Our Top Fleet Insights From NAFA 2024

NAFA 2024 conference insights for fleet managers

Last month, more than 2,000 fleet professionals flocked to San Antonio for the NAFA Fleet Management Association’s annual conference. According to NAFA, attendees hailed from nearly all 50 states, 6 Canadian provinces and 16 countries, as well as all the major sectors of the fleet industry. Talk about a true meeting of the minds — one that Onward was proud to be part of. 

Throughout the three-day NAFA 2024 event, our team had the opportunity to connect with fellow fleet innovators from the education, utility, government and corporate sectors. These discussions reinforced many of the fleet dynamics we’ve been experiencing through our day-to-day work serving Onward customers. But the conference also revealed trends that are coming just around the curve, particularly from the OEMs. Keep reading for the top insights from NAFA 2024 that deserve to be on your radar — whether you’re an in-house fleet manager, service provider, tech startup or automotive manufacturer. 

A strong OEM presence 

Manufacturers had a strong showing at the event, shedding light on more features than ever before. This reinforces what many fleet experts already know: our industry is filled with market opportunities that are only increasing with each technological advancement. 

Nearly two dozen manufacturers filled the showroom floor; Stellantis, for example, was at the show introducing its connected vehicle data unit, Mobilisights. But auto manufacturers also took center stage during an in-depth discussion on the industry’s next phase. Leaders from Toyota, GM Envolve, Ford Pro and Stellantis all joined the OEM Panel to help attendees navigate what’s next for mobility, sustainability and technology. Ford Pro discussed predictive maintenance and enhanced processes for purchasing parts and services — the latter of which will matter immensely to busy fleet managers. Not surprisingly, the connected vehicle and related data services were also prominent themes from OEM leaders. So was a more measured approach to electric vehicles (EVs), which dominated many discussions at NAFA 2023. 

Technology, technology and more technology

For years, the NAFA show has been well-attended by fleet service providers and equipment providers. This year’s conference took on a decidedly tech-driven flavor, thanks in part to numerous startups and established tech companies alike — all focused on bringing the latest technology to the fleet industry. We’re big believers in the power of technology to unlock smarter optimizations, and we were excited to have meaningful discussions about how to make leading-edge innovations practical for small- and medium-sized fleets.  

Artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed nearly every industry, and fleet management is no exception. AI was one of many buzzy tech themes at NAFA 2024. Tech company Samsara took home the conference’s People’s Choice Award for its AI-powered safety platform, which integrates operational data such as video-based safety footage, telematics and smart equipment. Other technology focuses included data solutions for the ever-evolving connected vehicle, advancements in telematics and 5G, and cybersecurity. We predict that cybersecurity will play a prominent role in NAFA 2025, especially given the rise of data services surrounding the connected vehicle. 

A more measured approach to EVs 

During his Day 2 keynote, the head of Ford Pro outlined the benefits of electrification. But compared with the enthusiasm of years past, his message — and the overall EV conversation at NAFA 2024  — felt much more balanced. The overarching takeaway? EVs aren’t right for every fleet right now, but as the electrification ecosystem matures, it will only get easier. There was also an emphasis on hybrid solutions to help ease fleets’ transitions. In all, the conversation has become much more nuanced, and helpful, for fleets mulling the energy transition. 

With that being said, numerous EV companies generated buzz at the show. Some support fleets during the often-challenging EV adoption phase, while others are deploying charging infrastructure that will be critical to accelerating progress. All in all, electrification is still a must-know dynamic that will impact all fleets in the years to come — but a measured, data-driven approach is key. 

Fleet and driver safety at the forefront

With the rise of autonomous vehicles, safety is firmly in the driver’s seat for many fleets. Not surprisingly, it was also a key theme at NAFA 2024. While many exhibitors shared safety platforms that employed a data-driven approach, numerous fleet managers we spoke with were especially concerned with the state of their safety training. There’s no better forum than NAFA 2024 for discussing where the industry is today, where it’s headed and how we can navigate what’s around the curve together with safety at the forefront. 

Although technology arguably played a larger role at NAFA 2024 than any past NAFA show, there was still plenty of time for forging real connections with attendees, exhibitors and speakers. For our team, the conference offered a unique opportunity to deepen our best-in-class partnerships, gain essential insights from fleet managers and keep a finger on the pulse alongside fellow fleet innovators. (We also brought some much-needed fun to the conference floor with our prize wheel, which offered folks a chance to win free lottery tickets.)

We’ll see you at NAFA 2025 in Long Beach — and until then, let’s talk about your fleet’s challenges and how we can go Onward together.