Challenges around selecting the right vehicle for the job have always existed, so fleet management hasn’t really changed too much during my 21 years in the industry—with the exception of vehicles being more expensive today, of course, and also how technology impacts fleets. In California, where I’m based, the fleet industry isn’t that much different when compared to the rest of the states, apart from the higher demand for electric vehicles and attitudes about self-driving technology. The West Coast tends to have more ‘early adopters,’ and so it’s easier for them to pick up on trends like self-driving cars, for instance.
Unique considerations for managing electric vehicles
Electric vehicles have become a popular choice by some companies today, but managing them is completely different from managing gas-powered vehicles. For companies considering electric vehicles for their fleets, one of the most important things to consider first is the availability of charging stations across the city or state, and whether each driver would need a charging station at their house as well. Even with this extra challenge, I have some customers who only consider electric vehicles for their fleets.
In this instance, a cost-benefit analysis of electric vehicles vs. gas vehicles vs. hybrid vehicles could be carried out to help customers understand which option is best for them. While an electric vehicle would be more expensive up front, its operating costs would be much lower throughout the life of the vehicle.
Perception of self-driving cars in California
While I think the idea of electric vehicles for fleets is starting to take off more broadly—this isn’t so much the case for self-driving vehicles. In California, of course it is, but in most other states, not so much. The perception of self-driving cars is a positive one in California and people here tend to embrace it more wholeheartedly—and I’m all for it because I think computers can drive safer than people! Think of the number of people who drive distractedly on a daily basis—it’s a lot. Computers can perhaps drive the streets far better (from a safety perspective) than us humans.
People simply don’t pay attention when they’re driving these days. That said, while the autonomous features in self-driving vehicles are good, there’s still a long way to go. In relation to the fleet industry, it has yet to be determined whether or not these will have a major impact. The important thing for fleet management companies, and for fleet managers, is that we change with the technology and that we are open to new ideas.
I actually recently attended the 2018 National Vehicle Leasing Association (NVLA) Conference in California, and one topic of interest was about manufacturers’ up-and-coming products. Specifically, there were discussions around electric vehicles, connected vehicles, self-driving vehicles, and the impact that technology has on the industry. It will definitely be interesting to keep a close eye on the changes, and to understand how these may affect the industry.