By Jackie Headon, head of rental at Fraikin.
Working through the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined to me how much we rely on the transport and logistics sector to keep the country moving, and what a phenomenal job so many of our customers and their teams have done.
From supermarket deliveries to the doorsteps of the most vulnerable, to helping with the rapid roll-out and distribution of vaccines across the country, vans, trucks and trailers – and their drivers – have all had a huge part to play.
Within my role at Fraikin, one of the UK’s largest providers of commercial vehicle fleet services, I’ve witnessed the impact the pandemic has had on our industry, some good, some bad.
For some, business slowed to the point vehicles had to be taken off the road. For others, fleet utilisation went through the roof, meaning they struggled to meet demand.
However, one thing the industry could not have foreseen nearly 18 months ago was the impact Covid-19 would have on new vehicle production.
Initial production stoppages, yes, but now vehicle shortages? No. This has added a whole other level of complexity to the situation.
The increasing demand for new vehicles – fuelled by a continuing shift towards e-commerce – has been combined with businesses looking to update their fleets with assets that are compliant with new legislation, like clean air zones (CAZs) and London’s Direct Vision Standard (DVS).
Collectively, this has meant demand for new vehicles has peaked at precisely the wrong time.
For vehicle manufacturers and even bodybuilders, the problems centre around shortages and inflated prices of critical materials and components, the most well-documented being the semi-conductors used in engine management units and the like.
In addition, new customs processes following Brexit have made getting parts into the country even more complicated.
The result has been a massive increase in new vehicle lead times, which in turn has created increasing price pressure.
With existing orders struggling to be filled by manufacturers, those seeking new vehicles now will likely not see them roll off production lines any time before 2022.
The key for businesses operating in this new paradigm is planning.
Put simply, there has never been a more important time to take an extremely close look at the make-up of your fleet and to strategise and plan accordingly.
The key is to look much further ahead than normal, to factor in upcoming peaks in fleet utilisation and to turn to companies like Fraikin, that truly understand the market, to help find a solution.
This level of planning is just as relevant for commercial vehicle rental providers, particularly as we are the ones helping to plug the gaps in our customers’ fleets.
For Fraikin, this has meant a concerted effort to ensure every vehicle we supply is compliant with new legislation, particularly the London DVS.
‘Unprecedented’ has certainly become the buzz word for the times we’re living in, but there is no escaping how accurate a term it is.
These are testing times for us all, but throughout the past 18 months the transport and logistics industry has faced every challenge head on, delivering when it was needed most. I am extremely proud to have been a part of that.