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Covid-19 gives fleets ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to innovate, says AFP

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The Covid-19 pandemic is a “once in a generation opportunity” to change the way organisations think about their fleet operations.

Research shown at the Association of Fleet Professionals webinar on the impact of coronavirus held on Wednesday showed 50% of fleet managers expect to slow down their electric vehicle strategy.

However, Stewart Lightbody, deputy chair of AFP, said he found this “strange”, as the reduced mileage people are travelling makes it an ideal time to progress EV programmes.

Lightbody said: “Drivers are now less inclined to travel and more inclined to make the right choice, which I think really opens up the opportunity for the EV discussion.

“Less miles and less usage equals that real opportunity to embrace the EV or the alternative fuel vehicle.

“Fleets have the opportunity to escalate and prioritise EVs. If they thought EVs weren’t fit for their business before, they should take the time to review it and it may be that things are different now.

“Out of change comes innovation, and this is a one in a generation opportunity to do things differently.”

Lightbody said video-calling software such has Zoom and MS Teams has allowed people greater flexibility to work at home, while there is also now more focus on the health and well-being of individuals than there has ever been.

The research also found 23% of businesses have a travel ban until September-December, 42% of fleets plan to extend existing leasing contracts or stop ordering vehicles, while 69% expect their fleet to reduce in size.

It also found 69% of fleet managers are looking to create added value for their company. Lightbody added: “Most of them do it anyway, but given the current situation and their ability to innovate, the fleet community is definitely pulling its weight and doing its part which is great.

“The fleet manager role quite often can be a vulnerable position and sometimes among the first a company looks at whenever downsizing.

“We need to demonstrate how you can deliver the fleet in different ways and really add value to the company to protect your own well-being.

“Cost savings will be important as always as businesses look to create strength and resilience.

“We have got the opportunity to influence what the future looks like and fleet has a real opportunity to shape that conversation.

“This is a fantastic time to innovate and add value. Fleet managers do it anyway, so if there is good work out there, be sure to tell everybody about it.

“This is the time for us to shine.”

The AFP was formed in March from the merging of the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) and the Institute of Car Fleet Management (ICFM).

During the webinar, the organisation also announces the members and adopted aims of three new committees covering future roads, risk and mobility.

The Future Roads Committee will be chaired by Debbie Floyd of Bauer, co-chaired by Julie Summerell of TR Fleet, and include Nigel Grainger of Plumbase, Colin Jones of Cancer Research, Mark Cartwright of Highways Agency, Sean Murphy of Keltbray and Colin Hutt of Clarion.

Its intent is to explore topics including smart motorways, new roads and planning road layouts, low emissions zones, power provision from road use, route planning and optimisation, road charging and tolls, alternative vehicles, urbanisation, parking, and the integration of technology.

Chairing the Risk, Compliance and Health Committee will be Martin Evans of Jaama, while co-chair is Marie Jarrold of British Car Auctions. Members include Colin Knight of Amazon, Matt Hammond of Altrad, Tony Murphy of Murphy Plant, Ted Sakyi of Euro Car Parts, Mark Cartwright of Highways Agency, Eric Bristow of Schindler and Ryan Coles of Aviva. In addition, it will also feature David Brown of ADT, Emma Loveday of Drivetec, Alison Moriarty of Driive and Dr Lisa Dorn of Cranfield University.

Its aim is to focus on relevant issues concerning occupational travel risk including driver health and well-being, and corporate compliance. This will include managing the coronavirus crisis.

The Future Mobility Steering Group will be led by Paul Hollick of the AFP and co-chaired by James Pestell of the AFP. Other members will include Peter Millchard of the AFP, Wayne Warburton of Siemens, David Oliver of Specsavers, Mandi Nicol of Schnieder Electric, Lorna McAtear of National Grid, Andy Leedham of Astra Zenica, Debbie Floyde of Bauer, Simon Gray of SSE,  Madeline Webster of Fleet Logistics, David Bushnell of Alphabet, Oz Choudray of Enterprise, Harvey Perkins of HRUX and Joe Carierra of MSD.

The committee will cover changes in the mobility landscape, as well as driving and shaping the future of mobility as it evolves. It aims to explore usage rather than ownership models and utilise areas such as big data, total cost of mobility, mobility as a service (MaaS), travel and payments. 

Paul Hollick, AFP chair, said: “Together with the Electric Vehicle, Low Carbon and Alternative Fuels, and LCV committees that we have already announced, we are confident that we now have a full set of forums that will very quickly become crucial to thinking and action in our industry.

“One of the key aims in forming the AFP earlier this year by merging ACFO and the ICFM was to create a platform from which the fleet sector could speak with one voice on important topics, and these committees are an important part of that process.”

  • Look out for digital edition of Fleet News on July 23 for an exclusive interview with AFP chair Paul Hollick and deputy chair Stewart Lightbody on the association's aims and aspirations. 
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