The Indian Truck & Bus Fleet Summit 2024 was held recently on February 24 in Hyderabad.  Organized by MotorIndia, in partnership with the Hyderabad Goods Transport Association (HGTA), this conference and workshop comes at an opportune time when stakeholders are grappling with tremendous transformation across the ecosystem.

Photo courtesy: MotorIndia

Panel Discussions on Emerging Megatrends and Optimizing Efficiencies

Central to proceedings were two panel discussions, of which I moderated deliberations around the first theme – ‘Emerging Megatrends in the Fleet Transport Ecosystem’. This panel brought together industry thought leaders, including the Head of Marketing from Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, the Chief General Manager of SML Isuzu, the Chief Strategy Officer of TCI Group, and the Head of Application Engineering.

Photo courtesy: MotorIndia

Key takeaways included:

  • Impact of AC Cabin Regulation Mandate from 2025: This was seen as a positive development by both industry and fleet operators. The introduction of AC in truck cabins is expected to enhance driver comfort and safety on roads. Although there will be an expected marginal cost increase, the industry is anticipated to adjust accordingly to minimize the impact. A decrease in Cowl chassis is expected due to the AC mandate, but an alternative view suggests that cowl chassis may persist as some manufacturers will provide AC kits to cowl builders. However, most fleet operators are likely to prefer cabin trucks over cowl trucks due to their advantages.
  • LNG as Transitional Powertrain before Electric: OEMs are developing LNG offerings in the long-haul segment and CNG in the regional haul segments. While the transition to electric vehicles is anticipated, it may take time due to factors such as range, acquisition costs, and charging infrastructure. The panel viewed LNG as a potential optional powertrain, but one that may not significantly replace diesel in the market. Large fleet owners remain skeptical about LNG due to infrastructure concerns and higher acquisition costs.
  • New Leasing Models with Electric and Hydrogen Powertrains: OEMs suggest that we are at least 3-6 years away from the introduction of zero-emission powertrains in the heavy-duty segment. While OEMs have begun trials with select customers for electric vehicles, hydrogen adoption is still distant. Leasing models are expected to evolve, but in India’s small owner-centered market, vehicle ownership is likely to remain prevalent. However, leasing might be considered by large fleets depending on the cost of ownership, making it viable for both leasing companies and truck owners.
  • Right to Repair Trend and Increased Sophistication of Trucks with Electronics: The rise in electrical and electronic components in trucks, especially after the transition to Bharat Stage 6 emission norms, has made self-repair a challenging proposition for truck owners, leading to increased dependence on manufacturers. OEMs and large fleet owners emphasized the need to strike a balance between self-repair and workshop repair, considering the complexity of modern trucks. While self-repair is a growing trend, it will largely depend on OEM support and the willingness of truck owners.
  • Counterfeit Parts and Impact on the Industry: Counterfeit parts are a longstanding problem that affects both customers and component makers. Component manufacturers are employing technological interventions to combat this issue. For instance, a bearing manufacturer engraves a unique alphanumeric code onto components to prevent duplication. The panel highlighted the impact of counterfeit parts on system failures and costly repairs.
  • Digital Freight Brokerage – Opportunities and Challenges: The panel discussed the benefits of digital freight brokerage for fleet owners, emphasizing its growth potential in India. While startups in this sector have disrupted the industry, their sustainability has raised concerns. The panelists agreed on the importance of financially sound companies running digital freight brokerage services and offering increased load demands to fleet operators.

The topic for the second panel discussion was ‘Maximizing Profitability by Optimizing Efficiencies.’ The panelists included the Executive Vice President & Head of Customer Services at Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, the Head of Telematics from Mahindra Trucks and Buses, the Director of Telma Induction Brakes India, and the CEO and MD of Dilip Roadlines. Collaboration within the road transport ecosystem, the importance of telematics, and data sharing were discussed, emphasizing the necessity of data-driven decisions to improve efficiency and profitability for fleet owners.

Photo courtesy: MotorIndia

Other Highlights

In addition to the two insightful panel discussions, MotorIndia organized a 60-minute workshop on the topic ‘Solutions to Common Issues Encountered by Fleet Operators.’ Fleet operators, OEMs, and component makers collaborated to identify challenges and propose solutions. Many challenges were addressed within the groups, aligning with the event’s goal of convergence among stakeholders. Additionally, a plan was made to submit all identified challenges and required solutions to the government post-event, which was a unique initiative.

Telangana State Government’s Joint Transport Commissioner, Mr. C. Ramesh, was the keynote speaker. His talk focused on the importance of convergence among industry stakeholders. He discussed how a data-driven economy is propelling growth in the commercial vehicles industry and emphasized the crucial role of technology adoption. Mr. Ramesh also demonstrated various initiatives being undertaken by the Telangana state government to simplify government approvals and application issuance, benefiting the transport sector at large.

The well attended event brought together key fleet owners, predominantly from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. This event was unique in that fleet owners were integral participants in the discussions, while the initiative to submit takeaways to the government was commendable.

To learn more about this fast developing space, please see Frost and Sullivan’s recently published ‘Indian Commercial Vehicle Growth Opportunities,’ an exhaustive report covering trends, emerging powertrains, and business models in the Indian commercial vehicle industry or contact to arrange a private briefing.

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