Ian Smith, head of business and market development, Northgate Vehicle Hire
Predicting a company’s fleet requirements years in advance is a tricky job, especially when companies are still reassessing their business needs in a post-recession climate.
The economy is still volatile and unpredictable, meaning applying traditional fleet strategies can be risky for fleet managers.
With firms merging, upsizing, downsizing and refocusing their offerings across the changing multi-channel sales environments of today, it’s increasingly difficult to predict a business’s needs one year in advance, let alone four.
With the average term for a leased commercial vehicle sitting at 4.6 years, businesses need to evaluate whether they can truly gauge the demands on their company fleet over this time.
It’s vital that a fleet should be matched to meet its needs – it must flex to the present climate.
It’s not just the number of vehicles that requires attention; types, specification and payloads are also an important consideration especially as long replacement cycles and contract periods don’t provide businesses with the flexibility to change a vehicle type if required – leaving a fleet exposed to costly charges or a fleet that’s not fit for purpose.
This is particularly relevant for those operating in industries that experience seasonal fluctuations or work on project-based contracts.
Add to this vehicle advancement such as fuel efficiency, lower CO2 and service intervals, which are changing at a fast pace with huge potential cost-saving benefits, and it becomes essential that these features and benefits can be introduced into a fleet at any time.
To get the best fleet optimisation, flexibility has become an important feature.
Organisations need to be adaptable to survive and vehicle fleets (especially essential fleets) need to be able to react quickly to the changing demands faced by many businesses.
When reviewing fleet needs, the benefits of a flexible fleet must be high on the agenda be it as a partial acquisition method or a whole fleet solution.
It could be the make or break factor one, two or even three years down the line.