Everything that we've come to know about fueling and maintaining our vehicles is changing.
According to one major U.S. automaker, in the next 10 years, up to 70% of the full-size bus and van industry and one-third of the full-size pickup segments are expected to electrify in the U.S. by 2030.
With a transition toward electrification or other alternative-fuel sources, it is important for fleet managers to consider every aspect of those changes.
Ford’s answer to these challenges and more for commercial fleets is Ford Pro. To get started, there is one point of contact for Ford customers – 1-800-34-FLEET – to get information on charging, telematics, service, financing, business management and, of course, vehicles.
For any contractor or business with any Fords in their fleet, Ford Pro provides access to the entire Ford ecosystem of digital information. Everything is managed through Ford Pro Intelligence, a cloud-based suite of services that combines telematics, charging and customer relations. It focuses on commercial business owners’ primary concerns: If something is wrong with a vehicle and if there will be an economic impact on the business.
Under most current scenarios, a fleet manager sends a vehicle in for service to change the brakes when the driver complains about another noise the vehicle is making. Ford Pro Intelligence and its cloud interface of services provides the ability to know when that vehicle needs service and can even be set to alert the manager every 15,000 miles to check the brakes specifically. Additional data collected include idling, braking, speeding events, fuel consumption and much more as fleets utilize the full benefits of Ford Pro Telematics.
General health aspects of fleet vehicles are provided free via Ford Pro Telematics Essentials. It allows managers and drivers to access modem equipped vehicle data directly into the platform. The system tracks the odometer statement, engine hours and oil life.
“We have a built-in algorithm in every vehicle called oil life remaining on our newer vehicles so you can select the parameter that you need for your maintenance intervals depending on location and application,” said Travis Hunt, business development manager Ford Pro Intelligence.
For example, for the grape growers at Dutton Ranch in Sonoma County, California, it was the idling costs that were creeping up over time, which was an eye-opening experience for co-owner Steve Dutton when Ford Pro Telematics Essentials was installed on his fleet. While cognizant of vehicle idling as the crews are stopping in the vineyards and looking around or moving slowly, he was not overly conscious of the actual expense. “We're spending money on it, and I did not realize that before this, and that's part of the business,” Dutton said.
Another benefit Dutton is anticipating from use of Ford Pro is the integration with the recall system.
"We've integrated our recall system, as well, so when you click on that recall information it actually pops up what repair is needed," Hunt said. "Similarly, if there was a diagnostic trouble code that was showing up here, you could click on that diagnostic trouble code, and not only understand what the code is, but what the suggested action is. As a fleet manager or driver, I'm always questioning how important it is that I stopped driving this vehicle and get it in for service right away, and we provide that type of information."
Dutton noted that having such information would help him understand when to act in terms of service. “It's about helping us time when to do things here on the ranch,” he said.
The platform also is linked to the Ford’s dealer support network composed of more than 650 Commercial Vehicle Centers across the U.S., of which 90% are electric-vehicle certified. With that connection, Hunt says, fleet managers can schedule vehicles for service at available times. Once scheduled, the dealer then has access to 60 days of diagnostic history on the vehicle, potentially allowing a technician to diagnose the problem and even order parts before the vehicle are brought in.
Ford Pro Intelligence has an additional piece referred to as the uptime dashboard that alerts Ford Pro when a commercial businesses’ fleet vehicle is down and being serviced at a dealership.
“Part of the reason why we integrated that into the dealer network is if a vehicle is down for more than a few days, we actually dispatch our own commercial Customer Center of Excellence agents,” said Dee-Dee Boykin, vehicle operations parts and services. “If there is a part needed, we actually will secure that information or technical assistance as needed.”
For example, she said, if a vehicle is down for a part, Ford Pro has agents that will reach out to the dealership service adviser and find out what part is needed. “If it's not available in our warehouse, we will utilize the dealer network to secure the part,” Boykin said. “We don't want a vehicle down for longer than it needs to be, and we're using things like parts and labor as indicators on how we need to remedy that issue so that our customers don't have their vehicles down.”
Customers don’t have to take any action for this service to be engaged; it’s simply a built-in portion of Ford Pro connected to the modem-enabled vehicles. “It's what makes Ford Pro Telematics Essential so essential,” Boykin said.
Also, Ford Pro is building a taxonomy of mobile service vans to help maintain uptime. It is an option that can be used to maintain a vehicle either onsite, at a job site or at a depot location of a fleet or commercial account.
Boykin said this is a unit that will be a mobile bay for Ford dealerships, and a bay for customers to use.
As of February, there are 463 units physically on the ground, and Ford Pro is planning to grow to 1,100 units across the United States, based on size and population by the end of 2022.