Initially focusing on meeting fleet requirements for sub-3.5 tonne light commercial vehicles, the company is also currently developing a range of products to meet customer demands for larger commercial vehicles, including trucks.
Graeme Mellis, who has a 27-year commercial vehicle industry career behind him, is the recently-appointed commercial vehicle manager heading up the new operation.
The move comes at a time when an increasing number of companies are turning away from outright purchasing vans to leasing.
Mr Mellis, who has joined IFS from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, where he was the South West area fleet manager for four years, explained: ‘IFS already has a strong light commercial vehicle presence, but we are now expanding our service to offer a range of individual solutions to a much greater breadth of companies. In today’s commercial vehicle world there is significantly more to providing fleets with their transport solutions than simply offering a standard off-the-shelf package.
‘As an Inchcape company, we are totally focused on delivering a first-class customer experience.
‘I joined the company because the organisation understands that every fleet needs an individual commercial vehicle solution. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ because every organisation invariably requires their commercial vehicles to perform a different job.
‘Expert knowledge of the growing number of vehicles available is essential along with in- depth know-how on how vans can be equipped to meet specific customer requirements so as to provide companies with vehicles that are fit for purpose.
'Just as company car fleet operators benefit from our consultative approach to business and our range of online management solutions so we are extending that level of service delivery to commercial vehicle fleets.
‘There are numerous added- value services that many commercial vehicle operators can benefit from that few realise are available. We will change that view.’
The importance of ensuring that vehicles are not only fit for purpose but that they are fitted out to safely store tools and equipment is one of the key issues facing van fleet operators as they get to grips with health and safety regulations.
Duty of care in relation to both vehicle operations and drivers remains one of the key issues facing fleet operators and Mr Mellis said: ‘It is essential that vans are properly kitted out and that van racking, for example, is of high quality. Fleet operators should not be price-led, but look at service levels including the overall safety of the vehicle and additional features.’
It is also important that employees are trained to correctly load vehicles and to handle and lift goods correctly.
Mr Mellis said: ‘We live in a litigious society and if staff are not given the right training or do not have the right tools to do their job and subsequently suffer an injury, such as a bad back, they could make an insurance claim against the company. It is this type of consultancy advice that we can provide.’
Mr Mellis, who during his commercial vehicle career has also worked for Renault and spent nine years running his own fleet management consultancy, said: ‘Ever-increasing demand for home deliveries as a result of the rising volume of goods being ordered over the internet has increased demand for vans. Additionally, vehicle manufacturers are providing an ever-expanding range of commercial vehicles as they increase their focus on the sector.
‘Most of the vans currently on our fleet are operated by customers who have company car leasing arrangements with us and that shows that many companies trust us to meet their operating demands.’
He is also confident that the historic trend for van fleets to buy their own vehicles is coming to an end, with more businesses now looking to lease.
In the last decade contract hire has become the number one funding mechanism for company cars and Mr Mellis believes that the van market is moving in the same direction.
He said: ‘Companies are looking to benefit from fixed monthly costs so they can improve budgeting and cash flow. They also want to remove the residual value risk from themselves.’