Even though the U.S. economy continues to improve, vocational fleets still face challenges related to the cost of doing business. According to Todd Bloom, president and chief executive officer of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America, “Vocational fleets, today, are building their businesses on pennies saved—in other words—they need to minimize every possible cost to be competitive.”
He goes on to say that there are several factors that impact operations. Before CARB and the EPA set current emission levels, operating trucks was less complicated. Today’s fleets are faced with a level of sophistication that they did not have prior to 2010. At issue are the newer engines that use diesel particulate filters (DPF) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems and the regeneration of those systems to meet standards.
“With vocational fleets, there tends to be a lack of driver sophistication,” Bloom notes. These smaller fleets—florists, plumbers, etc.—are not companies with trained CDL drivers.
“As a result,” Bloom continues, “when the manual regen light shows up on the dash the drivers don’t necessarily know what to do so they often ignore it, which means that the truck goes into limp mode and drivers think it’s broken.”
“Today, thanks in part to the mandated addition of onboard diagnostics and emission technology, manufacturers can collect vehicle operating data, which is beneficial for fleet operators…We are able to collect and aggregate [trending] data and pass that information on to customers so they can optimize efficiencies and control costs.” – Todd Bloom, president and chief executive officer of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America
In 2006, prior to engine emission mandates, vocational vehicles cost between $35,000 and $45,000. New technology has increased those ticket prices significantly. Today, it’s more important than ever for vocational fleets to find ways to manage the total cost of ownership. “With higher purchase prices, fleets need to properly maintain vehicles to maintain uptime and retain their residual value,” adds Bloom.
While vehicle technology may increase the upfront price of trucks, it also provides systems and information that can help companies control operating costs.
“Today, thanks in part to the mandated addition of onboard diagnostics and emission technology, manufacturers can collect vehicle operating data, which is beneficial for fleet operators,” Bloom states. “This vehicle history helps manufacturers determine how truck performance in various operations can be maximized. We are able to collect and aggregate [trending] data and pass that information on to customers so they can optimize efficiencies and control costs.”
Bloom contends, “Trending will become second nature in the future and will be used to create communities of common businesses in which ideas can be exchanged. While the process of collecting information will be more sophisticated, it will make daily fleet operations simpler. Vehicle operation messages will automatically be sent from trucks on the road to fleets and/or dealers. Freightliner’s Virtual Technician already provides this service. This level of information collection and dissemination is a windfall for manufacturers and users.”
Fuso Canter FE 130 is a good example of how technology has provided a benefit to the customer. By using a smaller displacement engine and lighter components this new model for 2015 continues to provide outstanding fuel economy with a payload improvement of 700 lbs. over the previous year’s truck and more than 1,000 lbs. better than other Class 3 competitors.