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Fleet Protocols for a Post-Covid World


 



By Jasmine Glasheen
April, 2020

The federal government is pushing for states to reopen. Certain states––such as Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi, and Montana, among others––are slated to resume business before May 1st (while others––such as Arkansas and Florida––never officially shut down in the first place). Each state will open slowly and with restrictions prohibiting large gatherings. With that said, it’s beginning to look like the U.S. is on track to gradually return to an active economy. 
 
While commerce will eventually recommence, it will hardly be “business as usual” for a nation brought to its knees by the Covid crisis. School and universities are shut down for the foreseeable future, so fleet agencies that cater to this sector will need to find new purposes for their drivers. And the way we do business will never be quite the same. Let’s take a look at how organizational protocols in fleet need to be altered to reflect what we’ve learned from coronavirus.

 
Fleet Reductions in Response to Travel Lag
 
Many airlines will be reducing their fleet size in response to consumers’ post-Covid travel wariness. The first airline fleet provider to announce this move publicly, Lufthansa, has already reduced their fleet by 1/10th, but fleet reduction will quickly become the new standard for air-based fleets. It will be a long time before air travel picks up speed among the masses. For fleet leaders, the trend of selling off air fleets may make secondhand airplanes easier to obtain. This is fortunate, as some plants––such as Boeing and Airbus–– have halted airline production due to Covid shutdowns, leading NPR to report that the future of airplane manufacturing as a whole is uncertain. 
 
Auto manufacturing has also been tenuous since the outbreak, with coronavirus shutting down 93 percent of all auto production in the United States. Most major European auto manufacturers also halted production last month. Fortunately, many core automobile companies including Volvo, Renault, Hyundai, Daimler, Audi, and Toyota are slowly resuming manufacturing in their European auto plants. 

 
Communication Technology Takes Center Stage
 
The Covid outbreak has brought to light how many jobs can be done remotely, as well as highlighting the dangers of working in-office during an epidemic. While for many, the need to work remotely only brought to light how much they value doing business in person, the majority of employees who are working remotely during Covd-19 will want to continue working from home once the pandemic has subsided. Gallup reports that, in early April, 62 percent of workers say they’ve worked from home during the outbreak, which is double the number of remote workers that self-reported in March. Of these, three in five employees who worked from home during coronavirus shutdowns said they want to continue to work remotely as much as possible once public health restrictions are lifted. 
 

Each state will open slowly and with restrictions prohibiting large gatherings. With that said, it’s beginning to look like the U.S. is on track to gradually return to an active economy. 


What does this mean for fleet? Well, for starters, it means that there will be a renewed focus on remote communication––mobile workforce communication tools such as videoconferencing platforms and task management apps will become important ways to give remote meetings the human element and monitor deliveries. 
 
Dashcams Monitor Health and Sanitization
 
Sanitization is another area where fleet leaders will look to technology to help them remotely maintain new protocols being set during Covid. It will become the new normal for fleet agencies to provide antibacterial wipes in vehicles and schedule regular air quality maintenance through a professional cleaning service. But that may not be enough to reassure clients when a driver that violates health protocols can put customers’ lives on the line. 
 
Dashcams are already being used to monitor risky driver behavior, such as falling asleep at the wheel and/or eating while driving. But the future of fleet dashcams may also include monitoring driver adherence to sanitization protocols and driver health.  In the future, “risky behavior” may go beyond how drivers perform behind the wheel and include indicators of poor driver health, such as coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose frequently. What if dashcams could report when a driver began to exhibit certain signs of illness, so they could be sent to the nearest hospital for testing? Although this isn’t yet part of dashcam reporting, the future of AI dashcams may include health monitoring for the safety of fleet agencies, drivers, and those they interact with along the way. 

 
Strategic Leadership
 
In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak a few opportunities for fleet reform have come to the surface. Strategic fleet leaders will emerge with a renewed focus on building a synchronized remote workforce through videoconferencing apps, as well as monitoring and responding to driver health issues. Some fleet leaders––such as those that cater to schools and universities, apparel and accessories, and recreational travel––will need to reduce the size of their fleets to respond to shifting consumer behavior. However, others will expand to meet the needs a reopened nation that’s newly aware of how pivotal delivery drivers and government agencies are to the communities they serve.

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