Comment: Managing a remote fleet during lockdown
As we continue through the uncertainty of lockdown, fleet managers are likely to be finding themselves in situations where their drivers are busier than ever, or their vehicles are sat idle. Alfonso Martinez, managing director at LeasePlan UK, sets out his advice for fleet managers during this time.
In such a short amount of time, the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted so many of our lives. For most of us, ‘normality’ feels a long way off. The Government is still advising that people in England continue to work from home wherever possible and for the rest of the UK the message is to ‘stay at home’. Therefore, we’re still in a situation where there is large number of fleet vehicles sitting idle on people’s driveways. Yet, some fleet and company car drivers, such as delivery drivers and the emergency services, are busier than ever.
The lockdown has meant daily life is far from business as usual even if your fleet is still operating regularly, and because of this, extra measures are needed to ensure the safety of your workforce.
The key to managing a fleet remotely is communication. Now more than ever, it is important to ensure an open channel of communication and information between you and your drivers.
Below, are a few pieces of advice for you to share with your drivers, or even action yourself to maintain your idle, or busy fleets during this time.
Managing an idle fleet
Even if your vehicles are not being driven, they still require attention as they rely on regular use and movement to maintain themselves. Failure to do so can result in a number of serious issues including engine damage. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that your drivers are running their vehicle engines frequently, as well as encouraging them to make it part of their new routines.
Here are a few other tips which will help to keep your fleets running:
- If possible, drivers should keep their vehicles in a garage or covered to keep it out of the elements
- Keep an eye on tyre pressure, as this will continue to drop, as well as looking for flat spots
- Try and keep a full tank of fuel to avoid condensation issues for the vehicle in the long run
- If your drivers have an electric vehicle, check their handbooks to see how the vehicle’s battery will need to be looked after. Some will require short bursts of charge, and others will be able to maintain their battery when left continuously plugged in
In addition to these checks, make sure that any defects your drivers spot during their routine vehicle inspections are submitted, as this will limit any issues when your fleet is back running at full capacity.
It is also important for drivers to keep their vehicles as safe as possible. Make sure that your drivers are alert and remove any valuables that may be on show and keep their keys safe. If they have a keyless car, advise your drivers to block the signal. This can be done by keeping the key as far away from the vehicle or turning off the fob all together.
On a more positive note, this period has given us an opportunity to complete work that is often put off – or not prioritised by drivers. Training, stock and vehicle audits are just a few activities that your drivers can catch up on. Doing so will save time later and reduce downtime when the crisis is over, and business returns to normal.
Managing a busy fleet
If your fleet is still active, it is likely that you are busier than ever. As businesses are adapting to the barriers they are facing, delivery has never been more important to keep them afloat. It is therefore crucial to maintain strong lines of communication with your drivers at all time. Make sure you’re using their telematics data to check that they are taking their breaks, working the correct number of hours and sticking to the speed limits – especially now the roads are likely to have less domestic vehicles. The benefits and reach of telematics are often undervalued, but tools such as UPtime Live are key to ensure you’re running your fleet effectively and can adapt to meet the needs of your business. Some companies, for example housing assoction Meworks are using this time to evaluate their stock levels with suppliers either closed or available stock reduced. This means they can collect existing stock from inactive vehicles to ensure efficiencies.
As MOTs have temporarily been extended by six months for all vehicles due on or after 30 March 2020, drivers need to ensure that their vehicles are roadworthy and safe. This is a legal responsibility and maintaining vehicles will go a long way in taking the pressure off garages and breakdown recovery services during this time. Checking oil levels, tyres, lights, brakes and windscreens should keep you as safe as possible during this time.
If your drivers are communicating with the general public, ensure they are up to date with and obeying the social distancing rules.
Using your fleet to help the most vulnerable
If possible, the pandemic might give your business, and your drivers, an opportunity to give back to the local community. There are, of course, many factors to consider, such as availability and safety – but it may be worth consulting with charities and organisations around you to see if your drivers could be used to relieve pressure from front-line services. Jobs such as delivering prescriptions and food to vulnerable residents are more important than ever. Contact your local council and see if there is anything you can do to support the effort.
This is a strange time for every single one of us, and key workers are undoubtedly feeling the strain of intense workloads, as well as concern for their safety. Just as important as vehicle safety, however, is the safety and wellbeing of your drivers and employees. Be sure to check in with them regularly and ensure they are coping with all of the changes they are facing.