What lessons can UK businesses learn from their German counterparts?

Article from Ronald Clancy, UK Country Manager, Vimcar

According to the latest figures from the Department for Transport, light commercial vehicle traffic in the UK has now returned to pre-lockdown levels. But what extra measures do SMEs need to put in place to ensure that they can safely and efficiently operate their fleets?

The answer could be found in Germany, where lockdowns began to ease months before the UK. German SMEs are already dealing with the next economic phase, and research carried out by Vimcar, the fleet management software for small and medium-sized companies, has revealed some of the challenges that UK businesses will face.

More than half of the German SMEs surveyed (55%) have introduced new hygiene regulations for their business fleets in order to get back on the road. This additional time pressure has led to a flawed process in some cases, however, as two-thirds (65%) of those businesses admitted that their disinfection of vehicles was not being documented. Of the 18% that were documenting hygiene procedures, most were doing so manually with hand-written lists. These findings suggest that, whilst necessary, extra hygiene regulations will inevitably prove a cost and resource drain on UK SMEs, who are already struggling to get back on their feet.

As businesses adjusted to lockdown, it’s not surprising to see that 59% of German SMEs had seen a decrease in business trips. With travel restrictions now easing, UK SMEs will be encouraged to hear that almost two thirds (60%) of German SMEs were not planning to reduce the size of their fleet, and 15% were actually planning to invest in more vehicles.

In Germany, during lockdown, 35% of businesses found that employees were using pool cars for personal trips. Whilst adding wear and tear and mileage to the vehicle, this perhaps isn’t as bad as it sounds. That’s because by turning ‘company cars’ (which can only be used by one employee) into ‘pool cars’ (which can be used by multiple drivers) businesses can prevent a fleet vehicle from being under-utilised but can also save thousands of pounds in tax. The savings here can total an additional 20% – 30%. This is definitely something for UK SMEs to consider.

Since lockdown measures were first introduced in March, consumers have become more reliant than ever on home deliveries and engineer visits. To deal with the additional demand – demand that has now far eclipsed that of recent Christmas periods – some businesses are paying more to hire extra drivers (sometimes without proper training) and asking them to go beyond the permitted driving times, spending more and more money on fuel. Whilst clearly meeting a short-term need, this isn’t going to end well. A better use of time and resource is to look at how fleet vehicles could perform deliveries and customer visits better and cheaper.

Employers can save as much as 20% on all fleet-related costs by using fleet management software. Tailored products for the needs of SMEs will allow them to optimise existing fleets, the routes they take, and therefore, conserve fuel and employee related costs. As customer satisfaction becomes crucial to how businesses rebuild after lockdown, those businesses that are able to manage their vehicles as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, providing accurate ETAs and ensuring visits are not missed, will be in pole position.

This pandemic has left an indelible mark on the way we work. For those able to adapt fast and digitise their core business, there are certainly opportunities out there to succeed – and even excel – throughout and beyond this crisis.