OPINIONFuels

5 Tech Trends That Will Define 2024 for Petroleum Marketers

Where is the future headed for the fuel-distribution industry?
Fuel truck
Technology is redefining fuel marketing in 2024. | Photograph: Shutterstock

Looking at the tech changes and the industry dynamics, we can say for sure that fuel marketers need to be prepared for changes and adapt with the industry. But what are those changes? And what is the kind of tech that’s going to be crucial for fuel marketers? 

Here are the 5 technology trends that are going to change the game for fuel marketers in 2024 and beyond: 

AI in Day-to-Day Operations 

AI is going to be a powerful tool in making daily operations more efficient—from predictive maintenance to demand forecasting, route optimization, fuel procurement and much more. 

Artificial intelligence as we know it is transforming the way people run their businesses. And that’s true for fuel marketers, too. 

With so much going on in the industry already—price volatility, supply chain constraints, rising competition and changing customer expectations—there’s no second-guessing the role of AI in daily operations. 

But it’s easy to fall behind if you’re not up to date with the AI evolution. Here are the areas in which AI is most critical for fuel marketers:

  • Predictive maintenance that helps prevent equipment failure.
  • Demand forecasting that enables better inventory management and resource optimization to quickly adapt to changing market dynamics.
  • Route optimization that maximizes delivery volumes and minimizes road time.
  • Procurement maximization–predicting pricing trends and selecting the right suppliers.

Big Data Analytics in Everyday Decision Making 

Data-driven decision making is going to be the cornerstone of your business. With advanced business-intelligence tools, you can skip the assumptions and rely on actionable data to improve your processes and bring down costs. 

“Data is at the forefront of everything we do,” said Alex Salazar, former VP of operations at fuel distributor 3L Energy Solutions. “The more information you have at your fingertips, the better decisions you’ll be able to make. Leveraging this data correctly can help companies grow tenfold.” 

But to really get that power from your data, you need the right tools that can translate information into actionable insights. That’s where business-intelligence dashboards come in. 

How fast are tanks being fueled at customer locations? How much time does a driver spend on each location, each asset, each customer? That helps you understand the overall delivery efficiency. 

Tracking asset utilization gives you more direction on how to maximize truck and driver capacity. 

Fuel consumption, delivery timeframes, transportation costs are all important indicators of whether your routes are optimized.

And having all of this data at your fingertips is extremely important in identifying ways to improve your processes and cut down costs.

Mobile-Based Technology for Drivers

Address driver hiring and retention challenges with mobile-based technology that simplifies their daily workflows and enhances their efficiency on the road with tech that’s simple to use.

The American Trucking Associations predict driver shortages to go up from about 60,000 in 2023 to 82,000 in 2024.  

The reason behind those crazy numbers? A retiring workforce. A young generation that’s not too keen on joining the trucking industry because of the demanding nature of the job: The long hours on road, unpredictable schedules, continuous back-and-forth communication and just the hassle of shuffling around so much paperwork make hiring and retaining drivers a big challenge. 

Enter mobile-based technology. 

In the words of a fuel distributor serving this industry for about 20 years: “Everything is drilled down for drivers so they don’t have to think about anything. It takes all the guesswork out and prevents drivers from making mistakes. It’s like giving them the easiest day we can.” 

That’s the power of mobile tech. 

Cloud-Based Solutions Over Server-Based Solutions 

With tight budgets and the need for higher efficiency, fuel marketers are making the switch from paperwork and server-based legacy solutions to modern cloud-based platforms that empower them to manage their entire operations over just a browser/mobile app. 

This is one of the most important areas of disruption in this industry. 

Companies have been relying on paperwork, spreadsheets and legacy systems for decades now. And they all hate it, mostly. It’s a lot of manual work. Errors are too frequent. Plus, legacy systems are highly priced, implementation cycles are too long, there’s almost no product flexibility and integrations with other systems are complex or non-existent. 

And these are the exact challenges that cloud-based solutions tackle. They’re easy to implement, don't eat up your budget (no server maintenance costs etc), play well with other systems and enable you to manage your business from anywhere. And more and more fuel distributors are replacing their old systems and processes with cloud-based solutions to modernize their business and stay competitive. 

Integrated and Unified Systems 

Fast-track business growth and scale operations with integrated and unified systems that can bring your entire operations workflows on a single platform. 

Businesses want to move fast. And there are many growth opportunities to do so, including market consolidation, expanding into new geographic areas and adding new business lines. But to succeed, you can’t really be dependent on disparate, broken systems. 

How do you streamline workflows and build a system that supports your growth? This is where integrated and unified systems are becoming crucial, making it easier for you to scale your business by integrating with other systems and streamlining operational workflows. 

The fuel distribution industry in general has been slow in adopting tech. Most businesses are over 100 years old, used to running a certain way. But those ways are slowly becoming obsolete especially with everything happening in the industry and the tech revolution. So it’s pretty much a adopt or die situation for fuel marketers. You can’t just come out day one and expect to be doing the same things the same way 50 years down the line. There’s always a better way to do things. And to stay ahead of the curve - you need to be on top of these trends and evolve with the industry. 

Pavan Maheshwari is the founder and CEO of FleetPanda, a San Mateo, California-based company dedicated to driving innovative fuel dispatch software solutions for fuel distributors. Reach him at pavan@fleetpanda.com.

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