Fleet operators are calling for the industry to pull together to help their businesses survive through the COVID-19 crisis, according to a new report.
More than 50 UK commercial fleet companies shared their immediate and longer-term concerns in an independent survey, commissioned by Fleet Source (March 2020).
Nearly three-quarters said they feared they may lose their business while there was also a strong feeling that larger companies could be doing more to help smaller contract or franchised hauliers.
“We wanted to gauge the current and likely future impact of this crisis on our industry as we all work together to navigate the enormous challenges we’re facing,” said Fleet Source chief executive Nick Caesari.
“Obviously the most immediate concern for fleet managers is their staff getting ill with COVID-19, with more than half the operators we spoke to saying that they had drivers self-isolating at home and almost half with office-based employees also self-isolating, either for themselves, or because they had vulnerable people in their family.”
The survey of fleet managers found that 53% of drivers were self-isolating at home and 47% of office-based employees were also self-isolating
“There is also of course, a real concern about the survival of their organisations, with almost three-quarters of fleet managers fearing that the impact of the public health crisis would mean they would not be able to stay in business,” Caesari added. “One operator told us that at best, it would take a very long time to recover, but there was a risk that they might never fully recover.”
The survey also revealed that 73% of fleet managers were concerned about contract cancellations, 71% were worried about being able to stay in business, 67% worried about the volume of staff available to deliver workloads; 56% were concerned they would have to make redundancies and 45% have experienced a reduction in workload
“Fleet operators also told us about the challenges that drivers face whilst making deliveries," Caesari continued. "Some drivers are concerned about getting infected and then returning home to their family, being able to get food throughout the day and also some delivery and collection points refusing drivers entry to their washroom facilities, as well as at limited options at services, due to social distancing measures.
“They also spoke about the frustration they faced when large companies they are contracted to were still asking them to supply trucks when there was no work.
"One franchise haulier said he was only being supplied with one load a day, but could not shut down and let his drivers claim 80% of their wages, so had to maintain full pay while his lorries were not earning.
“There was a strong feeling that larger companies could be doing more to help smaller contract or franchised hauliers, as we all try to navigate our way through the unprecedented challenges we’re facing.
“Initiatives such as CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport)’s online registration portal, which aims to match companies with capacity to those who need it, especially in the NHS and retail sector, provide vital support, but fleet managers felt that greater co-operation across our industry was essential if businesses are to survive.
“We expected to hear that fleet managers are experiencing anxieties around their own health and that of their families and colleagues – just as we all are. We also knew that they would already be seeing a financial impact on their businesses but hadn’t anticipated just how much in only a matter of weeks.
“What we were surprised to discover, is that drivers who are still working do not appear to have the basic support that they need to do their jobs effectively. Fleet operators and their drivers are on the frontline as key workers during this crisis, as well as being critical to our economy as we emerge from lockdown and start rebuilding our businesses. Everyone needs to recognise the invaluable work the fleet sector is doing during this crisis, supporting drivers where they can. It is essential for our survival.”