Meeting Fleet Challenges

FridayFleet sat down with Tom Callahan, Donlen’s President and COO, to get his take on the top five challenges facing commercial fleets, as reported recently in Automotive Fleet. Tom is a fleet industry veteran and he has seen fleet managers deal with many challenges over the years.

FridayFleet: Tom, can you start with the first challenge, cost-reduction initiatives?

Tom Callahan: This is a tough one. We know from talking to our customers that this is priority number one for most of them. There are some clear ways to help cut costs: a comprehensive fuel program, protecting assets by ensuring maintenance compliance. But there are other factors to be considered. How much does driver behavior factor in? Having access to accurate reporting and analysis? That’s what we need to look at.

FF: Next up is fuel price volatility.

TC: Interesting that I just mentioned having a good fuel program as a way to look at reducing costs. Price volatility is something that is pretty much out of our control, so having the right program in place is critical. The caveat here is that you can’t wait until gas is sky high to implement a program. Incremental savings – no matter what the gas price is at the moment – can add up quickly. Again, I need to mention the importance of driver behavior in this equation. Not enough can be said about how much a driver’s actions influence the overall fuel cost of a fleet.

FF: We’ve been talking a lot about driver safety at Donlen. What’s your take?

TC: You’re right, this is something we’re really concentrating on here. It’s important to our customers and to us. Of course, the personal safety of drivers is paramount, but there are many significant costs related to accidents. There’s insurance, maintenance, and loss of productivity with downtime of both drivers and vehicles – not to mention the administrative cost to process accident-related information. Telematics and driver training can factor in hugely here. In fact, you can’t really have this conversation without first talking about training drivers. Combine that with telematics and fleets will see substantial improvement in this area.

FF: Here’s something that has been very important to Donlen for a long time: implementing green fleet initiatives.

TC: Definitely! I don’t want to sound like a commercial here, but this has been a priority for a long time at Donlen. Over the years, to complement our Strategic Consulting services, we’ve developed partnerships with several premier environmental organizations to help our customers meet their green fleet initiatives. GreenKey®, Fleets for Change™,…these are all there to help develop a plan, track progress, and select vehicles. Of course, vehicle selection is important, but there are other ways to help meet this challenge. Fleet can have a very large impact in a company’s overall strategy. Benchmarking and tracking CO2 reduction is key, and something that can be reported against a company’s larger goal. We have ways to help customers do that.

FF: And finally, increasing driver productivity.

TC: Telematics. Telematics. Telematics. And driver training. Seriously though, technology is the best weapon you have to increase your fleet productivity. Many of our customers are surprised the first time they sit and look at their DriverPoint™ Telematics dashboard or receive their first scorecard. It’s almost impossible to really understand how much careful route planning combined with properly trained drivers impacts productivity until you see it for yourself. And once a fleet starts to run more efficiently with better driver productivity, cost savings, fuel reduction, and being more “green” are very welcome side effects. It will be difficult for fleets to meet this and future challenges without telematics and driver training.

FF: Any final words?

TC: What’s interesting is that these challenges, while a result of a tough economy, make good business sense – even if the economy was booming right now. So many of these are interrelated. Implement a fuel program, and reduce costs; implement telematics and driver productivity and safety follow. And reduced fuel consumption and CO2 help to meet sustainability initiatives. There are options out there to meet these challenges head on. We want to discuss particular challenges that our customers are facing, look at all the available options to help them meet their goals, and develop a solid action plan.

What challenges are you facing? We would like to hear from you. We will address them in future issues of FridayFleet. > Submit your feedback here

Industry News

More good news on the economic front as Chevrolet announced that it topped its all-time global sales record last year, selling 4.76 million vehicles, and Chrysler announced that it is hiring 400 to 500 new employees to support the production of the Dodge Dart at its plant in Belvidere, IL. Led by the Cruze compact sedan, Chevy boosted GM’s total global sales to nine million, a 7.6 percent gain over 2010. Chrysler said that it expects to create a total of up to 2,850 jobs.

The first stations in America’s Natural Gas Highway were recently announced, with major highway segments planned for the early phase opening and more planned in subsequent phases. Anticipating the industry arrival of heavy-duty trucks with natural gas engines, fueling stations will be available in truck stops along highway segments that serve heavy trucking traffic. Natural gas provider Chesapeake Energy Corporation was the first to commit significant funds to develop the natural gas highway. More than 100 carriers shared operational information to help plan the first phase of the natural gas highway. The availability of filling stations is good news for fleets that are going to convert, or looking at viable options for their application.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has ended its investigation of the Chevy Volt, releasing a statement on January 20, 2012.
> Read it here

Going to the NTEA Work Truck Show? This year’s show, held in Indianapolis on March 6-8, 2012, promises to be the best and most informative yet. And we’ll be there! Use the new Work Truck Show 2012 app on your smartphone to locate Donlen’s Booth #5647. Talk to our industry experts and pick up some fun stuff. While you’re there you can enter to win an iPad!

Be our special guest! > FREE registration for the Work Truck Show 2012

Driver’s Corner

You start the car, fasten the seat belt, and all of the usual warning lights turn off – except one: Check Engine. But the car is running fine, so maybe the light is malfunctioning. You’ll have it looked at later. The problem is that this little light can signal everything from a loose gas cap to potential engine damage. Ignoring it can mean loss of productivity down the road. Don’t ignore the warning sign. > Read more about what the Check Engine light means

And Finally…

And finally, have you ever wanted to build your own engine? That’s just what one very enthusiastic guy was able to do. Jeff Kasper was the first participant in GM’s Crate Engine Build Experience at their Performance Build Center in Michigan. Under the guidance of a specially trained engine builder, Kasper pretty much did all the work himself – including adding an “assembled by” plaque with his name on the engine. And the final cost? $22,756.10. Not cheap, but certainly the experience of a lifetime.

Have a nice weekend. Safe travels.

Originally appeared in FridayFleet on January 27, 2012

About Donlen
A wholly owned subsidiary of The Hertz Corporation (NYSE:HTZ), Donlen (, with headquarters in Northbrook, IL, is the fleet industry’s most comprehensive and integrated provider of financing and asset management solutions. Since 1965, Donlen has offered its clients highly personalized and responsive customer service, and their workplace excellence has been recognized as one of Crain’s Chicago Business “List of 20 Best Places to Work in Chicago” each year from 2009-2011, a Leader on “The Global Outsourcing 100®” list by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) for six of the last seven years, and a National Association for Business Resources “101 Best and Brightest Places to Work For in Chicago” each year from 2007-2012. Donlen’s innovation has been awarded with the Computerworld “2012 Honors Laureate for Economic Opportunity,” named to “2012 InformationWeek 500” for innovative technology; the Stevie® “2012 Gold Award for Business Intelligence Solution,” the Silver Award for “2012 Front Line Customer Service Team of the Year,” and the “2011 Corporate Environmental Responsibility Program of the Year.”