Automotive Fleet

DEC 2013

Magazine for the car and truck fleet and leasing industry

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TECHNOLOGY of content it is, so that eliminates some of the need to drive around or wait until your boss is available — we're trying to give other avenues to get information," he explained. Likewise, Struna said that Rite-Aid is also using smartphone apps, particularly related to its fuel program to help drivers log their mileage and fnd fuel at the best price. However, Stephenson related an "ugly" experience DISH had. "We experimented with [a fuel management] product that was out there a few years ago; a solution that seems that [if it worked] the OEM would be doing," Stephenson said. "Obviously it didn't work." For every good technology out there, there's undoubtedly a "bad" one that just doesn't work for a feet. In some cases, as with an experience Stephenson had a few years ago, a technology can be "bad" more because the big picture changes than that the technology itself didn't measure up. "We were experimenting with some different types of vehicles. Tey were OEM options that promised to save some fuel here and get some economies of scale, but we ended up getting into a little bit of trouble because our business model ended up changing," he said. "We needed more space. We were ofering diferent products and services, and our business model outgrew us trying to get too tight and efcient, we needed a little elbow room. You need to be careful about vehicle selection, for example, and not over committing to anything — trial, trial, trial, before you do anything." While corporate priorities changed for DISH, dooming the selection of the new vehicle, Struna related how it was technology itself that once failed the Rite-Aid feet. "A manufacturer pushed us to try a vehicle that was a four-cylinder upft vehicle," she related. "However, the drivers had a lot of issues with it due to the loads they were carrying, and getting up and down the hills of West Virginia. Tey said it barely moved. Te vehicle sounded like a good thing because we were going to save fuel — but it really didn't live up to its promise." Avoiding the Ugly While not every technology will ft every feet, there are those technologies that are just doomed from the very beginning. Struna said she's been fortunate in not having a really bad experience with a piece of feet technology because the company does a lot of leg work beforehand. 42 AUTOMOTIVE FLEET I DECEMBER 2013 PHOTO: ©ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/RUSLANDASHINSKY E Abandoning the Bad Driving and using a smartphone is never a good idea. If it's absolutely imperative to make that call, a feet driver should pull off the road and then use the technology. Managing the Driver Of course, perhaps the biggest complication about using technology is that it often relies on the user — in this case, a driver — to use it properly. Stephenson has worked to take the human equation out of the DISH feet's technology, which has netted some intriguing and positive results. "Tere are tons of [driver and safety] programs where the person has to do something to make it successful. You talk about training and diferent types of personalities and the fact that these programs aren't typically the core business of what people do and turnover and getting new people involved, so one of the things that we've tried to do is switch accountability from the driver to the vehicle," Stephenson explained. To that end, Stephenson has taken some of the vehicle's technology out of the hands of the driver. "We've calibrated our vehicles to reduce RPMs when idling and have top speed limiters on them and to do diferent things to the operability of the vehicle to re- duce RPMs and to reduce fuel consumption so, again, the vehicle does the job and not the person and there are a lot less resources to support something like that—we're actually saving more money on a calibration program than we would on an aggressive idling program and a lot less resources. When you talk about cultural things and diferences in an everyday person, it's really difcult to stay on top of all these driverspecifc programs." Of course, a fear that is probably in the back of the mind of many feet managers is that there's too much technology, that the driver is becoming too reliant on it. "One thing I am afraid of with vehicle technology where they do the driving for you, blind spot technology, and stop assist. I think that it's great technology, but I think if you put a driver into a vehicle that has that technology and take him out of that vehicle and put him into one that doesn't have it, you seem to get a dependence on that technology," Struna said. While Stephenson agreed with Struna's comment and noted that this would require careful vehicle assignment, he sees the march of technology as inevitable. "I think that's just management of change," he said. "It seems that these are good solutions that have to be part of the equation for the long term and it's just going to be transitioning out of the current state to the future state, and how do you manage through that. But, I couldn't imagine you would want to say 'no' to these things." Technology is Here to Stay If there's one point that can be agreed on, technology is here to stay. What do these veteran feet managers hope to see in future technology? Struna said she would love to see a world of driverless vehicles and hopes that technology costs continue to fall, allowing her to implement more technologies in the Rite-Aid feet. Stephenson said that the technologies that pique his interest most are anything that has to do with improving driver safety and alternative fuel. But, both of them agree that, in order to be successful — be it good, bad, or ugly — a technology has to be cost efective. AF

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