked what the top 3 priorities are for US-based fleet managers, he answered: Safety, TCO and Sustainability. Nothing spectacular, but very true, I am sure. I’m convinced that these three priorities also apply to Europe-based fleet managers and global fleet managers. Adding Digitisation of processes and Mobility Management would make a very popular top 5 in the international fleet community.
As long as fleet management has existed, reducing and managing costs has been high on the agenda of those who practice the profession. And this will not change, as companies will always have financial objectives and responsibilities bestowed upon them by shareholders and employees. What is changing, however, is the segmentation of the TCO pie: the discrepancies in the share of fuel, tax and insurance between electric vehicles and ICE cars will get bigger.
Corporate Social Responsibility policies, tax incentives and reduced fuel costs have fuelled awareness about sustainability in fleet management. A very positive sign, although there are major differences in maturity and environmental friendly approaches across the regions. But no global fleet manager will deny the importance of sustainable goals in the fleet programme, and fleet customers and their suppliers are finally taking serious steps towards electrification. There are two key issues there: it’s vital the energy source itself is renewable and that the transition towards zero-emission mobility is supported by an attractive and competitive supply offer, a well-implemented and reliable infrastructure and a legal framework that gives direction and clarity in the medium and long term.
Talking about TCO and CSR, safety is usually the first thing that pops up in our mind. In my opinion, safety should always be the number-one priority in corporate fleet management, as there are still too many road fatalities. It’s a cliché, but as clichés always hold an element of truth, it’s worth mentioning again: your employees are your most important assets. Safety increases productivity, employee satisfaction and reduces costs. Supported by tech development, fleet managers today have a plethora of possibilities and solutions to set up, implement and manage a holistic safety porgramme on a global level. And even though it might require investment, there is no excuse not to pay attention to safety.
Fleet management is ceding its place to mobility management. Do you know how many employees – and they don’t need to be eligible for a company car – take public transport, carpool with each other or use ride-hailing and car-sharing services? For a company the time has come to set up this mobility eco-system in a corporate perspective. And that task is both exciting and challenging. Exciting as it gives the fleet manager, or rather, mobility manager, the possibility to expand his horizon by setting up a programme that offers a wide variety of mobility solutions from new partners and for new customers as all employees will be involved. Challenging as the rise of new mobility players and the advancement in mobility solutions have to be carefully monitored and assessed. The availability and practicality of the solutions differ from country to country, and the road to cost-efficiency is not so straightforward as with vehicle fleet management.
But thankfully technology gives a helping hand in the shape of integrated platforms and apps, for both the mobility manager and the employees. Simultaneously with the shift from fleet to mobility management, TCO will become TCM. Indeed, the Total Cost of Mobility is a more complex way of dealing with mobility than TCO. But from a customer perspective, its high degree of flexibility holds the promise of becoming more customer-friendly, hence more cost-efficient than the old model.
The most important contributors to achieving these fleet priorities are digitisation and connectivity. The automation in our industry leads to a more efficient, real-time fleet, driver, employee and mobility management. It also makes the world smaller and easier to oversee.
With digitisation and connectivity, the fleet manager is evolving from a sort of middleman between demand and supply towards a strategic specialist responsible for mastering and implementing the mobility strategy to all employees.
In this new digitised mobility ecosystem volumes will become less important than flexibility. The smartest suppliers will offer easy to access solutions on one single platform directly to the end customer. These platforms will make money, not from the end user, but from the supply chain and from advertising. So, this could even mean that eventually fleet management as such will become entirely automated and free of charge.
Does this mean fleet managers will become redundant? Not at all. Their role will widen and become more strategic as all employees are involved and more internal stakeholders come into play. But if there is one thing they should understand, it’s that digitisation and connectivity are not only the technologies of tomorrow, but also the must-have tools in their job. So, let’s get Digital!
The challenges and opportunities in Global Fleet Management are at the centre of the 6th edition of the Global Fleet Conference in Rome, from 28 to 30 May. The Global Fleet Conference is the only forum designed specifically for global and regional decision makers of multinational companies from around the world to learn and exchange ideas about the topics impacting their international fleet and mobility strategy. Discover the programme details and registration information here.