New tax laws will likely be set to encourage low-emission vehicles, such as the all-electric Renault Zoe, which now has an official range of 250 miles on one charge
New tax laws will likely be set to encourage low-emission vehicles, such as the all-electric Renault Zoe, which now has an official range of 250 miles on one charge

'Most challenging time in 20 years for fleet managers'

11 May 2017

Unprecedented changes coming to the fleet market in the next five years mean managers must keep up to date with policy and technology.

Government changes to taxation of vehicles could alter the entire fleet market set up, said Caroline Sandall, deputy chair of the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO).

Vehicle taxation plans will be linked to emissions, and there are number of ways that can be addressed by government, Sandall said. There are also changes underway in the emissions testing, with Real Driving Emissions on-road testing being rolled out later this year. 

“It is an acutely difficult time. It is probably the most challenging time in the company car business in 20 years,” said  Sandall. “When you are planning fleet you are planning on a three to five year cycle. Yet, we don’t really know what they are going to be doing in three or five years, and that is not good for business.” ACFO is pressing government for clarity to enable the industry to plan.

The growing number of procurement professionals who now manage the company fleet must stay on top of what is going on, she said. You need to be careful that if you have a small list of specific company vehicles that are then targeted by government to vastly increase the tax, you could find the company or employees are suddenly paying much more tax and are very unhappy, she pointed out.

“Get out there and talk to people,” she advised managers of fleet. “You learn so much by talking to people doing the same thing as you.” Talk to industry bodies, the fleet press, make sure you understand what is coming in the pipeline.

The generation of ‘big data’ is another expected change for the fleet market, said Sandall at the FleetWorld event on 10 May in Silverstone. People who use apps in their private life to plan end-to-end travel for their personal holidays seek similar kinds of solutions at work, she said.

“The ‘mobility’ solution is being requested. There had never been a lot of link up to say, right, we’ve got all these employees who need to travel – what’s the best way? Because one day it might be better by car, on another it’s the train,” she said. This in turn is connecting the roles of travel manager, who traditionally looks after air and rail, with the fleet manager, who looks after vehicles only.

There are some early systems, such as Fleetondemand, which uses multiple sources of data, user preferences and machine learning to assess the best forms of transport. These types of systems will grow in use, as users can see the potential return on investment, she said, predicting the simplest of system to set up and to use will be the most likely to be adopted.

The same kind of data-based technology is pushing into the movement of goods too, said Sandall, where organisations are developing products and services for last-mile deliveries. They create hubs, particularly in city centres, business parks, or on university campuses, and use vehicles, robots or smaller gadgets to fulfil the last mile delivery of goods. “Once it has happened with goods, people will come next,” she predicts.

Advances in batteries are extending the distance of electric vehicles  being introduced by manufacturers, with the range of the latest Renault Zoe fully-electric small car stretching to an official 250 miles on one charge. Sandall acknowledged the ongoing developments of electric cars and vans, and advised that if building a car park, it would be prudent to include some charging points.

She expects people will increasingly choose petrol vehicles over diesel, but that diesel is not dead. “I wouldn’t be surprised if manufacturers come up with something that enabled diesel to be cleaner – via the fuel production cycle or in the engines. Because people still need to be using it.”

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