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  February 1st, 2017 | Written by

Fleet Operators Shifting to Shorter Asset Lifecycles

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  • Results of Fleet Advantage annual trucking industry survey.
  • Truck fleets are acquiring new trucks by leasing and shortening their asset lifecycles.
  • Fuel represents nearly 70 percent of the total cost to operate a truck.

Fleet Advantage, a provider of data-driven truck leasing solutions, has released results of its latest industry survey, which takes an annual look at practices and insights from truck fleet operators and for-hire carriers.

Among the largest takeaways, survey data shows more fleets acquiring new trucks by leasing and shortening their asset lifecycles before replacement, compared to the previous years’ data of an average of seven years.

In 2015, 22 percent of fleets said they were operating their trucks on a three- to five-year lifecycle, with the majority being five years (14 percent). This number jumped to 48 percent this year with 12 percent on a three-year lifecycle (zero percent in 2015), clearly demonstrating a movement to shorter lifecycle operations.

As further evidence, the percentage of fleets operating trucks on a six- to eight-year lifecycle fell from 44 percent down to 32 percent. Fuel economy gains were subsequently experienced. In 2015, 68 percent said they experienced a consistent increase in fuel economy with 2011-2015 model year trucks, whereas this number jumped to 84 percent for model years 2011-2016.

The key factor driving this shift comes from understanding economic vs. functional obsolescence and the costs associated with fuel, which has historically represented nearly 70 percent of the total cost to operate a truck. As an example of the cost savings associated with a shorter lifecycle, fleets that operate on a three-year lifecycle see a per-truck savings over ten years of $17,040, compared with those operating on a seven-year lifecycle.

In addition to shorter lifecycles, leasing activity is on the rise. In 2015, 20 percent said they leased their trucks. This number more than doubled to 48 percent in 2016. Procurement of new trucks via leasing went from 36 percent in 2015 to 48 percent in 2016. With more fleets trading in their vehicles (up to 40 percent from 22 percent), it is clear the industry is opting for shorter term leasing, which provides more flexible options when managing equipment and upgrading to new trucks every three to five years.

The 2016 fleet survey also showed fewer fleets opting for full-service leasing. Last year’s survey indicated 18 percent of respondents utilizing full-service leases, but that number dropped down to just four percent this year.

Per the 2016 survey, 24 percent said their fleets drive an average of 120,000 annual miles or more (68 percent said at least 80,000); this compares with 2015 numbers that showed 18 percent for 120,000 (50 percent for 80,000). As such, maintenance and repair costs are also a much greater concern. In 2016, 40 percent of participants listed maintenance and repair as the largest motivators for truck replacement next to improved fuel economy, versus just 26 percent in 2015.

Despite all the industry chatter about GHG Phase 2 mandates—regulations governing heavy-duty trucks and engines issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—some operators are still unsure of what it will mean for them. When asked if they’re aware of the government’s mandate to increase fuel economy, 80 percent of participants said yes. Fleets are starting to understand the financial benefits as 33 percent said the mandate will save a significant amount in fuel costs, however, 45 percent said they are still unsure how it will benefit their fleet.

“Because of its proven impact on lowering fuel costs, as well as service and repair, it’s not surprising to see a large jump to short lifecycles combined with leasing for private fleet operators and for-hire carriers,” said Brian Holland, President and CFO of Fleet Advantage. “Fleets that shift to a shorter asset lifecycle quickly see these gains to their operational bottom lines, and our business intelligence platforms are crucial in helping other fleet professionals see the value for their business. We believe the results of this survey validate the shift that has already taken place in the industry.”