Have you wondered if there are any new best practices and solutions for managing a fleet over the lockdown period and the pandemic that you have missed? Have other fleet operators across the globe implemented best practices and solutions that could benefit your fleet in the southern African regions?
The world is a small place, maybe an overused term, but simply true. Technology is critical to ensuring ongoing fleet operations and continuity in services at the best of times.
Over this pandemic period, our team attended a webinar that was hosted by The Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) and Automotive Fleet in the United States. Eqstra confirmed that fleet managers and operators in southern Africa are on the right path in comparison to our international fleet operators. In addition, as the government described earlier this week in their briefing, more industries will in the coming weeks be returning to operation and more vehicles will be on the roads.
Here are few interesting take-outs from the webinar to assist fleet managers:
1. And after the lockdown, what are fleet manager predicting?
Samuelsen indicated that fleet managers have been through the reaction and preparation stages, and Eqstra can most certainly agree. Now the discussions have moved along to, how can we save cash for sustainability after the lockdown has ended.
Many multi-national fleet operators and fleet managers have had to rapidly ramp up their digitisation of fleet processes and procedures. Flexible workspaces that were created in record time and employees on the road using mobile hotspots in vehicles can continue to be used in the ‘new normal’ and improve processes, efficiencies and save costs.
Many fleet managers like Keeton were consumed with the impact that the lockdown had on operations in terms of the registration and licencing of vehicles and when new vehicle orders were expected to be placed and older vehicles retired from service.
2. Procurement strategies and processes
In most businesses, the buying of goods is controlled by one department, procurement. There is good reason for this, the strict controls and having supplier communications in one place allows a business to leverage that supplier to obtain rebates and best pricing. In these unprecedented times, availability of certain goods is scarce.
Many centralised procurement processes have been adjusted by dynamic businesses like USIC Locating services in United States ensure that the employees have what they need to perform their job functions safely and without risk to themselves or other people. Phil Samuelson, the Fleet & Capital Asset Manager said that USIC’s instruction to the employee’s is “if you see it and you need it, buy it”.
The new strategy should be to empower employees to be able to make a purchase of clean HSE supplies and protective gear including gloves, hand sanitisers and masks, water soap and even toilet paper. The employee should reasonably be allowed to purchase the goods when they need it, and from wherever they can find it, and be ensured of a quick and efficient refund from the business.
3. Tips to maintain physical distancing
There is no doubt that companies throughout southern Africa and worldwide has adopted the policy that employees that feel sick should stay away from the workplace. There will always though be a need to interact with people whilst maintaining a physical distance. Some of the tricks that international fleet operators are using include:
• Using vehicle movers and towing operators to move vehicles between regional offices, rather than risking multiple persons driving the vehicles;
• A good tip is to minimise the handling of documents such as drivers’ licences between parties. In an accident situation for example, rather request that parties put their driver licences an insurance information on the bonnet or boot of the vehicles, or another flat surface and the other party take photographs of the information.
• Unfortunately, even with less congested roads, accidents happen. Breakdowns in vehicles will never be eliminated. The panellists all concurred that the days of hitching a ride with the tow truck driver is over. Roadside assistance programs should rather provide a taxi service like “Uber” or even ask a colleague, or family member to assist the driver should he require transportation.
4. Company perk vehicles and absences of leave
It is widely reported, and we mostly all have the opinion that the world economy will suffer as a result of the pandemic. It stands to reason that many businesses have had no other alternative than to request employees take extended leave of absences. Despite technology, some functions can just not be performed remotely. But how are the large corporations treating company vehicles that are allocated to the employees that are on a leave of absence? The best practice that the panellists agreed to was that the company perk vehicle stays with the employee, but any fuel card issued to the vehicle is suspended.
It would be recommended to contact your tax consultants to reckeive expert advice on how to treat tax in terms of business vs. personal use tax deductions. However, Katie Keeton, the Fleet Manager of Siemens in United States has found that in most countries, there is no change as to how the tax on vehicles is treated through the pandemic period.
5. Sanitising vehicles
Continuous sanitisation of vehicles will need to be in place for a long time yet, even after the lockdown period has ended. Eqstra is currently updating their downloadable fleet policies and their pre and post inspection reports to cater for the change in procedures. An interesting video that demonstrates the procedure of sanitising vehicles was shared by Matthew Bets, an expert of Fleet Operations for DTE Energy can be accessed on National Road Safety Partnership Program website. Companies will need to consider how they treat a pool vehicle if a driver that has driven the vehicle is tested positive. The vehicle will require a deep sanitisation before it is allocated to somebody else.
Phil Samuelson, the Fleet and Capital Asset Manager of USIC Locating Services also brought up the sometime forgotten need to transport crews of people. The crew area should be sanitised according to recommended procedures. To protect your crews, the presenters of the webinar recommended that crews.