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Comment: How we can rewire our worlds to stay one step ahead of Covid

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Nick Brownrigg, chief executive officer at Alphabet GB, on the key industry changes that businesses need to take into consideration going forwards to proactively manage the effects of Covid-19.

Nick Brownrigg, chief executive officer at Alphabet GB

This year is like no other. The impact of Covid-19 has changed our home and working lives the world over. It almost brought the UK to a standstill from which it is only partially recovered. One of the big effects we’ve seen is that the pandemic has accelerated a number of business and consumer trends, which directly impact the fleet industry and require fleet operators to move quickly in response.

Time to rethink

Commuting to the office almost completely stopped and while some offices remained open at reduced capacity, only 23% of consumers felt comfortable using public transport in London. For many commuters, the car has been the best option and vital for keeping some businesses in operation. Our Fleet Streets report found that of the 58% of commuters that do feel comfortable returning to work, 60% are using their personal car to make the journey.

This rapid shift to home working, with a much more mixed approach likely in the future, presents businesses with an opportunity to rethink their requirements. From flexible travel options to an increased private transport offering, there are lots of options for businesses to explore at this key moment in time for the fleet industry.

Digital drive

The changes brought about by the pandemic also highlight the need for digitalisation. While many companies were already moving in this direction, the need to deliver services efficiently and remotely, as well as providing self-service options, has become more pressing. Fleet managers now need access to digital vehicle ordering and tracking, and for their employees, all paperwork kept in one place, from handling parking fines to any travel documentation. The manufacturers’ journey should also be considered and made completely digital when working with leasing companies to streamline the process for all involved. As convenience and personal safety become the new premium, we want our customers to look to us not only for agility and expertise, but also because they know we will continue to put their personal wellbeing at the centre of everything we do.

Environmental enhancement

Carbon emissions have plummeted at an unexpected pace due to the lack of human movement. Our latest research report found that consumers are emerging from the pandemic much more conscious of the impact we have on the environment. As such, businesses need to have genuine environmental sustainability worked into their fleet strategies to benefit from improved brand perception from customers, as this might ultimately dictate preference going forwards.

Electric evolution

This enhanced environmental consciousness has also seen the electric vehicle industry accelerate. Consumer perceptions are changing fast: our research showed that over 55% of people feel delivery vans should be electric, while one in three said they would be happy to pay extra for an electric delivery vehicle.

The shift in attitudes is beginning to be matched by sales. At Alphabet, we’ve seen electric car orders grow 124% year-on-year since 2019, while the plug-in space grew 41%. Progressive businesses are already making their move. Alongside demand, there are considerable cost savings to be uncovered for businesses and employees by electrifying their fleets, particularly with the new benefit-in-kind (BIK) rates. With this pause in business created by COVID-19, businesses can assess and analyse their existing fleets. Fleet providers, transport companies and businesses all have a role to play in embracing more sustainable practices. This is the perfect opportunity for fleets to address their alternative drivetrain strategy.

Embracing agility

As these technological and societal trends grow, businesses need to be able to move faster in order to respond. Agility is critical in meeting the changing travel, work and logistic patterns being seen across the UK. It is also key that digitalisation and sustainability are central to any fleet strategy to help businesses stay one step ahead of the new habits and behaviours people are adopting. Now is the time for everybody to rethink their strategy and to restart business operations with agility at the core. Or risk being left behind, fast.

To download Alphabet’s report on ‘Fleet Streets: Accelerating changes to travel and transport in the UK’, click here.

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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