This COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, and fleet managers are making changes to their operations that are also unprecedented. Many are turning to their emergency plans for guidance, but they’re likely still creating new policies and procedures as the crisis unfolds.
I spoke at a webinar recently and was asked an interesting question: What changes has the fleet industry made due to the pandemic that may be here to stay?
One thing I’ve seen is the need for information and fleet professionals banding together more than ever to ask for and share information. They want to know what cleaning products and policies others are using, what they’re doing to keep employees safe, impacts to fleet budgets, and other operational concerns.
Members from fleet associations are talking to each other to share ideas; fleet professionals have been interacting more with us, ranging from a high interest in the COVID-19 related webinars we’ve produced, to discussions on FleetShare about cleaning supplies and procedures, to fleet managers e-mailing me about what they’re doing. This reinforces the fact that industry connections are now more important than ever before.
While face-to-face meetings are on hold, one thing I’m seeing is that people seem to be adjusting to online meetings and conferences. And this means some new processes may stick around.
A fleet manager told me he began virtual vehicle inspections, which prevents him from having to send technicians out-of-state to perform them. For the time being, this protects them from having to fly and interacting with a whole new set of people, but after the pandemic, it’s a potential time- and money-saver if the results turn out well.
Zoom meetings may become much more common, and I can see the appeal and time savings of not attending an in-person meeting. As everyone gets more used to video chats with their friends, family, and colleagues, more meetings could be conducted virtually in the long term.
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is now allowing technicians to extend their certification expiration dates via a phone app so they don’t have to go to testing centers. If this extends past the pandemic, it could be a bonus for technicians.
Many people have had to adjust to working from home. It may be a welcome experience for some and not quite so welcome for others. But many fleet operations (and companies) have previously not allowed working from home, and I wonder if this experience will encourage them to be more flexible with office staff.
Another consideration is whether this will change the way customer departments use vehicles. Just as fleet employees are getting more used to video calls, could utilization of certain vehicles (such as motor pool cars) decrease as people change their work habits?
Fleet managers are preparing for a recession and a decrease in capital budgets. This probably means fewer vehicle purchases, but I wonder if the makeup of vehicles being procured will also change. For example, will fleet professionals still be able to prioritize purchasing alternative and “clean” fuel vehicle options that usually have higher up-front costs?
In our pandemic coverage (see page 10), we discussed the fact that drones are now being used to disperse crowds and provide messages. If this continues and is expanded, we may see a rise in drone use within police departments. And a waste industry expert predicts that public agencies may look into purchasing more automated side loaders in the future.
What are some changes you made that you’ll keep in place?
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