Future mobility strategies for fleets need to remain flexible
New mobility strategies will have a key role in helping to cut congestion and carbon emissions but business transport also needs to remain flexible.
The comments come from fleet software specialist FleetCheck in response to yesterday’s publication of the Government’s Future of mobility: urban strategy, which seeks to remove the barriers to low-emission mobility solutions.
The major policy document sets out how the Government will provide increased financial, regulatory and policy support for UK cities looking to develop their own future mobility strategies as it looks to open up new mobility strategies, as well as exploring whether new types of vehicles including e-scooters and e-cargo bike trailers could be made legal on UK roads.
The review is being accompanied by the launch of a competition for up to four new ‘future mobility zones’. Funded by £90m – part of the Transforming Cities Fund – this will test ideas to improve journeys for people across the country. Based on widespread use of smartphones, it will explore solutions for smoother payment systems, better, more up-to-date travel information and the use of innovative forms of transport, making travel in towns and cities more convenient, more reliable and cheaper.
However, while FleetCheck says it fully supports the ultimate aims of the Government in improving air quality, reducing carbon emissions, cutting congestion and making cities more pedestrian friendly, it says it is vital to remember that the success of fleets in underpinning business comes from their sheer usability.
Peter Golding, managing director at FleetCheck, explained: “You can get into a car or load a van and drive straight to your destination. This is especially true of multi-stop journeys.
“Ultimately, anything that undermines this core tenet needs to be treated with extreme caution. While fleets must play their part in the future of mobility and meeting the Government’s environmental and social aims, we must also work to ensure that businesses continue to enjoy the benefits of flexibility as much as possible.”
Golding added that this did not mean that the industry shouldn’t be positive about mobility strategies – for example, last mile zero-emissions delivery strategies were an excellent idea – but that everyday fleet journeys were not easily replaced.
“We are actually very enthusiastic about last-mile delivery and, to us, it appears to be a good solution to the air quality problems in urban areas. During the next few months, we are hoping to be working with some of our customers on this development.
“However, it needs to be recognised that many multi-stop journeys, such as a sales person in a car visiting three locations in a day, or a technician in a van servicing a dozen different sites, simply cannot be displaced by any other transport method.
“The cars and vans used for those applications will change over the next few years and we have great hopes for the ultimate level of adoption by fleets when it comes to electric vehicles, but those journeys require one vehicle and one driver.”
Golding also said there needed to be much more detail about some of the ideas within the Government’s document, as many of them appeared to already be in operation to some degree, if not in all parts of the country.
“There is mention of using technology to cut congestion and make journeys smoother, but no real explanation of how this might be done in a way that is substantially better than existing sat nav and traffic monitoring services.
“Also, there is quite a lot of promotion of flexible transport provision but, in most cases, it is difficult how these represent substantial advances over existing Uber-style taxis, cars clubs and short-term hire. Again, any benefits appear to be incremental rather than revolutionary.
“However, we look forward to seeing how the contents of the document play out in the real world and working with the Government and the fleets that use our software to reduce the impact of business transport over the coming decades.”
His comments build on those of the BVRLA, which has highlighted the role already played by the vehicle rental, car club and leasing sector in providing low-carbon mobility options.
“BVRLA members area already delivering the future of urban mobility by providing clean, flexible and affordable mobility to local businesses and residents in London, Birmingham, Manchester and every other major town and city across the UK.
“Their services integrate with other modes of transport and can play a vital role in tackling the challenges facing urban policymakers, whether it is reducing congestion and the threat of terrorism or improving air quality and road safety.”
The Freight Transport Association has also drawn attention to the idealistic nature of the policy paper, saying that although Government steps to cut pollution and congestion from urban freight – including through e-cargo bikes – are heading in the right direction, it needs to be more realistic on how urban transport works.