Caroline Sandall, co-chair of the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP)
We’ve just lived through a few weeks during which the world seems to have altered completely. Shifts in behaviour and material changes that we might have dismissed as almost unthinkable as recently as early last month have become the norm – and look set to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Not that the future seems anywhere near as foreseeable as it once did.
In the fleet sector, the impact of coronavirus and the ensuing lockdown have been dramatic. We have switched from being a profession that literally sets business in motion to one that barely turns a wheel. It’s quite a transformation.
However, there has been a crucial exception to this newfound stillness. That has been the support that we, as an industry, have been providing to key workers.
In frequently difficult circumstances, it has meant making sure that we keep vehicles available, safe and reliable, often on a 24/7 basis. For the fleets that really need to keep moving, those that are essential to living and saving lives, we have been in place to help their workers deliver.
When the fleet industry was called on to help, it responded in a selfless and capable fashion, and all of those involved deserve some praise. We can take pride in what we have done.
There have been other important subjects to tackle, if not as dramatic. Many company car drivers find themselves in difficult financial circumstances, and the work that has been done on benefit-in-kind taxation to minimise their outgoings is extremely worthwhile.
Equally impressive has been the way that the majority
of fleet industry service providers, from the smallest to the largest, have moved from being traditional, centralised organisations to atomised, home-working operations in a matter of days.
Achieving all of these tasks has required often Herculean amounts of work, as I am sure everyone reading this knows. On a personal level, I can vouch that I have never been as busy as in the past month, something that I have heard many other people report.
What everyone now wants to know is what the future holds, but the picture is very far from discernible. As I write this, it is becoming clear the lockdown will extend into May. Will it continue beyond then? Will there be a phased reduction? Will we have to live with coronavirus measures until well into next year?
The answer is that no one knows. However, from what I have seen over the past few weeks, it is very obvious to me that whatever is asked of our sector, we can answer that call. With the flexibility, goodwill and ingenuity that we have shown, the fleet industry can tackle anything.
Everyone, please stay well and safe.