David Savage, regional manager, UK & Ireland at Geotab, speaks to the Great British Fleet Event on 2021 predictions and key topics for the coming year.
Q: The UK faces unprecedented logistical challenges with Brexit. There have been numerous new measures put in place to cope (eg Kentish lorry parks, opening up new channel crossings), but this is all within the context of nationwide driver shortage, new administration processes, and decreased access to EU drivers and talent. How do you think fleets from small businesses will cope and what advice would you give?
A: The challenge of Covid has once again just shown how resilient small businesses are in the face of adversity. Brexit is another challenge that will be overcome though it will not be without its difficulties. The greatest complexity will be faced by those haulage and logistics firms that rely on the gateways to Europe. What these businesses need is clarity. Businesses need clarity on what they are expected to do and by when. As Brexit negotiations continue to be down to the wire, this has been sorely missing and is needed to keep the UK moving.
Outside of this legislative fog I would anticipate that truck and van fleet owners will be doubling down on operational efficiency. That is to say the focus will be on vehicle and driver efficiency. Business will need to be run to leaner degrees than ever before.
Through our suite of products including digital tachograph we have a proven track record of delivering operational efficiencies that ultimately translate to improved financial savings. We can bring a level of operational certainty to counterbalance the legislative uncertainty.
Q: What do you think will be the main enablers of UK car sharing next year and what needs to happen to make it a more appealing model?
A: Car sharing has struggled to gain widespread adoption in the UK. However, with general reduction in car ownership within urban areas allied to greater need and desire to reduce the carbon footprint now is the time we may see an uptake in this area.
To make the model more appealing, three key things need to happen:
- Car sharing services will need to deliver value by offering vehicles that meet users’ needs and at a reasonable price.
- Widespread coverage or penetration will be needed. Cars must be available when the users want them and the overall rental process must be quick and easy.
- The services must be able to offer a reliable service and resolve disputes fairly.
In summary lessons can be learned from the early ride hailing pioneers and the challenges they encountered. It is very likely that car sharing will become just one mobility offering through a MaaS platform allowing the end user to tailor transportation to their personal journey needs.
The public sector also has a part to play. For example, in London a car sharing platform would need to negotiate parking with each borough. This is too much red tape.
Q: One of the unexpected side effects of the global pandemic has been a surge in clean energy usage, the fall in its price, and the powering down of many carbon-based power plants. What effect do you think this will have on UK EV adoption in 2021?
A: For fleets to make the switch to EV there had been four overarching concerns: range, choice, price and infrastructure. The first three have largely been addressed. Infrastructure is still the challenge and needs to be viewed from a few aspects. Firstly, the availability of working charge points and secondly, the future impact on the electrical grid. That said, the Government has aggressively set out its stall with an announced £1.3bn investment in infrastructure and a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 and hybrid vehicles from 2035.
UK fleets will be the catalyst for the transition to EV and were estimated to represent half of all EV sales by 2030 – this will obviously now to need to accelerate. This accelerated timeline leaves fleet managers with only two to three renewal cycles before the 2030 deadline and with a recent PwC report indicating that most UK fleets have transitioned less than 1% of their fleets, there is still a lot to do. The pressure on fleet managers to develop the right strategy and make the right transitional choices is intense. At Geotab, we are well placed to support. With over 13 years’ experience helping fleets transition to EVs, proprietary software and a team of experts in this area, fleet managers can have confidence that working with Geotab would be the right one.
On the infrastructure side this will only be delivered by true public and private partnership and we should not lose sight of the challenge yet to be fully addressed in suburban and rural areas. With over 60% of the population working and residing in urban areas it stand to reason that this has been the focus but it is only part of the puzzle.
Q: The London Mayor has successfully fought off plans to extend the congestion charge zone for six months. Do you see more CAZ and LEZ being rolled out across the country in 2021 and what should fleet managers do to prepare?
A: The Government has been clear that in order to keep the country moving, the introduction of additional Clean Air Zones will be delayed until post-Covid. Assuming, as hoped, that we see widespread vaccinations in the early part of 2021, I would expect to see more CAZ and LEZ being rolled out. These allow for a targeted solution to areas of high pollution which is a more prudent approach than widespread banning of vehicle traffic.
One of the most frustrating aspects of CAZ and LEZ has been charging to enter these zones. Charging is not compulsory and may be an area for local authorities to explore in order to support the post-Covid economic recovery.
Q: The UK Government has renewed its focus on offshore wind farms for green energy as part of its Green Industrial Revolution. What action would you like to see taken in 2021 that would most help the UK transition to this greener future?
A: Transport and energy are going to become linked like never before. The Government recently launched its roadmap entitled ‘Enabling the Transition to a Green Economy: Government and business working together’ that sets out key focus areas such as investment, support for transition, enabling innovation etc. These are all worthy initiatives yet the engine of our economy continues to be SMEs.
Within the fleet space and to support the green transition by 2030 the areas that would significantly benefit fleets would be:
- Greater access to charging infrastructure coupled with investment in grid capacity, backed by the UK Government’s recent £1.3bn infrastructure announcement as part of the National Infrastructure Strategy to support the adoption of EVs. Areas of note:
- Access to charging infrastructure in strategic places such as motorways and A-roads is likely to encourage EV adoption with longer-distance fleet vehicles such as freight and logistics.
- Particularly important for fleet drivers that take their vehicles home and no access to off-street parking, they require a solution.
- Load management incentives and discounts, encouraging off-peak charging.
- Increased density of rapid charging will improve the customer experience.
- A comprehensive package of EV incentives including, but not limited to, upfront purchase subsidies, infrastructure purchase and installation grants, parking exemptions, road tax relief. Continued investment in these areas will go some way in supporting adoption.