Fleet News

More than a weekend toy

Many people provided with a car for business receive it as a perk.

But in spite of this, it can still have an image as a workhorse simply because it’s a ‘company car’.

And for those of us who use four-wheeled vehicles for work, we have become accustomed to the traffic jams, accidents and paying ever-increasing congestion charges and parking fees that go with it.

While the car as a work tool is invariably something of a must for a vast proportion of the working population, not so the motorbike which is almost exclusively seen as a thing of pleasure – something for the weekend.

It’s actually this image that is partly to blame for the lack of take-up of motorcycles within the fleet sector.

“I blame you,” says Tim Peters, authorities and corporate Motorrad manager at BMW. I don’t think he means me personally more the motorcycle press in general.

“There is far too much emphasis on the sexier leisure side of motorcycling that people forget that bikes can work for a living too.”

In fact, he points out that in 2009 Fleet News conducted a survey of the industry asking whether fleets used bikes and, if so, how many.

When the figures were extrapolated it was estimated that more than 10,000 bikes exist within the UK fleet industry worth a staggering £57 million.

And Peters believes the figures could be higher.

But it’s the missed potential and the unwillingness of managers to look beyond what is “expected” from a mobile workforce that is harming the motorcycle fleet business.

In certain circumstances, using bikes can realise productivity savings of up to 75%.

“Companies just don’t build their business model around using bikes,” says Tony Draycott, managing director of Motorcycle Management, the UK’s only bike leasing specialist.

“What normally happens is that someone within the company thinks ‘wouldn’t it be a good idea to use bikes’ but it usually doesn’t get much further than that.

"There are plenty of companies I have spoken to that would like to use bikes but can’t get it signed off.

“The biggest problem we come up against is inertia. It’s a classic case within British industry – we don’t want to try something new because it might not succeed.”

Alan Elsworth, CAP’s motorcycle valuations manager, agrees that the fleet industry has done little to exploit the potential of using motorcycles, partly because they are often seen as an unknown quantity.

He points out that another significant problem is that “the big contract hire players feel uncertain about the magnitude of the benefits they may enjoy”.

And as companies fail to see the true advantages of using bikes they refuse to even entertain the idea.

This is frustrating ,especially as there are companies that have successfully implemented a bike fleet policy.

One utility firm, for instance, leased bikes for some of its engineers to access sites more rapidly and found that the engineers were able to attend up to three times more sites by using bikes.

The truth is that not all companies are going to benefit from bringing motorcycles on to their fleets.

Broadly speaking, if you have a product or service that you need to get from point A to point B across a congested traffic area, such as a large city or town, within a specified time period, then you should be looking at using bikes.

One traffic control specialist was under contract to respond to certain speed camera breakdowns within 60 minutes.

By using a fleet of motorcycles it was able to achieve this target every time and avoid any costly penalties; something that would not have been possible using four-wheeled vehicles.

It’s often because of their specific, specialised use that motorcycles are overlooked by fleet managers who can be unaware of just how a bike will fit into the fleet and what it will achieve for the business.

“What you find is that the fleet manager does not consider the overall business model when deciding on his particular fleet solution,” says Draycott.

“However, the strategy of the business is vital to the operations manager and it is often from this quarter that the germ of the idea to use bikes comes from.”

There are a lot of savings to be made too – and not just from cheaper leasing and lower benefit-in-kind tax.

A refrigerated haulage company uses bikes to attend stranded vehicles which often contain thousands of pounds worth of food goods.

By getting someone to the breakdown quickly they are able to prevent the contents of the lorry being ruined.

Although the average bike is a lot smaller than a car or van, it is surprising what can be carried with the right panniers and top box attached.

This means that many ‘first response’ engineers that arrive on bikes are able to fix many problems there and then.

If you need any further proof you have only to look at the services – such as police and paramedics – which all use motorcycles to get to accident and emergency scenes as quickly as possible.

So far it seems that bikes can save you money and improve productivity, but there are some downsides.

Although they are cheaper to buy and run than cars, motorcycles tend to need more regular servicing with shorter intervals between each service.

Tyres also need replacing far more often than on a car or van and are, comparatively, more expensive

There is also the need for protective clothing – costs for which could run to around £1,200 – but this can be factored into the leasing agreement.

This is offset though by the fact that overall leasing costs are lower as are the BIK figures.

Motorcycle Management can lease a bike from £115 a month with an optional service package to cover the costs of all maintenance and tyres for around £34 per month

Insurance can normally be covered using existing policies, says Draycott.

And as bikes are taxed on 20% of their on-the-road value (minus the initial registration fee) rather than CO2 output, an £18,000 Honda Goldwing would work out at around £120 per month for a 40% tax payer.

At the moment residual values are being influenced by the effect of currency exchange rates, particularly the Euro-Sterling.

“Many used and new machines have been snapped up by large amounts of European trade buyers leaving a large shortage in used stock for the domestic market,” says Elsworth.

“It’s been suggested one-in-three used sales have been to the continent.

"The obvious consequence of this is a large increase in residual values that will continue for some time.

"Typical Monitor predictions from three years ago as compared to current values realised on disposal are 110% above predicted.”

Andrew McDonald, BCA’s Peterborough centre manager agrees.

The auction centre holds regular sales and “prices invariably outperform guide across the sale, with individual bikes regularly returning values well in excess of market expectations”.

“We offer all the usual services and facilities for buyers and sellers,” continues McDonald, “including delivery, collection and inspection. But the most important factor is the pre-marketing and building the buyer power; our last sale generated over £500,000 in turnover from 173 bikes sold and broke all records for a BCA sale.”

And then, of course, there is the issue of safety. This, more than any other reason, may be why many fleets do not want to look at the option of motorcycles for their fleet.

Karen Cooke, director of motorcycle safety at MCIA, suggests fleet managers should get their riders to attend a BikeSafe programme.

"These are run by police authorities all over the UK and attendees will be assessed by highly-trained bikers, often police riders. They will point out the candidates weaknesses and suggest further training requirements.

“But fleet managers should be careful about where they send their riders for training.” warns Cooke.

“I suggest that fleet managers approach only companies registered with the DSA directly or through the Enhanced Rider Scheme.

"These companies have had their instructors registered and approved with the DSA and are subject to quality control inspections.”

She also points out that the IAM and RoSPA run reputable rider training courses.
Another, often overlooked, side to the use of motorcycles is their impact on the environment.

“There’s no doubt that investing in two-wheeled vehicles is investing in the environment,” says Craig Carey-Clinch, managing director of Rowan Public Affairs and advisor to the motorcycle industry.

“The average CO2 level of a bike fleet is around 110g/km compared to something like 150g/km for cars.

"And if you look at 125cc machines and below, you could be looking at an average below 100g/km.”

It seems that with more advantages than down sides introducing bikes on to your fleet could be a good move.

It may not suit all applications but where it can work it has certainly proved to save time and money for the companies concerned.

Draycott adds: “I really believe that the idea of using bikes within the fleet industry is the biggest untapped productivity gain available in the UK today.”

Case study: Network Rail

Time is everything on the railway.

When an incident brings services to a halt, Network Rail needs to react quickly to sort out the problem and get trains back on the move.

Network Rail’s mobile operations managers are the company’s rapid reaction force, the frontline response to any operational incidents on the railway.

Their job is to co-ordinate and manage incidents on the ground, bring situations to a close and get services back up and running.

They need to act fast and get to any incident with minimal delay. Going by road is often the only viable means of getting around – particularly if trains have been brought to a halt – and Network Rail’s fleet of vans and estate cars are normally adequate for the job.

But when an incident happens on one of London’s busiest routes during rush hour, such as the south west line out of Waterloo, valuable time can all too easily be lost stuck in traffic navigating through the capital’s congested roads.

Using a motorcycle can often be the quickest method to get there.

Based at the company’s maintenance depot in Wimbledon, Network Rail’s Honda Pan European 1,300cc has proved its worth.

Mobile operations riders are able to weave through the congested traffic of south-west London saving valuable time.

Network Rail provides all the training the riders need to get a motorcycle licence and all riders are required to complete the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ course annually.

Chuck Ives, Network Rail’s head of fleet says: “We have a wide range of vehicles within our 8,500 strong fleet, all selected to play a particular role to support the smooth running of the railway.

"When faults do occur, particularly in inner-city areas where the roads are often congested, using motorcycles offer a clear advantage over the car and can help us restore services all that bit quicker keeping passenger delays to a minimum.”

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