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Fleet skills: preparing for the mobility revolution

Mobility graphic

The journey towards Business Mobility-as-a-Service (BMaaS) is gathering momentum and it will not be too long before it becomes the norm for fleet managers to evolve into corporate mobility managers, controlling the logistics and analysing the cost of journeys made by employees.

Today’s fleet managers need to prepare themselves for this exciting new world of mobility management that is a million miles away from that of old school fleet management principles.

For many, this change could be viewed as daunting and they could perhaps be forgiven for initially feeling that they are being morphed into travel agents!

Transition is always a challenge and when I started working in the fleet industry in the early 1970s, the world of transport was in a very different place to that I know today.

Only employees who needed to be mobile in the course of their employment, or very senior executives and directors were provided with cars. While a degree of personal use was permitted, employees were expected to pay for any fuel used. There was no taxation of this benefit and the allocation of a company car became a much valued feature of many employments.

The vehicles were different, too, and their current appeal as ‘barn finds’ and cherished ‘classics’ is far removed from the reality of operating them as fleet vehicles back in the day.

Reliability was of a much lower standard than today’s modern equivalents and this, coupled with service intervals every 2,500/5,000 miles, resulted in service, maintenance and repair activities that were a predominant consumer of time and resources.

To add to the mix, inevitably, the provision of a company car became viewed as a status symbol, reflecting an employee’s seniority within a business and, on the flip side, businesses were able to promote and enhance their image in a competitive environment by selecting the type of cars provided to their employees, who, frequently had little choice in what car was offered – not even the colour!

The arrival of the Finance Act of 1976 introduced the concept of a taxation liability for all employees provided with private use of a company-owned motor car and in the late 1990s, the environmental impact of cars also became recognised. 

So why do I mention these elements? Well, simply because they became the tapestry for fleet department activities and, not surprisingly, fleet management focus was predominantly all about how best to manage increasing driver aspirations, what went on under the bonnet and benefit-in-kind taxation, a trend that has remained in place for the past 20 years or so. 

In more recent times, the change to identifying the total cost of ownership, as represented by an average monthly value, has become a more realistic approach and this has perhaps – in part – steered us to a BMaaS future. 

Whether we like it or not, the worlds of fleet management and travel management are merging at a rapid rate, driven by technology and ‘big data’ that is underpinning BMaaS and the move to a total cost of mobility concept.

So from a fleet management perspective, this requires a very different set of skills and knowledge and requires a complete understanding of the elements required to control the full cost of employees travelling from A to B – not just the vehicle cost. Telematics is one of the key drivers in the process and there is far greater reliance on communication platforms, which are fuelled by the big data revolution. 

Shift of focus

Overall, the business model is shifting from being asset focused (the vehicle) to being much more employee movements driven, so fleet managers need to evolve their operational position to follow suit.

Companies must now look to set a mobility budget for each employee that will influence the mode of transport they take – company car, car club, car share, car hire, public transport – and this will be based on a range of factors including fitness-for-purpose, cost, convenience and safety. 

Using a web portal or perhaps mobility card functionality, employees will be able to select the most appropriate mode of travel for their planned journey to meet both their business and personal requirements. 

Businesses will be able to set a ‘mobility budget’ for individual staff, irrespective of whether or not they are entitled to a company car, and this will be initiated purely by virtue of their job function and associated travel requirements.

Each ‘booking’ made by the employee will provide cost against budget information and help managers to drive significant efficiencies’ across their businesses and this will gain momentum as better travel choices are progressively selected.

So where does this leave the current fleet manager?

The ICFM believes there is still a role for fleet managers in this new world of BMaaS, but inevitably the job title and range of responsibilities will evolve to meet the changing requirements of the job. 

The traditional job title of fleet manager will most likely morph into ‘mobility manager’ and in that sense the current role as we know it will cease to exist.

So my message to all fleet managers is quite simple – don’t be phased or feel uncertain about the future: embrace it! 

Yes, arguably this is one of the most challenging times for fleet managers, but it also one of the most exciting ones and a favourite quote from President John F. Kennedy sums this up perfectly: “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

Tips for a sound BMaas future

Here are my five tips to start the process of moving seamlessly towards a successful BMaaS future:

1 Embrace change – don’t resist it.

2 Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Encourage other colleagues with fleet responsibility to provide input – specifically HR since mobility is part of an employee’s benefits package that influences recruitment and staff retention.

3 Acknowledge that the key to unlocking BMaaS opportunities is data and information obtained from supply chain partners within the vehicle provision and travel sectors.

4 Interrogate your current fleet and start to draw up change management plans that take full account of the current industry spiral into poor long-term business mobility planning – a rise in ‘grey fleet’ usage off the back of an increase in demand for cash-for-car  in particular.

5 Consider ‘what good should look like’ with respect to embracing the plug-in and zero emission vehicle revolution; the use of car clubs, car share, car hire, non-vehicle transport options and the like.

Finally, take on board that skill, knowledge and expertise are essential requirements for the effective management of a BMaaS solution. If you would like to know more then there is no better place to start than the ICFM.

Join today via our website or contact administration@icfm.com for further information.

ICFM director Peter Eldridge.

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