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Comment: Planning for mobility in a new travel paradigm

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Simon Gould, head of corporate mobility services, at Alphabet (GB), discusses the opportunities that the continually changing travel paradigm has created for businesses, as well as the latest lockdown measures and importance of agility for businesses to help weather the storm.

Simon Gould, Alphabet

The impact on travel and transport across the country throughout the pandemic has been greater than anyone could have predicted and as we entered another national lockdown last week, the uncertainty continues. While there is no way of knowing what the long-term effects might be, planning for the shorter-term is key for businesses to move confidently into the new year. This will be particularly critical given the ongoing changes to government guidelines, which have been fragmented by nation and regions following tiering systems prior to the national lockdown.

From increased traffic-free spaces, cycle and e-scooter lanes, to pedestrianised streets to facilitate social distancing, there is a new look to mobility in 2020 and beyond. While this may on the face of it present challenges to businesses, there is also an opportunity to embrace the accelerated changes and incorporate agility into the heart of fleet strategies to help everyone navigate their way in our new world.

The new commute

With most of the UK having moved into stricter lockdown measures, home working is once again on the rise. But even when people were returning to offices back in the summer, our recent report found 58% of commuters felt comfortable travelling to work, however 60% of those were using their personal car to make the journey rather than use public transport.

This increased reliance on private vehicles has continued to grow over recent months. The latest booking data from YourParkingSpace.co.uk showed a sharp drop in interest for parking spaces at train stations, compared to a nearly 20% rise in demand for city centre parking near offices and workplaces.

The daily commute has also changed considerably since March, and with safety concerns at the centre of this, it’s clear that there is currently an increased desire for private vehicles for those that need travel to work.

Importance of agility

The pandemic has accelerated the requirement for flexible mobility solutions. Businesses are having to respond and pivot their approach to transport to support their customers and their employees’ changing needs, while following government guidelines.

Solutions which could help businesses navigate the changing situation across the country, include short-term lease vehicles, subscription models and on-demand car sharing schemes such as AlphaCity. In fact, at Alphabet we’ve seen an 200% increase in bookings for AlphaCity between April and September this year, showing a clear demand for flexible transport while minimising down time. Flexible options offer crucial support to companies to keep their employees on the road whilst presenting fleet managers with functional and financially beneficial solutions. More importantly, they also provide agile solutions to suit shifting business needs. This will prove key to businesses as we continue to manage the changes happening throughout the country.

Opportunities for businesses

Even though few can plan precisely for the long-term right now, there remains an opportunity for business growth – particularly if agility is at the core of future fleet strategies. Logistics companies are seeing an increase month-on-month as reported by the latest Logistics Manager’s Index.

But such sharp growth has created a drop-off of available capacity. A flexible fleet solution could help ensure additional demand is met at peak times, without creating vehicle downtime when demand decreases. This is something we have been seeing at Alphabet, with utilisation of our rental fleet up 20% since the beginning of April. LCV rentals also now equate for 25% of all Alphabet bookings, signifying the continuing demand for home deliveries across the country.

Similarly, the electric car industry is going from strength to strength. New orders for electric vehicles have accelerated, accounting for nearly 50% of all company car orders in 2020 at Alphabet. Decreased business mileage profiles have seemingly removed range anxiety and with lower whole life costs, electric vehicles are now a much easier business case to pitch. Forward-thinking businesses are taking this opportunity to electrify their fleets, helping them stay one step ahead of Clean Air Zones and the ongoing drive to ‘net zero’.

Weathering the storm

The fleet industry remains in a state of transition. Building agility into future business strategies is crucial and will ultimately help shape how the future of mobility looks. We’re seeing the needs and demands of both customers and employees continuing to change. Businesses need to ensure a flexible mobile strategy is in place to stay one step ahead of accelerating changes. This will be critical in ensuring businesses come out of the pandemic stronger than ever.

To find out more about the changes to the fleet industry you can download our report, Fleet Streets: Accelerating changes to travel and transport in the UK, click here.

And to hear from Nick Brownrigg, CEO of Alphabet (GB) on how businesses can rethink their fleet strategies to embrace these changes, click here.

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

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