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  • 6 ways you can future-proof your business fleet vehicles

    Future proof your fleet

    Whether your business fleet consists of a few vehicles or a few hundred, it’s essential to put provisions in place that ensures you’re able to fulfil orders and customer contracts, whatever the future throws your way.

    In business, this is commonly known as future proofing and while it’s impossible to determine exactly what the next five or ten years will look like, by engaging in predictive forward planning you’re less likely to experience detrimental setbacks that can harm the integrity of your operation.

    In fact, future proofing fleet vehicles isn’t just a case of ensuring they are mechanically sound and in good working order. You also need to consider the bigger picture, taking into account any impending changes to legislation, the environment, technology and the political landscape, all of which have a direct bearing on your operation.

    So if you’re a fleet owner or manager, responsible for the day-to-day running of your fleet vehicles, here are 6 ways you can future-proof your operation today, to guarantee its success in the long term.

    1.    Establish a Vehicle Replacement Policy

    In any fleet-based business; your vehicles are your bread and butter - providing the backbone of your entire operation. Even just one vehicle out of service can have a catastrophic knock-on effect, harming the reputation of your company among your customers.

    Vehicles left in service for too long also have the potential to do damage to your business’s bottom line. The older a vehicle becomes, the less likely it is to run efficiently and the more upkeep costs it’s likely to generate - all of which eats into your profit.

    For this reason it’s vital to develop a Vehicle Replacement Policy within your organisation, which takes into account the age, mileage and engine hours of your fleet alongside service history.

    This will allow you to make informed decisions about your fleet’s health and determine whether it’s more beneficial in the long run to replace an older vehicle rather than repair it. All of which minimises the risk of your fleet being out of action unexpectedly.

    2.    Engage in preventative maintenance

    Engaging in regular vehicle checks and preventative maintenance is another integral aspect of future proofing your business fleet vehicles. It’s also one of the staples of effective fleet management and proven to positively minimise fleet downtime.

    Preventative maintenance needn’t take up a lot of your time, but the benefits of conducting regular business fleet inspections can be tenfold – and save you the logistical nightmare of a vehicle breaking down or being taken out of service for repairs.

    For small business fleet operators in particular, the repercussions of just one van or car off the road can come at a high price. So engaging in frequent vehicle spot checks, such as ensuring tyre pressures and oil levels are correct, can prevent a minor defect from becoming a bigger – more detrimental – problem.

    3.    Embrace technology

    Where once fleet owners were in the dark about the behaviour of their drivers on the road, advances in technology now make it possible to have eyes and ears everywhere. The beauty of this technology is that the information extracted can be analysed to help you accurately future-proof your business fleet, based on real-time insights.

    In fact, not much happens inside a cab or fleet vehicle now that can’t be monitored remotely and this isn’t only good news from a compliance point of view but also in terms of safety and efficiency.

    When you’re planning for the future, knowledge is key and the wealth of information business fleet owners can now collect using technology is proving particularly beneficial in terms of future proofing.

    From Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), which announces the speed limit on any road, to telematics technology, and alcohol interlocks that require drivers to pass a breathalyser test before the vehicle starts – one thing is for certain, if you want to accurately future-proof your fleet vehicles, investing in data extraction technology is key.

    4.    Educate your drivers

    In a business fleet, drivers are as integral to the success of your operation as vehicles, but their behaviour can also have an impact on the health of your fleet, as well as the reputation of your company.

    Sudden breaking, sharp acceleration and idling for example, can all waste fuel, driving up the cost of your fleet’s annual fuel expenditure. Sharp breaking can also cause brake pads to wear prematurely, while harsh accelerating has been linked to higher vehicle emissions, known to have a detrimental impact on the environment.

    What’s more, these behaviours also indicate aggressive driving, which increase the likelihood of your vehicle being involved in an accident on the road. Not only could this result in thousands of pounds worth of damage to the vehicle in question, but it also risks the life of the driver and other road users who may be caught up in the collision.

    Educating your drivers, whether by regular staff training or a rewards programme, can help to nip these bad behaviours in the bud before they result in a serious accident or cause costly damage. Helping to prolong the lifespan of your vehicles, increase driver safety, and limit unnecessary wastage in fuel overheads each year.

    5.    Keep informed of legislative changes

    Ensuring your business fleet is fully compliant, according to the local laws and legislations in the countries you operate, is essential when it comes to future proofing your business. Any organisation found to be breaking the law or not adhering to legislative guidelines could incur a financial penalty, legal action, or see their services terminated.

    For fleet operators, this not only means ensuring your vehicles are taxed, up to date with their MOT, and insured - it also extends to performing the necessary checks to ensure your drivers are in possession of the appropriate licenses, or equivalent, required to perform their job.

    The fleet industry is also governed by environmental legislation in relation to emissions and air quality, which, as the debate around global warming continues to escalate, are continually in review. It’s a fleet manager’s responsibility to ensure your vehicles are always 100% compliant, according to the latest rules. In addition, knowledge of the latest legislations will also assist you in making commercially beneficial decisions regarding the future of your fleet operations.

    6.    Know your customer’s behaviour

    No matter if you’re a regional taxi firm, ferrying passengers from A to B, or a nationwide delivery company responsible for the transportation of consumer goods, every business has times that its services are in higher demand. Supermarket delivery vans for example, are likely to be busier on weekday evenings and during weekends, when the bulk of customers are typically at home to receive their shopping.

    Likewise, the lead-up to public holidays in the UK such as Christmas traditionally see online shopping orders skyrocket, and are one of the busiest times of year for Royal Mail and private couriers.

    Familiarising yourself with behavioural patterns in this way will help you adequately estimate your fleet needs. Ensuring that, when the time does come, you have enough vehicles and drivers in circulation to fulfil demand and keep your customers loyal to your business. So if you want to future-proof with greater accuracy, looking back over previous years’ operational history, and charting customer behaviour, will provide a solid foundation to base future estimates on.

    In addition to the six steps we’ve outlined above, when making decisions about your fleet’s future, it’s also important to pay close attention to what’s happening within the wider fleet industry in general as well as on the world stage. The introduction of driverless cars, drone deliveries and Britain’s departure from the EU, for example, may all have a bearing on how the fleet industry conducts itself in the near future, and business’s will need to adapt quickly in the event that changes do take effect.

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