How Fleets Can Adapt to Operational Changes During COVID-19 & Position for Success After The Pandemic

by John Flynn

John Flynn, founder and CEO of Fleet Advantage, a leasing and technology company that specializes in truck fleet business analytics, equipment financing and lifecycle cost management, has more than 30 years of experience in the Class 8 truck industry.

Truck Utilization Data Even More Important Today When Helping Fleets Adapt to New Environment


The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the entire world with ripple effects being felt throughout the global economy. Data discussed at a recent forum at UC Berkeley show the vast extent of the COVID-19 pandemic, as forecasters believe as much as a third of the U.S. economy may be shuttered, and real unemployment reaching 25%.

Washington has responded with a $2 trillion relief package, and the Federal Reserve Board recently announced $2.3 trillion of extra-economic relief for small businesses and local governments.

The essential link to keeping America moving and open for business are the thousands of transportation fleets and drivers being called upon to deliver food and critical health items to the estimated 350 million Americans.

In doing so, fleets must quickly respond and mobilize to accommodate existing and new transportation routes in an efficient manner and, most importantly, figure out a way to keep drivers and customers safe from the pandemic itself.

Taking A Broad Look at the Current Situation

Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19, and it has caused significant challenges to transportation fleets. The transport of food and health/sanitary items such as cleaning supplies and paper towels have also placed new strains on the supply chain. Transportation fleets are having to scrutinize significant preventative measures needed to ensure the health and safety of customers, drivers, and everyone that is in contact with goods that are transported and delivered.

Transportation fleets must rely on their asset management partners to ensure that trucks continue to operate as efficiently as possible in order to safely deliver food and essential goods during the COVID-19 health pandemic and containment efforts.

The timely transport and safe delivery of these critical items are paramount to helping Americans get through this pandemic, and these companies are working around the clock to ensure fleets and their customers have the support they need to deliver these goods. Some asset management partners are specifically helping by coordinating the delivery of new truck units with the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to fleets that have an immediate need to accommodate additional shipments of critical supplies. These partners are also helping to coordinate with fleets that have new equipment deliveries that have been disrupted due to plant suspensions or supply chain disruptions for the delivery of these new units.

 Keeping Drivers Safe and Trucks Clean

There are several considerations for drivers, as well as ways to help keep them safe during the current Coronavirus outbreak and containment efforts. There are many issues in focus on the health and wellbeing of each driver, such as where and how drivers will eat and take rests on the road. It is also important to monitor and focus on the daily disinfecting and cleaning of each truck and trailer, as well as the interaction with the maintenance departments on repairing units. These necessary steps help ensure the safety of not only drivers but also the technicians needed to properly maintain and keep trucks on the road.

 Properly Maintained Trucks Keep Running – Important to the Supply Chain

Because many trucks are running around the clock to transport essential items promptly, keeping vehicles maintained has never been more important. Fleets should be leveraging critical data to keep track of maintenance trends and milestones to keep trucks safely operating to ensure on-time deliveries and prevent unwanted breakdowns while using data to prioritize necessary repairs and preventative maintenance measures.

Maintenance and repair (M&R) is traditionally a large expense for fleets. Given the current circumstances, additional M&R costs from trucks that are not properly maintained can further erode a fleet’s financial picture in a time when the economic situation has placed enormous strain on transportation fleets.

 Fleets Building More Flexibility into their Daily Programs

It’s very important that transportation fleets recognize they must be as flexible as possible with their own business models. With the closing of restaurants, especially, many food distributors need to reallocate their trucks and resources to help with the demand on the grocery side. This has created a shift in some fleets and the way they approach their own business and driver programs.

Some fleets are suddenly in need of additional trucks to help keep up with increased capacity demand. These are immediate needs, and the structure of their truck deal needs to be flexible to meet this urgent demand, but also allow them to return the asset when the impact of the current circumstances return to normal, which is an unknown at this point.

One option that works well in this type of scenario would be a sale leaseback agreement. A fleet can select the assets that are older models, which are inefficient and more unreliable, and work with a firm that can purchase those assets and lease them back for an interim period and then transition to new equipment when ready. This would enable the fleet to generate cash. The cash gained can then be used for immediate internal needs or simply provide extra working capital.

 Where Fleets Are Leveraging Data for Optimization

Because of these adaptations, routes and typical business patterns have shifted for many trucks and drivers. As a result, fleet organizations must leverage truck utilization data daily, load percent capacity, driver wellness, and other KPI’s to monitor the efficiency and optimization of each unit. While it’s important to take an “all hands-on deck” approach to helping deliver goods and items promptly, fleets need to keep an eye on truck utilization to maintain the right lifecycle management of each unit in the long term.

Additionally, it is essential to have advanced data feed capabilities that upload in real-time compared with backward-looking data that only looks at the previous month’s data. This is crucial for managing through items such as mileage, MPG, idle time, routing, and driver hours, and it will allow fleets to most efficiently navigate through the extraordinary pace of changes due to COVID-19.

Learning from COVID-19 and Positioning for Long-Term Success

With this knowledge, transportation fleets can quickly and successfully adapt to their changing requirements, keep drivers and customers safe from the additional spreading of the COVID-19, and adequately maintain trucks while preserving as much of their bottom line as possible while we all help each other through this time of uncertainty.

But it is important that fleets remain focused on the larger picture, with long-term business strategies in mind. Proactive fleets that may have been considering modernizing their fleet and updating their equipment will realize that this is an opportune time to analyze the age of their assets and plan for the recovery. Fleets should recognize that pent-up demand will eventually be realized further stimulated by additional government stimulus packages. Therefore, transportation fleets will need to be prepared to accommodate with updated equipment that offers advanced safety features at all-time low rates, providing significant savings in operational costs.

About The Author: John Flynn is Chief Executive Officer of Fleet Advantage, a leading innovator in truck fleet business analytics, equipment financing and lifecycle cost management. For more information please visit   


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