While long-term strategies are unlikely to lead to the demise of the company car, businesses and employees will realise that journeys and therefore fuel bills can be slashed. Fleet interest in alternatively fuelled vehicles is soaring as liquefied petroleum gas supplies remained available throughout the crisis.
Fleet chiefs this week revealed how car-sharing schemes took off, staff worked from home satisfactorily and face-to-face meetings were cancelled or took place with the introduction of hi-tech links such as teleconferencing and video conferencing.
With company bosses and fleet managers under pressure daily to control fleet operating costs, reducing fuel bills is a key strategic aim. The knock-on effects of such a strategy would be huge, with vehicle replacement cycles potentially being extended as wear and tear on cars becomes less, resulting in a decline in new car sales. Fewer vehicles on the roads could mean fewer accidents, while company car drivers would be made more aware of the need to reduce speeds in a bid to improve fuel efficiency.
Association of Car Fleet Operators chairman Tony Leigh said: 'The Government should put more money behind alternatively-fuelled vehicles so fleets are not reliant on fossil fuels. The crisis should also encourage fleets to increase their use of diesel cars. There must also be a real change in public transport provision.
BT reported a massive rise in telephone conference calls. The company says it normally organises 2,300 a day, but saw demand double to about 4,500 last week as the fuel crisis began to bite. In addition the number of teleconference accounts opened increased by about 500%.
Fleets throughout the country agreed that the crisis had prompted a focus on alternative working methods. AIan Read, fleet services manager at Vivendi Water UK, said the water utility, with a fleet of 550 commercial vehicles and 200 company cars, had rolled out contingency plans including minimising non-essential journeys, car sharing, working from home 'hot desking' and the introduction of a minibus service between head office and railway station. He said: 'There are a lot of valuable lessons to be learned from this experience which show that we can reduce our dependence on the car.'