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Comment: Covid-19 and the rise of the grey fleet

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The coronavirus pandemic has made an indelible mark on how we work, commute and drive for business. Peter Mansfield, group sales and marketing director at Trakm8, considers what this change means for the UK fleet sector and explores some of the solutions available to help businesses manage this transition.

Peter Mansfield, group sales and marketing director at Trakm8

Even before Covid-19 came to dominate how we live and work, evidence suggests that the size of the UK’s grey fleet was growing at a significant rate, year-on-year. According to a report by compliance specialist Licence Check, the first two months of 2020 saw a 60% increase in the number of grey fleet vehicles registered to its management platform, compared to the same period in 2019.

12 months on from the first reported cases in the UK and with the country currently weathering its third nationwide lockdown, we predict an even larger shift towards the grey fleet. The root causes of this are clear. A recent survey found that that nearly three quarters of all fleet decision-makers have been working from home during the lockdown, while more than 65% of employees expect home working to remain their ‘new normal’, even after the pandemic abates.

What’s more, with public transport services still limited – and many commuters wary of using it – we would expect to see an upturn in the purchase and registration of new or used cars by those working at home.

In essence, coronavirus and subsequent measures to limit its spread have culminated in a ‘perfect storm’ for the exponential growth of the grey fleet sector. But what does this mean for UK fleet managers?

One of the main concerns will almost certainly be how driver safety is managed going forwards. The traditional model, comprising a fleet of company cars, enabled fleet managers to administer data centrally, affording them complete awareness of all key metrics, such as driver behaviour. When employees are using their own vehicles for business travel, fleet managers lose some degree of insight, because they just don’t have access to as rich a bank of data.

As businesses continue to count the cost of the pandemic, fleet managers may also look for more economically viable means of keeping their employees moving – opting to move away from investment in assets to more flexible short-term and contract hire solutions. Such change will also engender a shift in the telematics requirements for fleets.

For the fleet manager of today, ‘flexibility’ will very much be the watchword when it comes to rolling out new telematics systems. In other words, a solution that can be moved seamlessly between vehicles and switched on and off depending on current business needs.

At Trakm8, we have striven to develop a solution that best meets the unique needs of fleet managers operating during the Covid-19 pandemic. The result is Connect 200. Providing 100% compatibility and requiring just a 12v Aux socket for full connectivity. The solution is able to provide completely unparalleled levels of support for the grey fleet sector, as it can be removed and installed for business travel only, with a designated button included on the system enabling drivers to toggle between journey types. This makes mileage reporting easy, allowing drivers to remain HMRC-compliant and ideal for P11D mileage claims and management.

Alongside its flexibility, the system can also shore up fleet safety. It comes with real-time vehicle tracking, via Trakm8’s Insight Portal iOS/Android apps, which can also provide a driver behaviour score on a number of key metrics, including acceleration, braking, cornering and speeding. The data accumulated here can then be used by fleet managers to identify training opportunities for their drivers, reducing the risk of accidents and vehicle downtime.

If the past year has taught the industry anything, it’s that predictions and forecasts can be swept asunder by unforeseen circumstances. However, utilising the knowledge accrued since the start of the pandemic, while keeping a close eye on registration trends, it is clear that, in the short term at least, grey fleet is on the rise. We hope that our technology, especially adapted for the current climate, demonstrates to fleet managers that adapting to these new ways of working doesn’t always have to be a headache.

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