Forty-one per cent of fleets are experiencing issues booking service, maintenance and repair (SMR) work or MOTs, despite dealerships re-opening in June, according to the third Fleet News Covid-19 survey.
The closure of dealers to all but essential workers and the six-month MOT extension during the national lockdown have caused a backlog and, in some instances, fleet operators are facing long wait times, which can mean increased vehicle off the road time and the additional cost associated with that.
Steve Haigh, transport manager at Lexia Solutions Group, which has a fleet of 280 cars and vans, said: “It’s a nightmare getting the main dealers to give us a booking any quicker than two to three weeks.
“That’s all well and good if all we need is a forward planed service but quite often a warning light will come on, say for brakes, and you end up with a vehicle off the road because, quite rightly, the driver defects the vehicle and we can’t get it seen to.”
At Altrad Services, the biggest challenge has been MOTs for its HGV fleet.
Altrad's UK fleet & transport manager Matt Hammond said that MOT slots were difficult to obtain prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and it has made the situation “much worse”.
“While I appreciate the extension on MOTs introduced by the Government, the concern over potential compliance and safety issues will only increase as tests are delayed,” he said.
However, he added that Altrad’s car and van fleet hadn’t been affected “too badly”, with “only a handful of vehicles not meeting their original MOT schedules”.
Fleet operators with their own garages and/or MOT test stations are arguably in a better position than those that outsource as they have more control of the situation. For instance, they have been able to be flexible about workshop staff’s start and finish times.
At South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue workshop staff did weekend servicing at the start of the pandemic to “get ahead of the game”.
Fleet operators suggest that main dealers should consider extended opening hours or servicing on Sundays.
Haigh said: “I do appreciate the need for social distancing etc but if some of the main dealers would look at extending service department opening hours that might ease the situation.”
He pointed out that this could bring in extra revenue for dealers.
The increase in the number of fleet operators extending vehicle contracts also has the potential to create more SMR issues further down the line and dealers and other maintenance providers will need to be geared up for that.
- The third Fleet News Covid-19 survey also found that 51% of fleet decision-makers believe more company car drivers will take the cash option ahead of the vehicle. Read the full story in the latest digital issue of Fleet News.
- For advice on getting 'back to business' during the pandemic, sign up for the next Fleet News webinar on October 13 at 2pm.