Flexible business travel policies may be needed to cater for changing travel habits among young people

The company car has been the mainstay of corporate travel since the phenomenon was ‘created’ in the 1970s, but a shrinking number of young people gaining driving licences could mean organisations need to introduce more flexible travel policies.

Research commissioned by the Department for Transport found there has been a sustained decline in the number of young adults (aged 17-29) driving over the past 25 years, with the trend not reversing after they reach 30.

That, it is suggested in the report, ‘Young People’s Travel – What’s Changed and Why? Review and Analysis’, could have employment implications. In turn it could mean that employers may need to broaden the travel options they make available as offering a company car may not be a viable option.

The study said that the speed of travel change was “likely to be affected by the combined influence of: changes in the structure of the labour market and security of employment; urbanisation and land use; housing availability, location and tenure; career expectations; and demographic and taxation factors that affect how wealth moves between generations. Further, such social change is also likely to be affected by the interaction of all of these with: household formation; marriage and parenthood; and the specific ways in which new technologies are adopted by different groups”.

The research was published as, separately, the House of Commons Transport Committee has launched an investigation into Mobility as a Service (MaaS), which it is claimed could become the norm with corporate mobility managers – effectively the new name for fleet managers – analysing the total cost of journeys employees make.

Such an approach, it has been suggested by experts, could potentially enable businesses to cut travel costs and share some of the savings with employees to drive cultural change by focusing on the ‘total cost of mobility’ rather than a fleet-based total of cost of vehicle ownership model.

What’s more, with some companies merging their fleet and travel departments, managers are able to gain a complete picture of all journey and related expense costs, including hotel bills and meal claims as well as expenditure relating to car parking, taxi fares, flights and rail tickets.

Additionally, one of the key drivers behind focusing on MaaS, in addition to driving down the cost of corporate travel, is to deliver an increasing array of benefits to all employees, not only recipients of a company car.

MaaS has become a popular fleet conference and seminar topic over the last couple of years and is forecasted to be at the forefront of how businesses should be looking at travel to ensure they are using the best options for the journey – car including the options of car share, taxi and car club for example, planes and public transport – for environment, cost, safety and employee reasons.

The report, written for the Department by Oxford University and the University of the West of England, said: “It is important to recognise the new realities of the lives and travel behaviour of young adults when attempting to predict future transport use. In 2010-14, only 37% of 17-29 year olds reported driving a car in a typical week, while the figure was 46% in 1995-99.

“When forecasting future travel demand, it is important to be aware of the extent and pattern of car access within the population.

“There is a lack of data on the use of emerging transport options (shared mobility in particular) and it will be important to adapt survey and monitoring instruments to understand how these options are perceived and used by different age groups.

“There is the need to develop approaches that can generate scenarios for future travel demand which account for cohort differences in travel behaviour.”

The research found that the proportion of young adults having driving licences peaked in 1992-1994, with 48% of 17 to 20-year-olds and 75% of 21 to 29-year-olds holding a licence. By 2014, the figures had fallen to 29% and 63% respectively.

Between 1995-99 and 2010-14 there was a 36% drop in the number of car driver trips per person made by people aged 17-29.

The report added: “Young people generally travel less now, with the total number of trips per person made by young men falling by 28% between 1995-99 and 2010-14, while the number of trips made by young women fell by 24%.

“There has been a small increase in the number of trips per person on public transport. The number of walking trips per person has fallen whilst the number of cycling trips per person has remained broadly constant.

“As young adults have moved into their thirties, the proportion with driving licences and the amount they drive has increased, but not so much that their car use has caught up with that seen in previous cohorts.

“Although there has been variation from year to year, the general trend has been for each cohort of young people since the early 1990s to own and use cars less than the preceding cohort, and for the growth in car use with age to also be at a lower rate. This suggests that their changing behaviour is more than just a postponement of driving.”

The report, ‘Young People’s Travel – What’s Changed and Why? Review and Analysis’, is available at: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/673176/young-peoples-travel-whats-changed.pdf

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