For fleet managers, cost and efficiency are major concerns, followed by driver retention. Recent trends in commercial trucks take both factors into consideration, seeking the middle ground where driver comfort and the efficiency of the tractors are acceptable for all parties.
Retaining qualified drivers requires concessions for comfort, and manufacturers such as Kenworth and Volvo are building such functionality in their latest designs. Computerized systems simplify tasks and increase accuracy, while accessory systems such as GPS, refrigerators and entertainment systems make trucks more appealing to drivers. Trucks are evolving, and fleet managers are being forced to weigh the pros and cons from the perspectives of cost, efficiency and maintenance.
Non-Essential Energy Loads
As drivers become more accustomed to their truck acting as mobile residences, there is a trade off in terms of providing the energy to power these parasitic loads. From ambient lighting to meals and entertainment, the battery in models is under a great deal of stress unrelated to logistics. The common solution is to plan for shorter battery life as part of the cost of driver retention, assuming that better, more powerful batteries will be deployed in the near future.
The return on investment is critical for fleet managers, and must be reconciled with company goals and driver retentions, as well as maintenance and efficiency. Because of this, the use of full service leasing companies is becoming more common, balancing the cost of the lease with the convenience and savings of all-inclusive maintenance packages. Approached from an informed perspective, leasing trucks is an acceptable alternative to ownership, offering reliable operations and enhanced comfort without the expense of high maintenance, including a reduction in downtime per vehicle.
Trucks are no longer the mobile islands they once were, causing greater concern over the security of data being generated. To combat this, major technology companies like Omnitracs and Zonar are employing state of the art security measures which are closely guarded and constantly revised.
The cost of fuel is paramount, as discussed in the Idle Reduction Solutions Confidence Report by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, or NACFE. The report looks at 19 potential solutions to the problem of engine idling, presenting solutions such as diesel- or battery-powered APUs and solar powered systems that can cut annual fuel costs up to $5,000.