How our driver-based van fleet strategy can help combat Covid-19 operational challenges

Fleet Service GB is encouraging companies to continue investing in their van fleet operation as the industry combat ongoing operational challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vans are getting older and more expensive to maintain as semiconductor shortages compromise new vehicle supply, vehicles are working harder and covering more miles due to the meteoric growth in home shopping and competition for drivers continues to grow.

From years of working in partnership with its van fleet customers and focusing on work-related road safety, driver wellbeing, and importantly ensuring drivers feel valued and appreciated has resulted in an efficient and deliverable Fleet Service GB van fleet management programme.

Fleet Service GB puts drivers at the heart of everything it delivers for clients and can demonstrate that this approach delivers reduced costs, crashes, incidents, and maintenance costs.

Housing association Live West’s fleet manager Paul Ayris and Fleet Service GB have worked together for the past three years to create a detailed behavioural overview for 400 drivers through the Achieve vehicle and driver management programme.

A reduction in driver vehicle abuse has translated into reducing fleet maintenance costs from 3.43p per mile per van to 3.09p in just 12 months, proving a driver-centric approach works. Incident rates have halved with at fault crashes reducing by 40%. Driver related damage costs have also fallen by 50% during that time leading to self-insured insurance policy rebates and reduced premiums.

However, anything less than a 100% buy-in from the company’s board risks compromising a successful work-related road safety programme. This includes ensuring that sufficient time and energy is invested in the implementation and management of the programme. The company must be able to demonstrate that it is fully committed to always supporting drivers and vehicles, communications must be effective, and drivers must feel fully involved in all aspects of the programme. 

Geoffrey Bray, Fleet Service GB’s chairman said: “Working with van fleet operators of all sizes across the UK, the results are clear to us; if drivers are well managed, communicated with and supported by an integrated IT management system, then the drivers will feel valued, vehicle utilisation will improve, all impacting positively on operational efficiency. 

“As time pressure increases on a driver, stress levels go up resulting in more crashes employers must have in place a comprehensive driver, vehicle, journey management programme capturing and joining up all of the measured performance data. As the data is analysed the appropriate and necessary support initiatives and interventions are applied. Safety and compliance must never be compromised, a fully integrated approach will produce positive results. 

“It should also improve driver retention, which is particularly pertinent in this current employment environment,” he added.

Driver communication is another key part of a successful van fleet management policy which is why Fleet Service GB has spearheaded the ongoing development of its Achieve Driver App. The App plays a significant integrated role in all aspects of communication, access to all services easy to navigate processes, prompts reminders and messages covering driver handbook and fleet policy updates plus seasonal advice and a variety of tips showing drivers how to look after themselves and their vehicles.

As companies face the increasing pressure to comply with environmental changes and the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, there has never been a better time for van operators to revisit their van policies and embrace an integrated, fully inclusive vehicle and driver strategy. 

Managing work-related road safety is a good place to start.

Technology and human interaction partnership successfully keeps drivers and vehicles moving during the pandemic

Fleets emerged from the pandemic with a good understanding that automation and personal communication had proved to be a perfect combination to keep drivers safe and compliant during the pandemic according to Fleet Service GB’s recent customer partner survey.

Fleets said they valued the App’s real time data collection as more of their colleagues were working remotely, while drivers appreciated having access to human interaction with Fleet Service GB’s customer service team 24-hours a day, seven days a week, especially when trying to resolve a vehicle problem.

Fleet Service GB proactively contacted drivers about getting vehicles booked in for servicing and MOTs via the App. During the first lockdown, Fleet Service GB had to arrange, in a number of instances, for garages to open to carry out urgent servicing and repairs to keep customer vehicles on the road.

The Fleet Service GB’s Driver App also proved invaluable for businesses to share important news and updates with drivers during the pandemic. It also enabled companies to record the condition of vehicles as they were being mothballed as they responded to ever-changing business conditions, while thousands of vehicle check sheets were being filled in by drivers and processed via the App so fleets could keep a close eye on the condition of their vehicles.

“The App removes waste by exposing and transferring information directly between the driver, supporting supply chain, Stannah and Fleet Service GB. We have enjoyed playing a role in its ongoing development,” explained Martin Carter Group Information Systems Director, Stannah.

Carter as part of a unique Fleet Service GB Achieve User Group contributing to the latest version of the Driver App upgrade 3.1 which includes making it easier for drivers to access, check and complete declarations, providing speedier access to company documents and to view and manage their daily to-do list.

While the App proved a vital digital connection with drivers, employees valued being able to speak to the Fleet Service GB team by phone around the clock to discuss a driving or vehicle related issue. The feedback was that it contributed to drivers feeling less isolated and it contributed positively to their well-being.

“I was reassured that if any of my drivers rang the Fleet Service GB number out of hours they would be greeted by a friendly voice – who understands how to deal with their issue.  The fact Fleet Service GB never closed its customer service operation was very important,” said James Ford Operations Director, VPS UK Ltd.

Rino Agozzino, Dynniq’s head of procurement (UK & Ireland) said: “I am reassured my drivers always receive a human response and an immediate reaction to a problem.”

“In our experience we know driver and vehicle well-being is inextricably linked which is why we saw technology and human interaction work in harmony during the pandemic,” explained Fleet Service GB’s chairman Geoffrey Bray.

“While many businesses furloughed their customer service teams or reduced working hours, our call centre never shut. There was always someone at the end of a phone for customers and drivers to talk to around the clock.

“Our in-house team has a process of continual improvement for our App. We know from customer feedback it’s often some of the smallest updates that make the biggest difference,” he added.

How our partnership helped improve driver management and reduce costs

“Every LiveWest driver sits in the Achieve Driver Management programme which proactively measures their performance against a range of methods including points on driving licences, speeding, parking charges and crashes. Incident rates halved during a 12-month period. Driver-related damage costs also fell by 50% over the same period. Achieve is very much ingrained into our process now.”

Paul Ayris, Fleet Manager at LiveWest, explains how our partnership has helped improve driver management and reduce costs, in Fleet News.

Read the full article here (page 26): Fleet News April 2021

Returning to work – are you ready to drive?

As government restrictions are slowly being relaxed, many people are returning to work, and possibly returning to the daily commute, which could involve getting back behind the wheel after a long period away.

It is very important to refamiliarise yourself with your vehicle and complete certain checks, to make sure the vehicle is road worthy and you are comfortable to get back on the road.

We have introduced a checklist for drivers to help with this transition back to driving – read it here: Return to driving checklist

 

New FIAG guide helps companies roll out a post Covid-19 fleet strategy amid safety and compliance concerns

The Fleet Industry Advisory Group (FIAG) is so concerned at the impact Covid-19 is having on the safety and compliance of vehicle fleets it has released a series of recommendations on how companies should face up to a post pandemic future.

‘Road Safety Pays Dividends’ is a free-to-download 14-page guide aimed at addressing the numerous challenges that have been thrown at fleets since the first lockdown involving both the driver and their vehicle.

These challenges include:

  • Home working drivers not using vehicles from one month to the next and hence the risk of many vehicles becoming unroadworthy
  • Restricted servicing and MOT facilities being open for business during 2020 and fewer drivers having their vehicles checked and being fit for purpose
  • The increasing number of fleet professionals being furloughed, made redundant or taking early retirement leaving vehicle fleet management in the hands of generalists

FIAG is committed to sharing best practice across the fleet industry and chairman Ian Housley feels the time has come for fleets to agree on a post Covid vehicle fleet plan and get it implemented as soon as ‘humanly possible’.

He said: “It is vital to begin the recovery from this unprecedented experience by ensuring best practice processes are implemented that cover drivers, vehicles and journeys.

“Companies need to recognise that drivers of company vehicles need to be an inclusive component of a pandemic recovery plan.

“As well as protecting the considerable investment made in vehicle fleets by employers it will help improve operational efficiencies, reduce costs and make driving safer,” he added.

FIAG’s highly experienced fleet team hopes the guide will give companies confidence to use the Covid-19 pandemic as a one-off opportunity for employers and employees to produce a plan where agreed objectives are set.

The guide goes as far as embracing the green revolution, including the adoption of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles in the future. It also reminds everyone of a company’s health and safety responsibilities which may have been compromised by the people and structural changes recently made in many organisations due to Covid. 

As the traditional fleet manager is now almost non-existent within many organisations, many companies have lost the in-house knowledge and skills necessary to develop and deliver a post COVID-19 cost effective fleet operation. 

“The squeeze on fleet managers is getting worse as more than ever vehicle fleets are being managed by someone as part of a much wider remit and often without any true fleet management experience,” reminded Housley.

FIAG member Graham Bellman recently retired as fleet director of Travis Perkins and urges fleet operators to sign up to the ‘Road Safety Pays Dividends’ philosophy.

He said: “Act on the guide’s recommendations and it will not only ensure you comply with current legislation, but as we proved the savings achieved within the fleet operation were around 15% based on driver management, improved systems and reporting and proactive driver engagement.”

Paul Ayris is fleet manager at LiveWest which is the largest provider of affordable homes in the south west of England running 350 vans and has worked with founding FIAG member Geoffery Bray from Fleet Service GB for the past couple of years.

“Covid-19 has been a wake-up call for many organisations. The FIAG guide is filled with a common sense, non-nonsense approach but making it happen is I am afraid down to individuals or teams who genuinely want to drive change.

“As a housing association LiveWest applies a value for money approach to all areas and the expenditure and investment in positive fleet management ensures the solution delivers the best and most cost-effective option which forms the basis of FIAG’s advice.

“Our fleet results speak for themselves, a year on our investment is yielding positive outcomes and removing cost, reducing road traffic collisions and delivering an operational and cost-efficient fleet,” he said.

For a free copy of the FIAG guide download it here: www.fiag.co.uk/road-safety-pays-dividends/

Achieve fleet management programme which focuses on driver safety and fleet cost reduction is launched

Fleet Service GB Ltd has introduced a ‘game changer’ for the fleet management sector with its new Achieve programme – the result of two decades of unwavering focus on road safety combined with reducing fleet operating costs.

The Achieve programme of driver and fleet management services covers an array of areas including driver management; crash management; maintenance management; management services and fleet service partnerships.

As part of Fleet Service GB’s technology focus Achieve is available in app form allowing companies and drivers to communicate in real time via notifications, prompts, reminders and alerts.

The app has already been piloted by a number of fleet operators with LiveWest – one of the largest providers of affordable homes in the south west of England – the first to ‘go live’ with the Achieve programme and app integration across its 350-strong fleet.

The driver app offers the ability to arrange bookings for servicing, maintenance and repairs, including tyres; the facility to report an accident and breakdown, using GPS enabled location services which links directly to the Fleet Service GB Support Team; update mileages in real time; upload images, capturing accident and/or vehicle condition; vehicle management options; and a bespoke check sheet for vehicle condition reporting.

With fleet of 350 vans driven by a wide range of skilled tradesmen, including 54 car-derived vans driven by supervisors, surveyors and housing officers LiveWest also added onboard cameras to some of its vehicles to support the Achieve data.

Achieve Driver Management was at the core of the proposition, which saw LiveWest adopt the driver app to enable its drivers to carry out daily vehicle inspections on their vans and communicate with the Fleet Service GB fleet team. It can access its fleet dashboard which gives the company a real time overview of its fleet activity.

Paul Ayris, fleet manager at LiveWest, said: “The Achieve programme was needed as our fleet was growing quite rapidly. It was time to take driver and vehicle management to the next level and make sure the fleet operation became even more professional.

“It was also important to put the driver at the heart of the programme as they are the company’s brand ambassadors that represent LiveWest daily.

“Achieve has enabled us to ensure we do exactly that by being able to measure and manage driver’s behaviour and support them through live reporting it creates great camaraderie and friendly competition and pride.”

Through 24/7 continuous monitoring, LiveWest now has a detailed behavioural overview of every driver and can implement targeted solutions as required. The result of this has seen the number of driver ‘events’ reported through each vehicle’s telematics significantly reduce. Incident rates also halved during a 12-month period, with at fault accidents reduced by 40%. Driver related damage costs also fell by 50% during the same period.

At the same time, the effective management of service, maintenance and repair (SMR) and the achievement of fleet maintenance cost savings also increased.

Geoffrey Bray, chairman of Fleet Service GB, said: “The whole idea of managing the driver is not new. Having spent a lifetime involved in the fleet sector and witnessed the introduction of the corporate manslaughter act in 2007, there have been a number of attempts to address the issues faced. However, until now, nothing has quite got to the real heart of the matter.

“When the Fleet Service GB journey began, we sat down with a blank sheet of paper to create a fully integrated range of driver and vehicle management services designed to provide fleets with a management tool unlike anything available in the market.

“This dream is now a reality – our Achieve programmes delivers, and in many cases exceeds, expectations presenting us with significant opportunities.

“LiveWest has proven that encouraging drivers to respect their vehicles goes hand-in-hand with respecting the environments in which they work.”

Fleet Service GB fleet manages more than 12,000 cars and commercial vehicles and drivers registered across its five major services: maintenance management, accident management, risk management, acquisition and disposal, and truck management.

Meet the team – Vicky Strange

Name: Vicky Strange.

Job Title: Implementation lead, customer services.

Explain your role in 10 words: Implementing new customers and dealing with all customer service queries.

What’s the best aspect of your job?There’s a few… creating a good partnership with our clients and understanding their needs and expectations; working with a fantastic team of people who are all committed to the same goal; making service personal.

What’s the worst aspect of your job? Probably the morning drive to work… we have roadworks at the minute (although currently home working due to the coronavirus pandemic).

How long have you worked at Fleet Service GB? Since April 2016.

What was your first paid job? Chambermaid.

What’s your favourite car? MGB GT.

What one thing would you like to achieve before you retire? Write children’s books.

Outside of Fleet Service GB, what would your dream job be? I like making all sorts of things so probably running my own boutique or haberdashery shop.

Who in the world would you most like to meet? Actors Tom Hardy or Chris Hemsworth.

What is your favourite way to spend a day outside of work? Lazing in the sun with my friends, enjoying a gin and tonic and a good book.

If you won the lottery how would you spend the cash? House, car, holiday and share the rest with family and friends.

Not a lot of people know that… I met Noel Edmonds when Crinkley Bottom – a fictional village which was the location for TV programme Noel’s House Party – was filmed where I used to work many years ago at Lucknam Park.

The company car of the future: A hub for yoga, sleeping and relaxing

Is this what the company car of 2050 could like? The futuristic model is a fully electric, colour-changing vehicle with space for passengers to make the most of the time they spend in the autonomous car – by relaxing, doing yoga and even sleeping during the commute.

Featuring ‘digital paint’, the car allows passengers to change the colour and style of the vehicle from the tap of an app, depending on their mood, with advances in technology meaning such a feature could be widely available as early as 2040.

Designed to be a home away from home, passengers can relax and unwind on the built-in mattress in the centre of the spacious cabin

The glimpse into the future is courtesy of Auto Trader, which claims to be the UK’s largest digital marketplace for new and used cars. It compiled the concept design based on the expertise of futurologist Tom Cheesewright, market trends, the rate of technological development and research into consumer demand.

The 2050 driverless car is in the shape of a smooth pod and has features that include a built-in library and large in-built TV screen. The vehicle welcomes passengers with a friendly AI (artificial intelligence) that helps them set their preferred driving speed and style, whether out for a leisurely Sunday drive or dashing home for dinner.

The car is fitted with windows that extend right over the roof in one large bubble, offering more head room to allow passengers to freely move around during transit.

It also features 360 degree panoramic views for those wanting to sit back, relax and enjoy an autonomous ride, plus black-out functionality on the windows, which can be activated with a quick tap.

Auto Trader’s Rory Reid said: “The Government’s recent announcement on bringing forward the ban on sales of petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars to 2035 is already influencing what Brits are looking for. Overnight we saw a 165% increase in searches for electric vehicles on Auto Trader.

“So it’s no surprise that the 2050 car will be fully electric, but it’s fascinating to think what these advancements, including driverless tech, could mean for the actual design of cars and how they could be used.

Futurologist, Mr Cheesewright said: “Tomorrow’s car takes you from A to B with minimum fuss and in maximum style. Future technologies will give designers free reign to create more space and comfort, so that we can get on with our lives, while an AI takes care of the driving. While our cars won’t be flying any time soon, we can all benefit from cleaner, quieter, safer roads. In just 20 years, the age of the combustion engine will be well and truly over.”

Pump prices plummet as oil falls to 18-year-low and could plunge further

The cost of unleaded petrol has dropped to almost £1 a litre at supermarket forecourts with a litre of diesel at around 110p following unprecedented falls in pump prices – and further cuts could follow.

Fleet fuel bills will naturally tumble as a result – although vehicles should now only be driven on essential journeys under the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic lockdown implemented by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Fuel station forecourts are among the ‘essential businesses’ the Government is allowing to stay open.

However, the RAC has warned of “a darker side” to the fuel price cuts. RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “Smaller independent forecourts who will already have been struggling due to a loss of trade recently will be extremely hard-pushed to reduce their prices at the present time with fewer people driving. It’s crucial they stay in business as they provide such an important service to drivers in parts of the country where the supermarkets have no footprint.”

Amid far-reaching concerns over the spread of coronavirus, Mr Williams advised drivers filling up with fuel to “take sensible precautions”. He said: “Follow the social distancing guidelines and use disposable gloves when handling pumps or indeed electric car charge point nozzles.”

A series of moves have triggered the fall in fuel prices. In early March, oil prices tumbled after a failure by Saudi Arabia and Russia to agree on cutting back oil production in the wake of falling global demand due to the deadly coronavirus. As a result, Saudi Arabia said it would flood the market with oil.

That led to a barrel of crude oil trading at around $35, but prices have since fallen further and there are even reports oil companies are preparing for the price to slump to just $10 a barrel, which would trigger further price cuts at the pumps.

Generally speaking it takes approximately two weeks for a fall in crude oil prices to feed through to the pumps. Prices ended 2019 at $61 a barrel.

What’s more, there was widespread speculation in the run-up to the March Budget that the Chancellor would increase fuel duty. However, he decided against that thus helping to keep the lid on any pump price rise.

Then, this week, as the nation plunged further into the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, supermarkets Morrisons and Asda led the round of price cuts.

Morrisons was first cutting an unprecedented in one go 12p off the price of a litre of unleaded petrol. Simultaneously the price of a litre of diesel was cut by 8p. Asda reacted and said that drivers would now pay no more than 102p a litre for unleaded petrol and 108.7p a litre for diesel when filling up.

Mr Williams said: “These unprecedented times are leading to unprecedented price cuts on fuel – the largest single cut from a retailer we’ve ever seen. The price of oil has fallen so far – down to an 18-year low – that it was inevitable that pump prices would eventually follow suit.

These savings will directly benefit those people who continue to rely on their vehicles for essential journeys.”