With the economic outlook still gloomy and fuel prices sky-high, companies that are tempted to cut costs by choosing the cheapest possible fleet management should think twice as it may cost them more in the long run, says Fraikin.
When costs rack up for every minute a vehicle is off the road, having a reliable, robust and responsive service back-up is of prime importance, and companies need to consider the quality of the service provided.
“Imagine it’s snowing, it’s 2am and you get a phone call from one of your drivers who is on the hard shoulder of the M6 who says: ‘I’m not quite sure where I am but I’ve broken down and need immediate help?’,” said Peter Backhouse (pictured), chief executive officer of Fraikin.
“That’s when you want to know how responsive your fleet management provider’s breakdown service is.
“Do they fix it themselves? Do they outsource it? How quickly can they get there? Will they be able to fix it at the roadside? Does their recovery vehicle have all the parts necessary, or will they have to go through a big, major recovery exercise because they don’t have the parts?
“You want the assurance the difficulty will be resolved safely, effectively and with as little disruption to your business as possible. That’s when you want to know you are in safe hands.”
Equally, companies can actually save money on running costs and improve the efficiency of their operations by taking on expert advice from fleet management providers who really know how best to align a fleet to maximise productivity.
Optimising fleet performance will not only boost their bottom line, it will safeguard and enhance their reputation with their own customers, conferring long-term benefits that can give them a competitive edge.
“It is not always about, for example, the customer thinking they need 20 vehicles and a fleet manager saying he can do it with 18,” said Backhouse.
“Sometimes the customer actually does need 20 vehicles, but if these were operated in a different pattern it could have a massive impact on efficiency and costs.
“Fuel is the biggest worry, after labour costs, so a saving of 10% on the fuel bill is significant.
“A good fleet manager will bring added value to customers by finding ways to improve vehicle efficiency by using new vehicle technologies, for example, or by suggesting ways of dealing with operational issues that are leading to unnecessary waste or increased costs.
“Customers have to be open-minded to new suggestions. The more transparent a customer can be with their fleet management provider, the more that provider can find ways of reducing their costs.
“The reality is these days that just providing a vehicle and making sure it works when a customer wants it is not enough.”
Fraikin, part of the largest commercial vehicle fleet service company in Europe, is expanding its operations in the UK and last year saw a dramatic rise in its fleet management, growing the fleet by more than 8,000 vehicles, and landing contracts with Scottish Power, Cartwright and Sainsbury.