A former Alpine marketing executive, Steve Witt, has teamed with partner Carlos Garcia, (who began his career at Circuit City), to launch a new fleet company, in one of the highest growth segments in the 12 volt aftermarket.
The company, Driver Safety Technology, DST, launched in January to provide fleets with safety products such as crash warning devices from Mobileye and DriveCam from lytx. It is currently working on projects for more than 2,000 vehicles and its biggest problem is the need for qualified 12 volt installers with Class 7 and 8 experience.
The fleet technology market is growing at 110 to 120 percent annually for connected devices, according to Witt. “There’s a mad rush to being compliant with the new Federal ELD [Electronic Logging Device] Mandate.” ELDs are replacing the paper log books truckers have kept by law since the 1930s. An ELD synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving times. It must be installed in many fleets by the end of next year.
The fastest growing commercial safety products are video telematics (connected DVRs), ELDs, and multi-camera systems. These allow a fleet manager to literally see into the cabins of the trucks on the road and observe the drivers. If he manages 5,000 trucks, the fleet manager can isolate any one of them at any given time to view live. He can see whether the driver performed his or her pre-trip check, track daily routes and track video of the drivers, plus track maintenance, fuel expenses and more.
For 12 volt shops who want to enter this market, it requires the time and attention of one employee for 20 to 30 hours a week in sales and business development, said Witt.
“A focused effort in fleet business could add 10 percent more revenue in a few short months,” he said.
Fleet managers “aren’t technology people. They are worse than most consumers,” Witt added. But the ELD mandate has helped at least make them aware of the many devices on the market. So there’s an opportunity for 12 volt shops to step in and provide their expertise.
But most car audio shops remain resistant to the new market, said Witt.
“We’ve been out evangelizing this vehicle tech safety thing for three or four years at KnowledgeFest. [Dealers] haven’t responded very well to this message that there is a big opportunity here. In the face of declining car audio and video, there are opportunities here to grow your businesses…” But Witt noted, “Many of the 12 volt guys had some interest, and they still have interest. They listen, but then when they start to really understand their business has to change to go after this commercial business, it kind of frightens them.”
He added, “All those 1,700 people at Dallas [KnowledgeFest]; they’ve made it. They successfully emerged from this massive sea change that our industry has been through over the last 10 years. And some are wildly successful now in the new 12 volt specialty electronics world. But then you dig a little deeper and find out why. They have made some big decisions to truly change their organization to be relevant to today’s business environment.” The same is true for the fleet safety market.