Fleet Office & Driver Tips for Fleets Returning to the Road
With many U.S. states and Canadian provinces starting reopening procedures, it’s time to prepare your fleet. No two fleets will or should have the same plan; it varies based on location, industry, size, supplier availability and many other factors.
Here are some considerations for both the fleet office and drivers.
For the Fleet Office
Phased-in approach: States are providing guidance on how they plan on reopening businesses. Those approaches are often phased, based on whether the pandemic relief has reached a certain threshold. These strategies can provide a helpful foundation on how to restart your operations. However, it’s important to draft your own approach for resuming operations as to not reinstate drivers into an overburdened system.
For example, some fleets may first green light drivers that operate in an area that’s the least impacted, where perhaps the overall case count was low. This way you can make sure drivers have the support that’s needed to stay safe and productive. If there are any hiccups or learnings from this first wave, you can easily adjust and have an even cleaner rollout for the second group.
Acquisition planning: While most manufacturers have reopened plants, production will not hit pre-pandemic levels for some time; staffing at these facilities is reduced and hours are limited. Many plants are currently phasing in one shift and increasing production throughout the summer with full utilization expected by the fall.
This makes having a comprehensive acquisition plan even more important. Get a thorough sense of which vehicles need to be replaced this year and place orders with ample lead time. OEMs are extending the production timeframe of some model year 2020 vehicles to meet current orders. As a result, they may begin production of model year 2021 vehicles later than usual.
Maintenance planning: For those holding onto vehicles longer, you’ll need an extended preventative maintenance plan. Work with your fleet provider to determine which of these vehicles would benefit from the additional maintenance.
Personal Use: With higher than usual number of personal use miles incurred on corporate vehicles these past months, it is important for drivers to log and keep track of the appropriate business and personal miles on a regular basis. Work with your fleet management provider to review any personal use contribution amounts that may be assessed on a periodic basis and be sure to consult them on any questions regarding taxable fringe benefits.
Policy adjustments: Reports have mentioned that a second wave of the pandemic may happen, so it’s important to update your fleet policy to address some of the situations encountered thus far. For example, we saw the need to make adjustments to maintenance approval parameters if fleets end up keeping vehicles in service longer due to OEM shutdowns. Related, fleets need to ensure they have identified back-up approvers if the primary approvers are not available.
Additionally, fleets have encountered the need for toll transponder policies—whether managed in-house or with a fleet management company. We’ve seen several toll roads go all-electronic in the current situation, with the expectation that drivers without transponders will track and pay any missed tolls. Not surprisingly, this is both impractical and expensive. Many of those vehicles are getting violations, while those on a managed-toll program don’t have those challenges.
Fleets also need to think about how to respond to drivers if they feel that taking delivery of a vehicle or taking it in for maintenance will put them in harm's way.
By making changes now, your fleet policy can become your strongest defense during future disruptions.
Adjusting operational procedures: Take a cue from the essential businesses that have remained operational these past months on how to increase the safety of their drivers. Consider what interactions your drivers have with people and with surfaces and try to mitigate contact as much as possible. For example, you may want to require the use of gloves or discourage the use of certain tools that can’t easily be cleaned. Engage stakeholders in the process to ensure all considerations are taken to align with your core mission.
Planning ahead: Shops are operating in limited capacity making it more important to call ahead to check hours of operation and availability. When able, direct drivers to schedule an appointment to prevent extended downtime of the vehicle and loss of productivity. Additionally, drivers should ask what safety measures shops have in place prior to their arrival. As an example, masks are required in public spaces in many states.
Establishing cleaning procedures: Even when city, states and provinces return to their standard operating activities, drivers should still be on alert. For example, when fueling they should attempt to pay at the pump and disinfect hands before and after use. This extends to any interaction they may have to surfaces throughout the day.