We contacted leading figures to ask where they believe fleet is heading over the coming 20 years. All expect MaaS to become widespread, reports Andrew Ryan.
Just as technological advances and changes in legislation have made today’s fleet industry barely recognisable from how it was 40 years ago, the same is likely to be true in 20 years’ time.
That’s the view of Matthew Walters, head of consultancy and customer data services at LeasePlan UK, one of a number of experts we asked for their predictions for the future of the fleet sector.
While flying cars and hoverboards were not on the agenda, all agreed that connected cars and mobility will play a major role in 2038 – as will the fleet manager, albeit it in an evolved form.
The changes the fleet sector will undergo in the next 20 years will be shaped by six trends, says Walters: environmental regulations, cost pressures, emerging markets, technology, connectivity and the car, and the impact on manufacturing.
“Although each individual trend may not represent a significant shift, their overall effect could revolutionise attitudes to motor vehicles and mobility more broadly,” he says.
“With new developments and innovation in vehicle technology, international company mergers, centralised procurement, telematics and a growing focus on driver behaviour, as broader environmental considerations, the landscape is set to evolve dramatically.
“Add to this the global shift to digital, and increased popularity of click-and-collect style mobility solutions, and it’s clear to see the fleet sector is in a state of perpetual motion.”
All our experts shared the view that mobility as a service (MaaS) would become widespread, with the fleet metric changing from vehicle numbers and data to factors such as journey success rates, timings, attendance rates and annual cost.
These journeys may involve using a company-owned vehicle, or just as likely a rented, leased or shared vehicle, or public transport.
“We are starting to see that with the imminent introduction of clean air zones and the ever-increasing congestion on UK roads, employers must view travel in a different way,” says John Pryor, chairman of ACFO.
He believes the idea of an individual always making a journey in their own company car will become outdated, as will employees at specific job levels receiving a remuneration package with a company vehicle.
“Instead, if employees are required to make work-related journeys, they will be given a corporate ‘mobility card’ with a pre-set value reflective of the anticipated cost of journeys made,” adds Pryor. “Therefore, companies must become more confident in MaaS as a mechanism for moving employees around.”
Gary Smith, managing director of Europcar UK Group, feels customer convenience will continue to dominate the landscape, with on demand, app-based solutions that deliver total efficiency for the consumer becoming further embedded into all elements of the mobility mix.
“Much advancement has already taken place in this regard, but truly integrated MaaS platforms are set to grow significantly,” he says.
“Where we currently see tech platforms that make it easier to access car share, ride hailing and other mobility services, self-service innovation is bound to evolve exponentially in the next two decades. It’s hard to imagine what won’t be self-service via an app in 20 years’ time.”
This is supported by Paul Hollick, chairman of the ICFM, who adds: “Employees will be able to book their travel – all modes of travel and easily expense it – all within corporate travel policies via tomorrow’s version of smartphones, watches and vehicles.”
The growth of MaaS will also change the ownership model of fleets in the future, with the sector becoming more focused on vehicle usership rather than ownership.
However, this depends on the function of the fleet, says Claire Evans, head of fleet consultancy at Zenith.
“In the UK, fleet vehicles from cars to HGVs play an essential role in providing vital goods and services within the UK economy, and, as such, there will always be a core fleet element that will be leased, mainly through contract hire, by businesses to ensure productivity and cost efficiencies,” she adds.
However, the move away from the current model of ownership will not happen immediately, says Nick Brownrigg, CEO of business mobility company Alphabet.
“Over the next 10 years, I think the majority of the business we do will remain similar to how it looks today, being focused on a ‘single use’ asset.
But over the next decade, meeting the needs of that increasing minority of businesses – those journey solutions delivered via multiple assets – will be critical because these are the ‘adopters’ who will be leading the path where the market is going in the long-term.”
Company vehicles and fleet managers will still have a future
The rise of mobility as a service (MaaS) will not herald the end of the company vehicle, says John Pryor. “In terms of job-need car drivers – such as service engineers required to carry tools and other equipment to jobs – and light commercial vehicles, it is difficult to envisage anything much different from the current model,” he says.
Peter Golding, managing director of FleetCheck, agrees as the lack of investment in public transport means private transport solutions will continue to be the core of corporate travel.
“There will probably be a move towards greater use of mobility services, but there is nothing on the horizon that looks as though it will match the car for cost-effectiveness and flexibility,” he says.
As well as the company vehicle surviving, so will the fleet manager – but their job function will evolve.
“The role of the fleet manager is not dead,” says Pryor. “But, a bit like a regenerating Dr Who, it is changing into a different face but with the same ideals and objectives: managing the movement of people and goods as cost-effectively and as safely as possible according to business need.”
This is also a view held by other industry experts, and Zenith head of fleet consultancy Claire Evans adds: “The trend to the outsourcing of fleet services will continue and increase.
“Already the fleet management community is embracing the era of big data. And we can expect in 20 years’ time for fleet managers to further concentrate on combined mobility objectives, working in tandem with their leasing provider who will manage the day-to-day administration of fleet.”
Power trains of future will be a real mix
The electrification of fleet vehicles will be widespread by 2038, although pure EVs may not be the default choice.
“Drivers will be travelling around in a cross-section of autonomous and hydrogen-powered vehicles with a smattering of other power trains, including diesel, petrol and electric,” says Paul Hollick, of ICFM.
However, Peter Golding, of FleetCheck, feels the core company car of the future will probably be a petrol-electric hybrid.
Elements of connected car technology and automated driving will be commonplace, says David Fulker, BBM marketing manager for Bosch UK.
He says: “This will help improve driver safety, through technology such as traffic jam assist, automated emergency braking, lane assist, parking assist, as well as real-time navigation and road surface data.
"On-board diagnostics will give managers flexibility to connect with and optimise the efficiency of their fleet, anytime.”