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Fleets in a holding pattern

Date: 13 October 2017   |   Author: Debbie Wood

For the second year running, BT Fleet Solutions has published its Fleet Operational Insight Report in collaboration with the AA. This year's key findings include the industry's projected move away from diesel; the reliance on manufacturers for information; and an indication that cost alone is no longer the dominant influence on purchasing or leasing decisions.

According to the report, the fleet market seems to be in a holding pattern, as the impact of Brexit is yet to be fully realised; however, companies are optimistic about the overall impact of the UK's move out of Europe. Last year's report found that 55% of fleet managers felt positive about the impact of the 2016 EU referendum, and while the number of fleets that have felt an impact from the vote in the past year has increased, 34% have felt none at all so far.

"It is of little surprise that Brexit is a major issue across all industries," AA president Edmund King explains in the report. "While all believe that there will be some impact on their businesses once the UK finally leaves the EU, it is encouraging to see that many feel that any changes will be minimal."

According to this year's findings, 42% of fleet managers have felt a slight impact from Brexit over the past 12 months, which tends to be from rising prices in fuel and travel costs, and the impact of a weakening pound. As a result, the report says, SMR deals with manufacturers have become more expensive.

The report also claims that some fleets are looking at reducing the level of service and maintenance agreements to control
these costs. 

Alongside the findings surrounding Brexit, the research reveals that manufacturers lead the way in offering advice to fleets on the management of their vehicles and on wider industry trends. In fact, 42% of fleet decision-makers first seek advice from manufacturers, while 40% refer to fleet management companies and 32% go directly to their leasing provider.

This is further supported by recent research from Arval that found fewer than one in five fleets ask their leasing company for advice on safety, model specifications and costs, with 61% of fleets turning to manufacturers for advice instead.

Unsurprisingly, diesel has been at the forefront of many fleet managers' minds over the past year. Of the fleets surveyed, 94% currently have diesel or petrol-fuelled vehicles in their fleet mix; however, fleet decision-makers expect that in five years' time, this figure will drop to 74% as the uptake of alternatively fuelled vehicles continues.

Currently, 30% of  fleets use alternative fuels, according to those surveyed in the report, and the figure is expected to rise to 63% in the next five years.

"It is promising to see that the industry is making movements into alternative and cleaner vehicle solutions, aligning with the government's strategy to reduce our carbon footprint," says Henry Brace, managing director of Fleet Solutions at BT.

What is clear is that fleet managers are looking for more information and thought leadership around alternative fuel sources, and 82% of fleet managers say that if electric vehicles could travel further, they would be more likely to incorporate them in their fleets. The same proportion of managers say they would be driven by an improvement in infrastructure, and 80% would be more likely to adopt electric vehicles if there was more choice.

The report also finds that while cost is still a key factor for fleet managers when considering purchasing or leasing new vehicles, value is actually their true consideration and reliability is also an important part of the overall decision-making process.

"All companies strive to keep their customers happy, keep their fleets on the road and ensure they play their part in keeping the economy moving," King concludes in the report."Although there are some challenges to overcome, the future looks bright, providing the right support is offered to these industries."