Paul Hollick (pictured), chairman of the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP), shares his thoughts
The AFP was formed in March 2020 from the merging of the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) and the Institute of Car Fleet Management (ICFM), to provide a new voice for the fleet sector in the UK – and has proven an immediate success. Chair Paul Hollick picks out seven major trends that he expects to see across the industry in 2020.
1. Rightsizing for coronavirus
The impact of the coronavirus crisis on fleets will mean change for the vast majority of businesses and, although there are some growth areas, rightsizing will normally mean a reduction in the number of vehicles you operate as redundancies are made.
Dependent on the budgetary pressures under which you are placed, this could mean examining a whole range of fundamental issues, from choice lists to replacement cycles.
2. Getting your data to deliver real insight
A key part of the formation of the AFP has been the creation of our committee structure, and one of the key pieces of feedback being generated is that, while fleets are today being provided with a flood of information, they need to develop ways to increase their degree of insight.
This means asking some fundamental questions. What do you want to achieve on your fleet? What information do you need to do it? How can you get that data? And in what format does it need to be presented for you to gain maximum insight?
3. EV adoption is delayed – but only slightly
In 2020, 0% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, increased choice and availability of EVs, and a continually improved charging structure, were all meant to combine to create a tipping point for fleets when it came to electric vehicle (EV) adoption.
Mainly due to vehicle availability, the pandemic has, unavoidably, slowed this process a little.
But we believe the delay will be measured in months, not years.
Fleets and their drivers remain extremely keen on EVs, something undimmed by the prospect of BIK increasing to a ‘whopping’ 1% in April 2021!
4. The frustration of Brexit
Brexit is the great unknown for fleets heading in 2021.
It is no longer any kind of political statement to say it is unacceptable that businesses should be heading into the end of the transition period with no idea about the conditions under which they will be operating – but that is where we find ourselves, so planning remains not just difficult, but impossible.
Solving Brexit operational problems could potentially be a substantial task.
As it stands, expect import taxes and delays on vehicle and parts availability.
5. Grey fleet management is set for growth
2021 is likely to see a dramatic increase in grey fleet management.
Driving this trend is reticence on the part of employees to use public transport because of the risk of infection and choosing to use their own vehicle instead.
Of course, employers bear almost as a great a responsibility for grey fleet use in legal terms as for company cars and employee-owned equivalents need to be closely monitored, especially in terms of risk.
6. Mental health issues could increase
The past few months have been pretty damaging to the mental health of a lot of people and the chances of your drivers encountering problems could potentially increase as lockdown measures persist in many parts of the country.
This possibility needs to be part of your fleet risk management in exactly the same way as any other illness.
Depression and anxiety can affect your ability to drive and the medication prescribed to help can also have any impact.
7. The company car will remain crucial for businesses
One of the peculiar effects of the coronavirus crisis is the idea that the company car must be in decline.
Of course, a few drivers are opting out of their vehicles because of the growth of video conferencing, but that the bigger picture is much more complex and overall fleet numbers could even be growing.
The company car remains a highly effective tool for businesses and, in many instances, the only viable transport option.
While mileage for some may be reduced in the future, the journeys that they make are still important.
Also, it’s important to note that, prompted by (low) EV taxation, many cash takers want back into car schemes, while the popularity of salary sacrifice is significantly increasing.