Automated transmissions, natural gas powertrains and low-viscosity lubricants are the advanced technologies of highest interest to fleet managers, according to new study from Frost & Sullivan.  Scheduled to be released later this week, the study also found collision mitigation systems, air disc brakes, prognostics, real-time dynamic navigation and tire pressure systems are “on the fast track for fleet adoption growth.”

Overall, Frost’s fifth annual survey on advanced truck technologies concluded that fleets will exert steadily rising market pressure for “fuel-efficient, safe and smart trucks.”  The major driving factor identified by the study was a 15% decline in average truck utilization over the past five years, pushing fleet managers to focus more closely on total cost of ownership (TCO). “Fleet managers are willing to invest in technologies that can enable operating cost saving, even if this implies paying a premium for acquiring such technologies,” according to the report.

The study, which focused on heavy-duty operations and breaks down its findings by fleet type and size as well as respondent’s title, found that fleet managers at both private and for-hire carriers are making technology decisions based on their need to reduce operating costs, satisfy regulatory compliance, and reduce both downtime and driver turnover.  Safety and maintenance managers responding to the Frost survey had a narrower focus, placing priority on effort and cost reduction in service and maintenance, mobile resource safety, and regulatory compliance.

Looking beyond advanced hardware, access to data and data analysis was “another key trend gaining momentum” as fleets look for help in making effective decisions impacting productivity, safety and regulatory compliance, the study found.

Among other findings was “a clear indication of rising interest in smaller displacement [12-13L] engines, especially among small to medium sized for-hire fleets,” Frost reported, though it added that big-bore 15L diesels “will continue to dominate the market in the short to medium term and beyond.”  Over one-third of the fleet surveyed also reported only specing trucks with proprietary engines. Automated mechanical transmissions purchased by survey respondents was evenly split between OEM and independent supplier models.

The advanced safety technologies expected to grow most rapidly in the next 12 months are automatic collision mitigation systems and other chassis control systems like electronic stability control, as well as tire-pressure monitoring and other tire-related safety technologies, according to the report.

As for natural gas, fleets indicated that they would consider switching to NG when they can identify fuel cost savings of $1 or more per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE).  Availability of 12L to 14L NG engines would also play a role in any decision, the report found.

CSA safety reporting is a major influence in fleet adoption of telematics, especially among mid to large for-hire fleets, according to the Frost study.  TCO reduction, security, and access to vehicle prognostics, especially engine prognostics, will also be factors impacting growth of telematics among fleets. However the surveyed fleets also indicated that broader adoption of full-featured telematics services would require prices to drop roughly 20% below current levels.

Overall, Frost believes its new study “reveal rising cognizance and familiarity towards new and emerging advanced powertrain, chassis, safety, and regulation compliance technologies.... fleet managers are making informed decisions and choosing technologies that not only can benefit their fleets’ operations, but also induce improvements in trucking’s productivity, safety, and efficiency.”