As we lay the groundwork for 2024, we can’t help but think what the key trends, challenges, and opportunities for the next year will be. As all fleets continue to navigate the uncertain economy, diversifying marketplaces and fast-paced automotive evolution, this forward thinking is more important than ever. One man at the centre of all of this, and no stranger to embracing change, is the AA’s President Edmund V King. So what does he have to say?

Edmund, first things first, how’s 2023 been for you?

The past year has been great. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been without its challenges, but I personally find this an incredibly interesting time to be involved in the motoring industry. The pace of change is exciting, and every challenge comes with its own opportunities. 

We’ve made great strides across the AA business, but for me a couple of highlights stand out. Number one is the progress we’ve made to decarbonise our own fleet, which is no easy feat as we have very specific towing and payload requirements. Our fleet management team has been tirelessly exploring alternative fuels including CNG, LPG, GTL and biofuels and has recently kicked off a trial of hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) diesel. Importantly, the insight from the trials is being shared with fleets to help inform their decarbonisation plans. 

Secondly, earlier this year, following more than a decade of campaigning, the government announced there will be no new ‘smart’ motorways built. We were at the forefront of this campaign and I’m proud of everyone at the AA who played their part in helping to make the UK’s roads safer for all.   

What’s the biggest lesson you’re taking forward into 2024?

That it’s critical as a business to continue prioritising our ability to adapt to our evolving environment. Be this our own fleet or the solutions and services we’re providing to other fleets. It’s only through being agile and open to change that we’ll all navigate the complexities of our environment successfully. I think, into 2024, we’ll be discussing evolution in relation to ESG considerations, outsourcing strategies, the future of mobility, and urban planning in a lot more detail. 

How do you think the new 2035 government date for the ban on new petrol and diesel sales is going to impact fleets in 2024?

I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact. Fleets were the early adopters of EVs and this backtracking from government isn’t going to dramatically alter their plans for electrification. It may take a perceived pressure off some organisations but, for most, the electrification of their fleet is part of their decarbonisation goals, and they won’t let this announcement halt progress towards zero emissions. This is backed by November’s SMMT figures, which showed that 77.4% of new EVs were taken on by fleets and businesses. 

How important is driver training going to be for fleets going forward?

Driver training is always important for fleets and this importance shouldn’t be overlooked. Put simply, it helps to save lives and minimise risk to individuals and businesses. 

As we experience a vehicular technological revolution, this importance only increases. Through our driver training arm, Drivetech, we’re seeing training play a vital role in helping fleets and their drivers evolve with it. Ongoing training programs and educational initiatives will play a crucial role in equipping professionals with the skills necessary for a tech-driven future. 

It’s also important to remember that driver training isn’t just about driving skills, it’s about wider driver well-being. Research we carried out this year via our Yonder poll – the UK’s biggest driver survey – demonstrates this. We asked drivers ‘how do you feel about the coming fuel transition, moving away from petrol and diesel to EVs?’. Most drivers (36%) are cautious; 29% said they felt irritated (it being another thing to worry about); 21% worried and 7% confident. This shows that drivers need support to give them the confidence to switch to EVs. Driver training can play a pivotal role here. 

What do you think is the biggest thing fleets need to factor into 2024 plans?

At the AA we’re in quite a unique position, in that we not only support fleets with a wide range of services and solutions to keep them on the road, but we also run our own large complex operational fleet. This gives us an incredibly valuable and intimate understanding of what fleets – our customers – are facing. I can therefore confidently say that value is going to be key. We’ll see fleet operators analysing the value they are getting from services and products in much more detail, and businesses shouldn’t be afraid to ask providers to support with this. Businesses should ask for the detail on KPIs – find out how these are being met, together with ongoing updates on product or service performance, in addition to plans for ongoing improvements. 

What are we going to be seeing from the AA in 2024?

We’re committed to pushing the boundaries of efficiency, innovation, safety, and value. Our approach has always been centred around a deep understanding of customer pain points, addressing them strategically to optimise vehicle uptime and overall business performance. As a trailblazer in supporting drivers for over a century, we’ll continue building on our legacy of being ‘Always Ahead’ in 2024 and beyond.

We’ll see a wider adoption of cutting-edge end-to-end solutions aimed at revolutionising fleet processes. These solutions are designed to enhance efficiency and break away from traditional, isolated product models. Our primary focus will be on simplifying fleet management, amplifying efficiency, and optimising costs, with far-reaching implications for both business performance and financial outcomes. It’s going to be a great year. 

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