If 2022 felt like another challenging year, 2023 likely will too. Now is an ideal time to learn from the past year and use those insights to prepare for the next. We asked Travis Lachinski, vice president Fleet and Aviation Product Management at U.S. Bank, for his predictions on the key concerns fleet managers will be dealing with in the new year—and can prepare for now.
MWS: WHAT TOP PROBLEM IS LIKELY TO CARRY OVER INTO 2023?
LACHINSKI: Fuel price fluctuations. They have wreaked havoc on budgets and will continue to do for the foreseeable future. Many fleet managers seek discounts to drive down the price their drivers pay to keep their tanks full. But increasingly, savvy fleet managers realize discounts don’t go far enough to contain costs.
Any high-priced supplier can offer discounts and still not be the lowest available resource. It takes a more sophisticated sourcing strategy to find the consistently lowest price. Fleet managers are turning to data mapping at the enterprise level and intuitive mobile apps at the driver level to achieve the lowest possible pricing.
Beyond supporting these tech-forward approaches, at U.S. Bank, we also work with fleet managers to hone their fuel networks to give more negotiating leverage. We take an overall perspective to understand where the fuel spend is and whether drivers are operating within the preferred fueling network. Reporting or scorecards are effective at measuring success; putting card controls in place to require drivers to use merchants in their fuel network ensures success.
MWS: WHAT NEW CHALLENGES ARE ON THE HORIZON?
LACHINSKI: The counterpart to high fuel prices is the push for electric vehicle (EV) adoption. EV adoption is seemingly everywhere but for fleet managers, the conversion probably raises more questions than answers at this point. What kind of equipment is needed? How much power is needed to support a fleet’s charging stations? How often will drivers need to charge? Do they need to charge at home? How will they be compensated for that?
As with any great shift toward a new norm, it’s helpful to understand what others are thinking and doing. U.S. Bank partners with EV experts to offer innovation sessions and journey mapping to provide actionable integration insights. It’s clear the transition is coming. Now is the time to understand how to integrate EV with minimal expense and disruption to yield maximum benefits.
MWS: LACK OF NEW VEHICLES HAS BEEN AN ISSUE. ANY ADVICE IF THAT CONTINUES?
LACHINSKI: Dealership inventories are increasing. That’s the good news. But the replenished stock comes with a high sticker price. A holdover from 2022 will be the need to maintain a fleet much longer than in the past. With the higher new-car costs, it will likely be most affordable to focus on repairs instead of replacement.
Fleet managers need the flexibility of choosing the maintenance shop best equipped to provide cost-effective, reliable service. That’s why many use the Voyager Mastercard, accepted at virtually any maintenance merchant in the Voyager network, which we own and operate with more than 320,000 retail, truck stops, and maintenance provider locations across the United States.
It’s more important than ever to have the flexibility to get the service you need when you need it—with full line of sight into every expense. Beyond repairs, drivers can use the Voyager Mastercard for any fuel-related expenses such as unexpected hotel stays when the weather or other surprises interrupt business as usual. This kind of peace of mind can be important when recruiting new drivers to help address staffing shortages that many fleets have faced in the past year.
MWS: HOW ELSE CAN A FLEET MANAGER ANTICIPATE OR EVEN AVOID CHALLENGES IN THE YEAR AHEAD?
LACHINSKI: To manage a fleet cost effectively and efficiently, fleet managers need data how and when it best serves them. Many have their own fleet management system. Others want to tap into the U.S. Bank portal. Either way, fleet managers need reliably relevant insights at their fingertips.
To enable a seamless data exchange, even before but also during the pandemic, we invested in API development to enable easy integration with fleet management systems. We are also reimagining our portal to make it even easier to use. The result: streamlined data syncs from telematics to driver updates. This makes it simple to add a driver, remove a driver, monitor driver behavior, identify the lowest-price fuel through real-time alerts, and more—in seconds from the fleet manager’s preferred technology platform.
MWS: ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE YEAR AHEAD?
LACHINSKI: Definitely. Even with fluctuating fuel prices, limited vehicle inventories, and ongoing staffing shortages, more than ever, fleet managers have innovative tools to create opportunities for greater success. Whether a fleet is large or small, there are innovative strategies that give fleet managers greater control over costs, drivers, and their overall fleet stability. One exciting innovation introduced in 2022 that will gain increasing importance in the years ahead is creating a tokenization for our Voyager card.
Tokenization replaces the number printed on the card with an alphanumeric key that contains no sensitive data and no exploitable value during a transaction, which paves the way for mobile and other cardless transactions. Basically, it enables a driver to use cardless payments for tolls, EV charging, or at truck scales, easily, securely, and with complete accountability.
These innovations together with the enhanced controls that fleet managers can now command help make the most of each opportunity for success while preparing for and preventing costly challenges.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Travis Lachinski is the vice president Fleet and Aviation Product Management at Corporate Payment Systems. Find out more, visit www.usbank.com/transportation-solutions/fleet.