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SPOTLIGHT: Ashley Sowerby, MD, Chevin Fleet Solutions

Having founded Chevin Fleet Solutions in 1990, Ashley Sowerby is no stranger to the fleet industry. Sowerby talks to the Great British Fleet Event about starting his company in a small town in the heart of Derbyshire and taking its FleetWave product to over 180 countries across the globe.

“Today, FleetWave is used by some of the largest and most reputable companies in the industry for a broad range of fleet management tasks”, Sowerby says.

He started out at the age of 21 developing a simple fleet system for his then employer and, after the project was cancelled, he bought the rights to the software to start his own business venture… and has never looked back.

As times have changed, so too has Sowerby’s cars, having started out with a humble Ford Escort Mk1 and progressing today to owning a Tesla Model S P100D. However, despite the modern electric experience, Sowerby says he could be persuaded by McLaren’s latest Grand Tourer. He said, “I’m partial to a good road trip – with past excursions including the UK to Brussels, Italy and Denmark and around Australia – so wouldn’t say no to taking to the open road in the manufacturer’s latest release!”

Naturally, while trekking about Europe, Sowerby wouldn’t be seen without his faithful four-legged friend, Archie, while listening to his favourite Spotify playlist. Sowerby commented, “[Archie] has been part of the family (Sowerby and Chevin!) for over 10 years now, and it’s true what they say, a dog really is a man’s best friend.”

What is Chevin’s focus for 2019? Are you expanding, launching new products or changing your operation?

All of the above! As we progress through 2019 our sights will be firmly set on product innovation. In order to stay ahead of the curve, product investment is essential and our in-house development team has already grown three-fold in the first half of this year.

As the months roll on, we will be expanding our product offering and incorporating the very latest technologies in order to maintain our market leading position, respond to client demands and adapt with the ever-changing fleet industry landscape.

How much have you found the fleet sector is changing?

The industry has experienced more of a refocus than change itself, with ‘mobility over metal’ at the forefront. Put simply, companies – and individuals alike – are less concerned with ownership and more interested in mobility options.

With increasing demand for mobility features within our FleetWave software, it’s evident that fleets are taking on more responsibility surrounding transportation. When you look at the traditional one-vehicle-one-user model, it is quite often the case that the vehicle remains stationary in a car park for long periods of time, which means it might not be the most cost-effective or efficient solution.

The ability to look at transportation in broader terms tends to encourage managers to experiment with more flexible alternatives.

With this in mind, the fleet industry is starting to see a bigger cultural shift in terms of mobility and transportation, and fleets are driving this step-change.

What’s keeping today’s fleet manager awake at night?

Compliance is the key to a restful night’s sleep!

Minimising risk is essential for numerous reasons, especially in an age with a growing number of regulatory and insurance requirements, which is ultimately driven by compliance.

Running a compliant fleet poses big challenges, so it’s important to know exactly what is expected of you, at the same time understanding that as we enter a more autonomous future our obligations will evolve at the same pace.

Compliance and risk management protects not only a business’ finances, but its reputation too, making it one of the most important aspects to have under your belt.

How do you see that continuing to change over the next 5-10 years?

As technology advances and smart vehicles become the norm, fleet industry professionals not only need to be on top of compliance and legislation, but also the increasing importance of data security.

As connected cars and vans become more popular, tighter security measures will need to be introduced to protect the increased amount of data that’s received.

Security and data analysis is paramount in the face of an autonomous future and, due to the complex nature of the topic, this is something that both software providers – such as ourselves – and businesses should be considering now.

As technology evolves even further, it’s vital that software providers develop preventative means of deterring hackers instead of finding a later cure for any direct attacks.

What would you like to see change to help the sector move forwards?

One of today’s biggest concerns is the environment, and the fleet industry plays a pivotal role in this regard.

Moving forwards, I’d like to see a strong push towards electric vehicles, alongside significant investment in charging structures across the country.

In an ideal world, there will be increasing penalties for the use of fossil fuels and mandatory solar requirements in building regulations for all commercial and new-build properties.

Here at Chevin, we have 80 solar panels and four individual charging points, and we will continue to expand these facilities as our electric and hybrid fleet grows. Today, all but two of our vehicles are not “electrified” in some way, and those are both up for replacement this year.

Saving the planet is not a one-player game, we all play an important part.