Some businesses rely heavily on their van fleet. Therefore, it is hugely important to think ahead and prepare for upcoming changes, whether it be related to business growth, new technology or legal compliance.
Being able to stay ahead of the game can give you that vital edge over your competition and flourish where others struggle. Whilst we always try to provide helpful advice to our customers, there have been times where we’ve seen businesses slip during periods of change. It can be very tough, so we’re providing our insights on how you can future-proof your business van fleet.
Business Considerations for Your Van Fleet
Cash flow for your business can make this very tricky, but it is important to make realistic estimates on how big your van fleet needs to be. Some organisations don’t consider their customer base growth. This can lead to the fleet struggling to meet the growing demands and risking repeat business with their customers.
On the other hand, if you have too big of a van fleet, you may end up with vehicles sitting idle and eating away at your finances. Some businesses create this situation by being overly cautious. Having the right sized van fleet is a balance that’s worth getting right. You need to have enough vans to keep up with the demand, whilst not having any money being wasted.
Here are some questions you should be asking in order to establish the correct balance:
How has your business growth been in the past?
Looking at your business history is a good starting point for predicting the correct size for your fleet. There may be patterns each year that you haven’t noticed before, helping you to understand if your business is seasonal. It may be that you have been growing at a steady rate for the past few years, meaning you can make an informed decision on how big your fleet will need to be as time goes by.
If your business is new, try looking at trends in your industry. This may not be the most accurate prediction, as it will vary from business-to-business, but at least it will be a starting point. Our recommendation is to air on the side of caution and look at as much research as possible before making a decision.
Whether you have historical records to look at or not, it may even be worth trying to contact businesses within your industry. They may have some insightful data that you can learn from. Naturally, it’d be best to contact businesses that aren’t in your immediate area. It’s not too often that your direct competition will want to help you steal business from them.
How does the current economic situation affect your business?
Whilst doing research is a good start, your business growth can be affected by the economic climate. During the financial crash 10 years ago, many businesses experienced massive drops in sales as people were less willing to spend money. A similar situation could happen again.
It is important to make sure you understand the current economic situation and where it will be heading in the future. You may have experienced a growth in customers and feel like you need to expand your van fleet in the near-future, but if your sales suddenly drop your business could suffer greatly.
Can your drivers legally drive the vans?
This is a bit of a bonus one, but we’ve heard that this genuinely happened before: A business once hired a small fleet of vans and entered into a lengthy contract. Only after signing on the dotted lines did the company find out that none of their drivers could legally drive vehicles of that size. However, getting out of their hire contract was very difficult, so they were stuck with these vans and nobody able to drive them for 6 months.
Please make sure that doesn’t happen to you. If you need some guidance on which vans would be ideal for your fleet, be sure to read our blog the different types of van.
Changing Legislation for Van Fleets
Keeping your van fleet compliant is very necessary if you want your business to succeed. However, regulations and laws seem to change almost constantly and it can be difficult to actually keep up-to-date with the changes. Sometimes changes can come out so quietly that many of our own customers aren’t even aware!
Diesel Vehicle Regulations
It has been widely publicised that diesel vehicles over five years old won’t meet emissions limits from 2020. On top of that, it’s not just London who are following a Clean AirZone initiative. Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham, Southampton and Manchester are all currently looking at following suit. So if you’re planning to purchase second-hand vehicles for your van fleet, be aware of that anything before 2015 will fail compliance very quickly.
Noise pollution has been a hot topic for the authorities lately. A van fleet that runs in the evenings or mornings can face some harsh restrictions. In order to reduce the risk of noise complaints, the Retiming Deliveries Scheme is looking to help extend delivery times by reducing the noise caused by vans. This, in turn, can help to reduce accidents. Some of the proposed updates to vans include soft-close doors, remote-controlled shutter door systems, quieter roll cages and automatic shut-off radios.
It is being proposed that by 2020, dangerous lorries will be banned from London. This is a part of The Direct Vision Standard. Put simply, HGV vehicles will be rated from 0 to 5 stars. The lowest ratings will be for those not suited to an urban environment, and the highest will be for the best in the class. The technology being used to support this initiative includes front blind-spot mirrors, side proximity mirrors and side guards. These are to help the driver see better and prevent accidents.
New Technology for Van Fleets
People keep talking about electric vehicles and cars that drive themselves, but they are either in the distant future or too expensive for small businesses. However, the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) have been campaigning for several new technologies to be fitted on vans as standard. Whether these become full-on legislation is another story, but it is worth trying to stay ahead of the wave.
Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA)
This is comparable to the existing electronic speed limits that are fitted to many van fleet, except the limit changes. ISA will detect the speed limit for the road you are driving on and limit you to that speed as a maximum.
We are curious as to how this technology will be able to update itself if the speed limit for a road changes. We’ve noticed many sat navs giving incorrect speed limits for roads. Curiosity aside, a study by the European Commission suggests that mandatory ISA for vehicles would reduce fatal accidents by as much as 50%. That’s a lot!
Drink-driving has been a hot topic for many years now. But technology has only recently caught up to the point where van fleet drivers could actually be required by the ignition system of a vehicle to take a breathalyser test. If the driver fails, they won’t be able to start the vehicle.
This is something we’d really like to see as standard on all vehicles, as it could potentially save many lives.
You may have seen this technology with your insurance provider when they want to monitor your speed and driving style. The telematics devices that the ETSC want on your van fleet will also monitor your location and whether you’ve carried out vehicle checks.
We can definitely understand how this device can help when it comes to investigating breakdowns or accidents, similarly to how the dash cam has been the definitive evidence in settling many court cases.
Second-Generation Advanced Emergency Braking Systems (AEBS)
The first generation of AEBS helps van fleet drivers to avoid collisions with other vehicles. In fact, they are now a legal requirement for commercial vehicles. This new AEBS will do the same for collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.
As supporters of the original AEBS, we are hopeful that this new version will become mandatory for commercial vehicles, as it can help to save lives.
Lane Keep Assistance
Simply put, this piece of technology can help van fleet drivers to stay within their lane. Those long, dull journeys involving endless motorway can become very dangerous when you’re tired. When drivers start to drift out of their lane, the assistant will help them to get back to where they should be.
Final Thoughts on Future-Proofing Your Van Fleet
It’s hard to keep up with the ever-changing world and falling behind can prove costly for your business. It goes without saying that legislation and public safety should be taken seriously when organising your van fleet, but it can come with a hefty price tag. However, can you really put a price on safety?
We are always happy to help if you have any questions about getting your van fleet up-to-date or choosing the correct van for your business. Be sure to get in contact if you would like any advice.