by Adrian Bewley, director of business rental at Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Car sharing programmes, a recent addition to the range of rental services available to organisations, are beginning to take off. Many local authorities, government bodies and businesses up and down the country have now been piloting or running them for several years.
The requirements for getting an effective programme in place are, on the face of it, quite simple: it’s about data. You need to know how many cars you’re going to need and in which locations. Overlay that with knowledge of how far people are likely to be travelling and the purpose of the journey, and you’re onto a winner.
It then becomes quite simple to establish how many hourly car sharing vehicles the organisation is going to require and where they need to be, as well as how other rental solutions like daily or longer-term hire may be used.
In fact, every business we talk to wants to know more about introducing car sharing as another way of controlling costs, carbon emissions and increasingly, employee behaviour.
This last one is where you can make the biggest difference. Many local authorities are now using car sharing as a way of curbing the seemingly insatiable urge of some employees to make unnecessary journeys – especially if they’re using their own ‘grey fleet’ vehicles.
This can be achieved by tailoring the vehicle booking software to prompt some simple questions such as “Do you need to make this trip right now?” or “Has your manager approved this journey?”
Establishing these parameters is fairly straightforward, even though it requires some significant number crunching. Mileage reimbursement data gives invaluable insight into locations, journey lengths and volumes, as well as which employees are most likely to be using the service and from which locations.
In fact, the analytics can enable organisations to launch an almost perfect car sharing service on the first day of the pilot, which will only require minimal adjustment as the programme moves forward. And that means people can immediately see it’s providing exactly what they need: the right car; where they need it; when they need it.
However, there is a still huge challenge for neighbourhood schemes: community car sharing for private individuals. Some car clubs and rental car sharing programmes work really well, but many others have struggled.
A big reason for this is the lack of that same data that corporate programmes employ. And in this case we’re talking about the kind of rich, multi-layered information that is now being described as “big data” by many marketing departments.
So to make these neighbourhood programmes work, the focus needs to be on how we establish how many cars are needed to serve the needs of a community - and where they should be located - by understanding more about who’s making which journeys, when, and for how long. We need the same level of detailed data on usage patterns that the corporate programmes enjoy.
It seems the next step is therefore to use big data to predict and manage demand so that the solution becomes truly viable and sustainable. Neighbourhood car sharing needs access to the same wealth of analytics that’s made its public sector counterpart work so well; and then it might actually encourage a similar shift in behaviour.