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Comment: What is the main challenge for fleet operators?

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Auto Futures and UK tech scale-up Immense teamed up to launch a poll titled “What is the main challenge for fleet operators?” exploring the main difficulties businesses are facing today, why things are changing and how fleets can adapt.

Shifting to a zero-emission fleet was found to be the biggest challenge facing fleets

Shifting to a zero-emission fleet was found to be the biggest challenge facing fleets

All over the world, large enterprises are operating thousands of vehicles and managing drivers across cities, states, and even countries. As you can imagine, this makes it incredibly difficult to manage, creating a wide range of unique challenges within fleet management.

Fleet managers play a crucial role in shaping the transportation revolution, combining new technologies and business models to revolutionise the way we live, work and move.

To find out more, Auto Futures and UK tech scale-up Immense teamed up to launch a poll titled “What is the main challenge for fleet operators?”. It looks at the main difficulties these businesses are facing today, including designing new services, identifying demand, transitioning to zero-emission vehicles and optimising existing fleets.

The results of the poll come before the official launch of the technology leader’s simulation platform, which not only enables the industry to reimagine the future of transport but also provides the opportunity to redevelop city infrastructure for good.

Designing a new service

As the way people move in urban ecosystems change, so will fleets. Conventional services are becoming dated and do not fit in with more modern ways of operating.

Consumers want on-demand services that can instantly react to their needs, from ride-sharing to ride-hailing. To cater to this new demand, fleet operators are shifting their focus to new service models.

In addition, the infrastructure around these services are changing (including electric charge points and maintenance locations), so it is important that businesses can configure their systems to align with new regulations and support future transport within cities.

Ultimately, there is a whole host of different questions that are happening at the same time, not to mention the behavioural response in transport due to the global pandemic. For the foreseeable future, there is no such thing as “business as usual.”

Utilising the historical data of existing operations is no longer enough; you need simulation technology such as Immense’s new platform to design the service of tomorrow to cater to this change.

Understanding demand

Putting more vehicles and drivers on the road is expensive, so it must be closely analysed to understand the fleet capacity actually required to meet demand.

However, demand does not occur evenly throughout the day, as there are many factors that can affect it, from predictable things such as commute hours and unpredictable things such as COVID-19.

Testing scenarios for future ridership is key. If not done correctly, it could be extremely costly as we either deploy too many vehicles not generating revenue or not enough vehicles that get overrun by competitors.

In this regard, decision-making is vital, which can be achieved through intelligent mobility simulation platforms, rapidly generating future transportation scenarios and valuable insights based on real events and datasets.

By staying a few moves ahead through simulation technology, fleet operators can make decisions in minutes, not months.

Shifting to zero-emission

The world is heading for a zero-emission future, but it is some way off. Fleets, much like any other business, cannot simply move over from petrol and diesel to electric vehicles. It can be detrimental to a business if not done correctly, due to increased capital expenditure and infrastructure constraints impacting fleet efficiency.

However, with simulation technology, operators can test the impact of electrifying their fleets and optimal ways to manage them, from building the appropriate charging infrastructure to developing successful charging strategies.

Operators must also not just think about the vehicle and infrastructure assets but the new collaborators required to support them, including partnerships and agreements with energy companies, automotive manufacturers and charge point operators.

Of course, the transition period will not be easy, but it can be highly-efficient if monitored and managed effectively.

Optimising existing fleets

It is extremely costly and, in many scenarios, risky to create a completely new service. Due to this, many businesses prefer to optimise their existing fleets, which allows them to improve operations while upscaling.

However, this is not without its disruptions. Conventional methods to optimise services take far too long and may actually become more complicated and inefficient than before.

To overcome this, fleet operators can use simulation platforms to test the impact of adjustments that can be made to improve the system, whilst maintaining efficiency. Once tested through this method, businesses can easily translate these changes into their business.

This will become essential as we start to see more integration of connected, autonomous, electric and shared transport in cities around the world.

So, what is the main challenge for fleet operators?

Well, the poll results were extremely interesting; mainly due to there being no single, standout challenge for fleet operators, which is not something you see often.

Despite not seeing a clear winner or loser, the investigation illustrates a range of common problems for fleet operators around the world.

Optimising existing fleet assets appears to be the least challenging problem for operators, with only 16.1% of the votes. This suggests that optimisation is a well-understood challenge with known solutions that have been developed and improved over several decades.

The marginal winner was shifting to a zero-emission fleet, capturing 29.2% of the vote. With very few successful zero-emission fleets operating today, it is understandable why this is a new challenge that is yet to be fully understood. As regulatory pressure grows, the focus on this challenge is only set to intensify.

“It’s a very interesting time for the sector and the industry because there are all sorts of disruptions and opportunities happening today,” said Immense CEO, Robin North. “Connectivity, electrification and shared transport are changing the way we move, for both consumers and businesses. It is transforming how we think about mobility and how we deliver it efficiently.”

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.

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