Later this month, I will be participating, hosting and generally running around like a maniac at the Truck and Fleet Conference – this year being hosted by the Radisson Red Hotel in Silicon Oasis, Dubai.
I suspect that one of the most important topics up for debate will be what happens when you can’t get new vehicles and parts into a market which is at its busiest for a number of years. It is also a market that is at its costliest for some time – perhaps ever.
In recent years, like many businesses, fleets have had to take on-board rising fuel costs and the introduction of VAT. Construction traffic and revenue is down in areas where the boom is residential and hospitality has subsided while competition for contracts has eaten away at margins. Through that period we have also seen the impact of Covid which has disrupted its way globally and locally re-shaped the needs of customers.
I would argue that a lot of the changes – like increased digitalisation in transport and logistics and the growth in e-commerce – we have seen will make fleet lives easier over the long-term. It is just frustrating they have come at a time when many fleets would’ve benefitted from a slower pace, so they could re-shape and plan at their own speed.
Even if you’re one of the fleets that are riding the wave of some of the more positive changes to the market, you may be being held back by an inability to ramp-up your fleet renewal. Simply put: You may want to buy a new truck but you probably can’t…or certainly not yet. For once, demand is outstripping supply with commercial vehicles production struggling with the globalised supply chain networks that we once took for granted unable to feed the market.
Last month I sat in on the Volvo Group quarterly reporting hosted by its CEO. A lot of ground was covered, but it was the insight into juggling the cost and logistics obstacles of getting new vehicles out into fleet hands that really caught my attention. Most OEMs have been pushing the services side of the business and the last two years have probably fixed that thinking with fleets needing to run their vehicles for longer.
It will be interesting to hear how the supply chain problems globally are affecting the Middle East fleet market during the conference. And most importantly of all, I will be asking the OEMs and distributors present how they can help fleets keep going while we all ride out this storm, particularly as we don’t always get the full fat version of their support here.
I suspect that for all the noise of technology revolutionising the fleet sector, the answer will be good old fashioned human contact. Talking of which, it will be great to have you there too!