Scott, tell us about Wheels’ current focus with respect to truck fleets.
We have been working with trucks for 50 years. We are celebrating our 75th anniversary this year, and for the majority of that time we’ve been engineering trucks. That is anything from Class 3 up through Class 8; anything from a pickup truck or van with up-fitting, up to a Class 7 straight truck with a platform body and a crane lift.
Our focus with the truck market is helping our clients get to the right solution. Finding out what their needs are, understanding their business and really helping them get from A to Z faster. A problem that we see in the industry is just long lead times for trucks. Our job is to find solutions that will help a client get a truck on the road faster when they need to replace one.
What are some of the common issues truck fleet managers are facing right now?
We have a number of clients who have had a tough time standardizing their fleet over the years. So many branch operations have been given carte blanche in the past to just go out and get a truck, no matter how it is spec’d – just put it on the road and do business. What that causes internally is that there is no standardization within their organization. If they want to move trucks around or if they want drivers to go to a different job, they now have to learn a different truck and a different way of doing their job. This is because they have too many different trucks to use for the same type of application. To alleviate this, we have helped clients really understand what they need for the job in order to standardize it across businesses, save money, gain efficiencies, and really help their business down the road.
What is your process of helping car fleet managers understand the truck market?
Our approach is to educate them. They may not have any idea how to run a truck fleet, or even how different it is. There are a number of different things that they need to know including GVWR, DOT regulations/implications and how to spec out a truck that is right for the job. Because of this, education and a bit of hand holding are key. We do that through the use of our truck engineering group, truck operations and site visits to understand what it is they want or need that truck to do. We educate them about the whole process from ordering a truck, to maintaining the truck, to keeping it legal, to selling the truck. It is a completely different world than your typical fleet sedan.
What do you see ahead for alternative fuels and hybrids?
What I am seeing in respect to fuels is that there is a lot of interest in it, but not a lot of action. We have very large geographically-dispersed fleets. The problem with those types of fleets is that alternative fuels are not available everywhere. For it to become a widespread solution for our clients, it has to be a geographically dispersed solution. If that doesn’t happen, then you have to look for opportunities elsewhere.
Maybe CNG is the right solution in Oklahoma, but maybe a hybrid truck is going to be the right solution on the East Coast where there aren’t as many CNG stations and more city type driving. We have several fleets that are using CNG in spots where it makes sense and they have access to it.
I have not seen any evidence that hybrid pickups are going to be a major force in work applications because it reduces payload, so there is a usability problem with it. Also, you don’t necessarily gain a whole lot in miles per gallon as compared to regular pickups since the technology being used is a mild hybrid. I don’t think the right solution is out there yet. Hopefully, it is being worked on in somebody’s lab somewhere.
What sorts of trends are you seeing in trucks and in truck equipment?
One of the trends that we have seen is the interest in CNG, particularly from our oil and gas clients. They are out there drilling for it, so they want to use it. We are helping them find it where they need it and get the vehicles on the road that they need.
We are also seeing an increase in costs. As trucks become more complex and the government has more regulations on fuel economy and emissions, trucks are starting to become, and will become, more expensive as the technology gets infused in order to meet those regulations that are going to be forthcoming.
Another trend is that clients really want to try to avoid DOT regulations as much as possible. If they can downsize a vehicle that gets them under 10,000 GVW or under a CDL requirement for a driver, they are looking for ways to change their business to do that. They still want to remain safe, and they want to try to avoid as much red tape as they can.
How do you help clients reduce their truck weight?
It starts with understanding how much weight that they need. How much payload? What do they carry? How far do they carry it? How do they load it and unload it? From there you can back into how much payload they actually need and then look into ways to reduce what drags down their payload. For example, do you need a lift gate on the back of that truck? If so, it’s going to reduce payload. It all goes back to having the right vehicle for the job.
What is a common misunderstanding that fleets have with respect to their trucks?
Often, just not understanding the overall specifications and maybe, in particular, the height that they need in order to get a usable vehicle for their application. Do they need it to back up to a dock? Do they need it to offload at a street side or curbside or wherever? Getting them to understand how you spec a truck is really going to make the difference. If they need a truck at dock height level and they don’t get it, then they have a truck that they can’t use. Helping them understand upfront what they need is key in getting the right vehicle on the road.
What is going on with truck remarketing?
I am not as close with the remarketing aspect, but I do know that a lot of the diesel engines that are out there, that are prior to the latest emission requirement enhancements, are very, very hot in the market because they are less expensive. When they come out of service, buyers really want to get their hands on those trucks, given that they have some additional life remaining. They don’t want to pay more for the vehicles that have the newer regulations on them. That is a trend that we see continuing for the next couple of years until those vehicles kind of die off.
As a Senior Global Account Manager, Scott Singsank works with both the Account Manager and the client to help understand each client’s needs on a global level. He then develops an ongoing program that will achieve those goals and measure overall success. With a deep knowledge of the fleet industry, Scott understands the importance of good customer service, project management and strategic consulting. He is focused on helping fleets reach their goals, whether it’s managing costs or increasing productivity.
Scott has a BA in Liberal Arts from The University of Iowa. He is a Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM) and has completed a Global Account Management training program at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.