Isuzu finds driver procurement driving force behind vehicle choices

Isuzu Australia Limited (IAL) Chief Engineer, Simon Humphries, has unpacked the findings of a recent study the company has undertaken titled The Future of Trucking Report, The Road Ahead.

According to IAL, over 1,000 respondents from all manner of different industry sectors were surveyed, with the findings covering a range of ‘hot’ topics.

Among them were some intriguing insights into the changing needs and desires of the modern Australian truck buyer.

“At a high level, it can be said that Australian truck owners and buyers maintain a clinical consideration of the productivity of the equipment they run, with this being a key driver in any procurement decision-making process,” said Humphries.

“The data confirms that Australian truck owners and fleet managers are extremely savvy in this sense. Efficient equipment performance equates to uptime, and this is an adage widely adopted, according to the report’s findings.”

However, Humphries said, there is more to this than meets the eye. He described the example of direct links between the attraction and retention of labour and procurement preferences with consumer choice of truck transmission selection.

“In the 7.5 years from 2013, data shows there’s been a steady shift away from manual transmissions towards two-pedal (automatic and automated manual) types, and for a range of reasons,” said Humphries.

“In 2013, just over half of all new trucks sold in Australia were two-pedal. Fast forward to 2021, and that figure has jumped to 80.4 per cent in the all-important and voluminous car-licence light-duty segment.

“This trend is reflected across all Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) segments; it’s increasingly difficult to procure a new truck that has a manual transmission,” he said – adding that the growth in two-pedal preference uncovers a few insights worth unpacking further because it reflects the growing ‘labour pains’ and broader business challenges permeating the road transport sector.

“To operate effectively, road transport in Australia requires a vast range of skill sets; it also employs and requires a large workforce. The reality of employment in this industry means the effective management of many competing pressures,” said Humphries.

“From a labour force perspective, the demographic has changed too. No longer are our workers simply truck drivers or warehouse workers. Our staff must be multi-talented, customer focused and familiar with the latest technology – be that within the capital equipment they operate or the consignment software they use daily.”

According to the research, 49 per cent of larger Australian fleets consider the availability of drivers as a key challenge facing their operations over the coming 12 months. This, said Humphries, is driving the transition to two-pedal transmissions.

“Isuzu’s research tells us that 55 per cent of Aussie fleets with 20 or more trucks are shifting towards new, two-pedal, smaller displacement trucks from a broader GVM scale than ever before,” he said.

“The aim is a greater degree of fuel efficiency (healthier margins), ease of operation (a broader, more accessible labour pool) and the ticking of compliance boxes.”

Diving a little deeper still, Humphries said, there’s a growing appetite for consistency and standardisation in Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) product offerings.

“In fact, 65 per cent of fleets believed it was more important that their new trucks come pre-built (more uptime), standardised (common pallet and gate dimensions) and ready to drive off the lot.”

Another area of changing consumer behaviour highlighted is the growing recognition of safety and compliance when it comes to purchasing.

According to Isuzu’s Future of Trucking Report, the strongest responses in relation to safety technology specifics relate to driver aids that help prevent driver fatigue or distraction, with 40 per cent of all respondents having an acute interest in these features.