Paul Holland, managing director for UK Fuel at Fleetcor
With England and the devolved nations coming out of restrictions, many businesses are working hard to return to pre-pandemic operations and capacities.
Therefore, it is important reflect on the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Britain’s economy (more specifically the mobility sector) to provide a barometer for the wider effect on Britain’s businesses, identifying the sectors which have been affected the most.
Although fuel usage decreased in sectors such as logistics, manufacturing, and construction, especially as we first entered the pandemic, they were deemed as key industries and remained in demand.
Of course, these sectors cannot perform without consuming fuel, so what does the fuel data that the pandemic produced show us about the last 18 months?
A diesel dominance
Data indicates that industries were understandably impacted most at the beginning of the pandemic, with total miles travelled dropping from around 1.2 billion miles per month in February 2020 to just over 550 million in April 2020.
However, mileage is continuing to rise towards pre-pandemic rates.
Although lower than usual, diesel usage dominated fuel consumption throughout the pandemic.
Petrol usage reduced by almost two thirds between March and April 2020, due to the fact that petrol is typically used in cars, which during the hight of the pandemic were left sitting in driveways due to the majority of people working from home and travel bans.
During the same period, diesel powered vehicle usage was down by less than a half of pre-pandemic levels.
Due to the essential nature of diesel-powered vehicles such as vans, Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and construction vehicles, which are used in industries such as logistics, construction and manufacturing, diesel usage did not drop as dramatically.
A greener future for fleets
However since the peak of the pandemic, some sectors such as the manufacturing industry have seen an increase in the use of cars and vans to carry out jobs that would have once been carried out by larger diesel vehicles.
As we exit the pandemic, it will be interesting to see if these habits and trends remain going forward as the government’s Road to Zero strategy banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans comes into play from 2030.
Many fleet businesses are starting to factor this ban into their plans, as data shows that fleets are beginning their transition to other and alternative fuels.
From March 2020 to March 2021, the use of other and alternative fuels almost doubled from 1 million miles per month to just over 2 million miles.
Of course, this is a fraction of the miles travelled by petrol and diesel vehicles, but none the less is encouraging to see the uptake in other and alternative fuels in a time where the economy is struggling.
Recovering to pre-pandemic travels and beyond
The pandemic has impacted businesses in all sectors across the UK, as they have had to acclimatise to the restrictions put in place over the past 18 months.
However, the data on fuel usage demonstrates that activity, especially in industries such as logistics, manufacturing, and construction, has continued to rise steadily since the peak of the pandemic, and are almost reaching pre-pandemic productivity.
In fact, industries have adapted their operations to ensure that they can still offer their essential services where restrictions allowed.
With restrictions across the UK lifting almost in their entirety, and the economy beginning in the log process of recovery, miles travelled will continue to increase and we will see fuel usage rising to pre-pandemic levels and beyond.