2023: 5 Things to Watch in Fleet + Field
2022 was a big year in Fleet and Field, with major upgrades to our integrated Field Service Management (FSM) suite, the launch of our Skilled Trades Scholarship Program and our definitive Field Service Management How-To. 2023 promises to be another exciting year and the GPS Insight team’s Magic 8-ball sees several key emerging themes for the industry that will impact your business.
1. Government & Regulatory Issues
Government and regulatory issues have some of the deepest impacts on fleet and field, so adjusting for current mandates and/or getting ahead of possible new regulations are crucial to the success of your business.
Beginning on January 1, 2023, Canada’s Electronic Logging Device (ELD) compliance mandates are now active. Fleet and field service companies need tools that can accurately and efficiently track hours-of-service (HOS) records.
The right ELD solution allows easier, more accurate HOS records. It monitors a vehicle’s engine and catalogs important data, such as whether the engine is running, if the vehicle is moving, miles driven and engine hours. These tools safeguard your fleet, eliminate burdensome and time-consuming paperwork and ensure full Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance. The goal is to create a safer work environment for drivers and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of RODS data.
Another key issue for 2023 will be taking advantage of competitive contracts wherever possible.
RFPs are tedious, time-consuming and repetitive. They require a lot of labor and often take weeks or months to complete. Cooperative contracts complete all the same steps as your procurement team would complete if you were doing this bid yourself. They can help you maximize your purchasing power and create a simpler, more efficient and effective contract bidding process that saves time and money.
Cooperative contracts are good across the country, are good for four years and can be utilized by awarded suppliers and dealers as part of their dealership network. Through cooperative purchasing contracts, government organizations can perform greater advance diligence, interview potential vendors, participate in product demos with vendors, or even conduct pilots long before the writing of the document stage.
On the environmental front, expect “right-sizing” to continue to grow in importance this year.
According to a recent study conducted by GPS Insight and World Business Research, nearly half of Field Service Leaders consider reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their field service operations one of their most important environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives. For most field service organizations, the biggest impact that they have environmentally is the size of their fleet. With extremely high fuel prices, reducing emissions is aligned with reducing costs, as well as benefiting the environment. Right-sizing your fleet is critical to reducing fuel use and one of the key steps to implementing a successful ESG program.
Right-sizing economizes assets while maintaining the right amount to be operationally efficient. Understanding whether you have too many or too few vehicles—or whether you have the right types of vehicles for current and future needs—is fundamental to your operation. By reducing maintenance and fuel costs, it also ensures a more efficient, cost-effective fleet for your current and future needs.
2. Workforce Management
While progress is being made, the shortage of trained drivers and field techs will continue to be a major challenge in the year ahead.
According to the American Trucking Association, the nation’s truck driver shortage dropped from 80,000 to 78,000 in 2022. Small drop, but every bit helps. Unfortunately, the industry has lost 6% of its workers since the pandemic began and recruiting and retention issues could raise the driver shortage to truly dangerous levels. Experts warn the driver shortfall could increase to 160,000 drivers by 2030, with the industry needing to add 1 million new drivers over the next 10 years.
Thankfully, one provision of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan is developing a new pipeline of skilled drivers across the country. A new pilot program allowing qualified 18- to 20-year-old drivers to not only obtain their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), but to also begin driving cargo across state lines. Under current law in 49 states, plus the District of Columbia (Hawaii stands alone), drivers under 21 can obtain a CDL but are limited to working only intrastate. The new FMCSA apprenticeship pilot program is intended to train thousands of new drivers.
Recruiting and retaining skilled field service technicians also worsened significantly during the pandemic. The accelerating pace of loss of experienced workers combined with a historic inability to attract younger, tech-savvy workers, makes for one of the greatest threats to the future of the industry.
A 2022 Service Council survey reported that only 54% of field technicians anticipated staying in their current role as a career so, even as there is already a struggle to keep a full plate of field techs, a potential exodus lies just around the corner. In fact, within three to four years the field service industry will likely witness 40% of field service engineers depart.
With this crisis shadowing the industry, how can field services attract to acquire and retain top talent? Technology.
Millennials and Gen Z have different expectations of the companies they work for when compared to previous generations. Younger workers want to join an industry that is innovative and utilizing the latest technology and they will avoid careers that appear to be “old tech.”
Unfortunately, the perception lingers that field service is old-school, blue-collar and tech adverse. In fact, it is rapidly becoming much more of a high-tech, white-collar skills job but, until perception matches reality, field service companies will be forced to do more with less to ensure both a quality work experience and quality customer service. The industry must take distinct steps—upskilling, reskilling and combating false impressions—to stem the talent outflow and increase the talent inflow to create a more stable future.
Utilizing innovative, agile tech field service management solutions not only helps recruit and retain technicians, but they also drastically reduce time spent on reporting while increasing visibility into field operations. Field service reporting software provides advanced analytics capable of flexible and dynamic reports that develop deeper insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your overall field service processes. Field service management software such as Smart Scheduler optimizes field technicians’ schedules based on their skills, experience, location, and more. It provides the optimal schedule at the click of a button and dramatically reduces the burden of technician management on your staff at the office.
The right technology can help mitigate staffing gaps, maximize efficiency and improve field service effectiveness in your organization.
Stay Tuned for Part II…
The year ahead offers significant challenges and great promise for the fleet and field industry.
Stay tuned next week for Part II, The Return of 5 Things to Watch in Fleet + Field, the thrilling conclusion that breaks down 2023 business strategies, how to build a culture of safety and ways to personalize technology for your business to improve customer service and success to ensure 2023 is a huge success.