Fleet News

SME engagement key to Road to Zero target

Tim Watts, managing director of Fleet Department

By Tim Watts, managing director of Fleet Department

I was recently at the House of Commons joining BVRLA, MPs, ministers and fleet experts from across the UK to join a fascinating debate on the fleet sectors progress in meeting the Government targets. 

At least half of new cars must be ultra-low emission by 2030. The challenges to achieving this are as tricky as they are exciting.  Here are three challenges that feel particularly pertinent.

Firstly, influencing behavioural changes amongst Small to Medium sized enterprises (SME) is essential. There are 5.7 million SME businesses in the UK, an audience we really must engage with.

Behaviour change isn't a case of wishful thinking. It requires persuasive communications, smart policy and legislation, effective operations, and an empathetic understanding of the audience you are trying to influence.

We need Government funded behaviour change programs to be put in place to support the SME sector, in particular: 

● Improve awareness of the Road to Zero strategy amongst SME sector

● Education and financial support for SMEs running non-compliant polluting vehicles

● Measurement of the impact on individual businesses

Second, how do we ensure that clean air initiatives do not inadvertently lead to an increase in congestion? 

A better understanding of the relationship between road congestion and perceived CAZ compliant behaviours is required.  For example, logistical movement of localised freight from the growth in home deliveries being moved from lorries to numbers of smaller vans.

All of this is adding to the congestion issue. Scale this across the UK's cities and we have a different logistical challenge on our hands. 

Initiatives such as the provision of free school transport and even more radically, free public transport, could potentially tackle the overuse of cars

Third, Government and the private sector must work closely together to develop tech, policy, and behavioural change solutions. Whilst much proactive and revolutionary work is being done to develop the technology for electric vehicles, the fleet supply sector is feeling frustrated. 

Barriers to change include vehicle order lead times and buyer concerns regarding charging points and home charging options.

Furthermore, we are seeing resistance from consumers due to perceptions of a technology struggle is happening in EV and a belief that waiting for a settled solution before buying an EV might be best. 

The high capital cost and longer vehicle replacement cycles, at a time of political uncertainty domestically and with rumours globally of another emerging recession, can be off putting to fleet decision makers.

SMEs will be integral to the success of the Road to Zero initiative.  It's essential that any forums and working groups have a representative voice of SME business owners - a community of business people that are fragmented and not homogenous in their barriers or motivations to change.

Undoubtedly challenging to achieve but a challenge that must be taken up if the Road to Zero isn’t to hit a dead end.

Click here for electric cars and hybrids best practice and procurement insight

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