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Could changing attitudes to driving from millennials pose a problem for fleets?

A growing trend amount young people not to take their driving test may provide a potential issue that fleets will need to factor in for the future, according to industry specialists.

Man with keys

Latest research suggests people are learning to drive later, bringing new issues for fleets.

Research published this month by automotive consumer website www.HonestJohn.co.uk indicates that the number of under-25s learning to drive has dropped 20% over the last decade while the number of 17-year olds taking their driving test has fallen by 100,000 since 2007-08.

The decline has been attributed to rising motoring costs, in particular insurance bills, which according to Consumer Intelligence have rocketed 15.7% over the past year. 

Yet according to fleet industry specialist Colin Tourick, Professor of Automotive Management at the University of Buckingham Business School, the fact that fewer ‘millennials’ are learning to drive is a direct consequence of government policy, whereby a high proportion of teenagers now go to university – which are typically in city centres, where public transport tends to be good and parking can be a problem – and so having a car is no longer considered cool. And their behaviour is emulated by other kids who also want to look cool. 

So could this pose a problem for fleets in the future? According to Colin Tourick, younger people do eventually learn to drive, particularly when they plan to get a job where driving is essential – a view that’s echoed by Leo Taylor, Alphabet’s head of product management, who says people are now delaying learning to drive until later in life, after they have paid off student loans, purchased their first home or have a job that requires more business travel.

Yet even when millennials have actually taken their driving test, they may bring different attitudes towards company cars. Alphabet’s Leo Taylor says the cultural shift could actually help amplify the benefits of company cars, commenting: “As business leaders we’re all interested in recruiting and retaining the next generation of talent to give us that competitive edge, so for me this research highlights what a powerful and valued tool a company car package can be for the reward and motivation of younger employees.”

But John Pryor, chairman of ACFO, says changing attitudes could fit in with a growing move towards mobility management, necessitating companies to look at a more global mobility solution to provide the best option for a particular journey. 

Meanwhile Colin Tourick believes the millennial mindset may bring about other changes for fleets, commenting: “There is no question about it, millennials do have genuine concerns about money – repayment of student debt in particular – so if they move into a role requiring only modest levels of business mileage and are offered the choice of a car or a cash allowance, they are more likely to take the cash than the car.”

Whichever route – cash or car – that millennial drivers are likely to go down in the future, Tourick says it’s an issue that fleets need to ready themselves for. 

He explains: “The real problem for businesses is that as millennials move into positions of authority and control they bring with them these attitudes that cars are an unnecessary luxury. So they need to be educated about all of the benefits that company cars offer – management control, professional fleet management, cost control, risk management, health and safety management etc. 

“This is a challenge that the fleet industry has started noticing in the last few years and will be an ongoing issue in years to come.”

And fleets are also being warned that their risk policies may also need re-evaluating to cover for drivers who are less experienced on the roads.

Rick Wood, head of fleet training at RoSPA, said: “Research suggests that in order for a driver to be deemed to be experienced enough to recognise risk early in order to avoid it, they need at least 10 years or 100,000 miles on the road.

“Good quality driver training will reduce the amount of mileage or time required on the roads to become an ‘experienced’ driver.”

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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.