Supply Chain Woes? Crucial Steps Your Fleet Must Take

By Steve Saltzgiver, Fleet Success Advisor

Disruptions in the supply chain can have far-reaching consequences, affecting various industries and sectors. Supply chain management plays a crucial role in the smooth operation of many businesses including fleet management. According to an article published on Supply Chain Dive, fleets can enhance resilience by adopting advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to monitor and manage their operations more effectively.

Recently, we got to see the criticality of supply chain disruption as our RTA Consulting team had the opportunity to manage a fleet for one of our clients as the Interim Fleet Director. As we tried to manage this fleet of 900 assets, we found an average of between 14 and 25 vehicles down daily, awaiting parts. Likewise, we encountered about 10 vehicles daily awaiting vendor repair scheduling and response. These supplier disruptions gave us many insights as to what we, as consultants, can do to battle these problems on behalf of our clients.

In this blog, we will explore some real-life examples of supply chain disruptions and discuss the steps fleets can take to tackle these challenges head-on.

Embracing Digital Transformation

In recent years, technology has revolutionized the way fleets operate. Embracing digital transformation can help fleets become more agile and efficient in dealing with supply chain disruptions. For instance, adopting real-time tracking systems, GPS technology, and fleet management software enables better visibility and monitoring of fleet activities. By having access to accurate and up-to-date data, fleets can respond quickly to disruptions, reroute vehicles, and optimize delivery schedules.

Data-driven Decision Making

In today’s digital era, data plays a crucial role in making informed decisions. Fleet management organizations are leveraging data analytics to identify potential disruptions, predict their impacts, and make proactive adjustments to their operations. An industry report by Fleet Owner discusses how fleet managers are using predictive analytics to optimize routing, plan maintenance schedules, and improve fuel efficiency.

Prioritizing Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication and collaboration are essential in managing supply chain disruptions that occur. Fleets must establish strong lines of communication with their drivers, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders involved in the supply chain. Clear channels of communication help in gathering real-time information about disruptions, providing updates to customers, and coordinating alternative solutions. Collaboration with industry partners and sharing best practices can also help fleets gain insights and develop strategies to tackle disruptions more effectively. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) highlights the importance of collaboration among trucking companies, shippers, and regulatory agencies to address disruptions effectively.

Recently, when serving as interim fleet director, we included our nationally recognized parts provider as a critical solution partner rather than treating them as an ordinary supplier. The graph below demonstrates how fleets can use digital data for improved decision-making to track performance for both the vendors and fleet maintenance teams to better communicate, collaborate, and improve performance regarding vehicle availability as it relates to supply chain issues.

Supply Chain

As fleet management professionals, we must always be prepared for real-life crises that may be thrust upon us at a moment’s notice.

Here are a few real-life examples:

COVID-19 Pandemic:

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on global supply chains. Fleets faced numerous challenges, including restrictions on movement, changing consumer demands, and disruptions in the availability of goods. Many fleets responded by implementing contactless delivery procedures, adopting remote work arrangements, and utilizing data analytics to optimize routes and minimize exposure risks.

Severe Weather Events:

Severe weather events such as hurricanes, snowstorms, or floods can significantly disrupt supply chains. Fleets operating in regions prone to such events have taken proactive measures to mitigate disruptions. This includes having emergency response plans, maintaining updated weather tracking systems, and collaborating with local authorities to ensure driver safety and plan alternative routes when necessary.

Cybersecurity Threats:

As technology becomes more integrated into fleet management systems, the risk of cybersecurity threats increases. Recently, we’ve seen in the news that cyber threats are increasing, and fleets need to address these risks to maintain the integrity and security of their operations. Implementing robust cybersecurity measures, conducting regular audits, and training employees on cybersecurity best practices are crucial steps that fleets can take to safeguard against disruptions caused by cyberattacks.

Geopolitical events:

The world is becoming increasingly more global where events like wars and changing regimes can paralyze and disrupt the supply chains. Many fleets’ related assets, parts and supplies are produced in some countries that may be considered hostile to the United States. As an example, many of the battery materials like cobalt, manganese, and lithium needed to produce electric vehicles come from Indonesia, China, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Likewise, many of the OEM auto parts are made in countries like Singapore, South Korea, Mexico and China. Companies like Tesla are seeking alternatives like mines found in Nevada. Lastly, more companies are considering bringing back some of this critical manufacturing back to the United States in an attempt to prevent future supply chain disruptions.

Supply Chain Visibility

Enhancing supply chain visibility is vital for fleet management organizations to respond promptly to disruptions. By leveraging technologies like GPS tracking, telematics, and real-time monitoring systems, fleets can gain real-time insights into their operations. A case study published on Supply Chain Brain highlights how a public fleet management organization implemented supply chain visibility solutions to mitigate disruptions caused by extreme weather events.

Talent Management

The shortage of qualified drivers, technicians, and skilled personnel poses a significant challenge for fleet management organizations. Addressing these issues requires investing in talent management initiatives, including training programs, career development, and employee engagement. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) provides great resources and best practices for public fleet managers to attract and retain skilled professionals.

Building Resilient Networks

Supply chain disruptions often stem from unforeseen events such as natural disasters, labor strikes, or geopolitical conflicts. To mitigate the impact of such disruptions, fleets should focus on building resilient networks. This involves diversifying suppliers, maintaining good relationships with multiple transportation providers, and creating contingency plans. By having alternative routes and backup options, fleets can minimize downtime and keep the supply chain moving even in challenging situations. Seeking alternative or non-traditional suppliers to bolster access to parts and supplies can make any operation more resilient to the effects of disruption. Below are a few alternatives many fleets are utilizing:

  • NAPA IBS: NAPA Integrated Business Solutions (IBS) is a recognized leader in fleet parts procurement and management in both light-duty and heavy-duty assets. NAPA can be used directly onsite or online to access their solutions.
  • FleetPride: FleetPride keeps heavy-duty fleets operating faster and more reliably. They are the largest independent heavy-duty distributor in the nation. They have 300+ locations across 46 states and have the knowledge and skill to troubleshoot issues and find any part for assets.
  • TruckPro: Founded in 1958 and more than 145 nationwide locations and growing throughout the U.S. and Canada. Over 145 stores in 35 states and Canada and over 300,000 brand name parts in inventory with 700+ local delivery vehicles. Over 1,800+ heavy-duty parts professionals serving you every day
  • RockAuto: RockAuto is an online marketplace known for its extensive inventory of automotive parts and accessories. They offer a wide range of products from various manufacturers, including both OEM and aftermarket parts.
  • JC Whitney: JC Whitney has a long history in the automotive aftermarket industry and offers a wide range of parts and accessories for cars, trucks, motorcycles, and RVs.
  • is an online retailer that carries a comprehensive selection of aftermarket parts and accessories for various vehicle makes and models.
  • eBay Motors: eBay Motors is an online marketplace where individuals and businesses can buy and sell automotive parts. It offers a wide range of new, used, and refurbished parts.
  • Amazon Automotive: Amazon has an automotive section that features a vast selection of aftermarket parts, accessories, and tools. It includes products from various sellers and brands.
  • 1A Auto: 1A Auto is an online retailer that focuses on providing high-quality aftermarket parts and accessories for a wide range of vehicle makes and models.

Recap of Steps Your Fleet Should Take

Supply chain disruptions are an inevitable part of the business landscape, and fleet management plays a pivotal role in addressing these challenges. By embracing digital transformation, building resilient networks, and prioritizing communication and collaboration, fleets can effectively navigate disruptions and maintain a smooth supply chain. Real-life examples such as the COVID-19 pandemic, severe weather events, and cybersecurity threats highlight the importance of proactive measures and adaptive strategies in fleet management. By taking these steps, fleets can minimize the impact of disruptions and ensure the efficient flow of goods and materials across the supply chain.

Is your fleet operation struggling with supply chain issues? Learn how using our FMIS – and booking an appointment with our RTA Consultants – can help your fleet operation overcome these problems.

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