Investment and finance trends explored in new CM reader research

Splashing out on new fleet vehicles will be the key investment for nearly two-thirds of operators during 2021, according to brand-new research published in the ‘Hot Topic Industry Insight 2021’ report.

The new research surveyed readers of Commercial Motor and sister title Motor Transport to ask what they perceived as major industry challenges for the year ahead, and to explore trends around buying patterns, compliance and technology use.

Of those businesses planning to spend on fleet vehicles, around 60% are looking to procure new vehicles, 22% looking for second-hand, with the remainder planning a mix of the two.

Training came up in second place for company spending plans, showing the value and necessity that operators place on ensuring their employees are up to speed with the latest knowledge and techniques to work safely and efficiently.

While more than one-third (37%) planned to invest in their in-house workshops and maintenance equipment.

However the volatility of the past year, with both the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit uncertainties creating a challenging trading environment, appears to reflect in a cautious approach from hauliers when it comes to extending their borrowing. Nearly half (47%) had no plans to take on extra funds, while one-quarter did expect to seek out finance and 29% had not yet decided.

Outright purchase was the method used for purchasing fleet vehicles by 42% of respondents, with one-third opting for hire purchase and one-quarter leasing.

When it comes to sticking with the status quo for financing vehicles, our survey provides some good news for funders in that a healthy 43% of operators would consider changing their primary method of acquiring vehicles.

MAN Financial Services head of sales & marketing, Gareth Carr, said of the results on funding options: “It appears that just under half of all customers would consider changing their usual route or method of funding when acquiring new vehicles into their fleet.

“The biggest factors considered when choosing a funding partner are a simple process, good relationship and service levels combined with manufacturer alignment; at MAN Financial Services we can tick all of those boxes.

“We have a team of specialist relationship managers based throughout the UK and this team is able to meet with customers and discuss their funding requirements on new and used MAN vehicles.”

CM readers can download the full Hot Topics: Industry Insight 2021 report free of charge.

Rogue operator booted out of industry

A sole trader who showed “a reckless disregard for the law” and operated more vehicles than his licence authorised has been disqualified indefinitely. Barry Bernhard Taylor also had his licence revoked following a Birmingham public inquiry, which heard how the Walsall operator operated four HGVs right from the start of his licence being issued in 2015, despite only having authorisation for two.

Taylor told traffic commissioner Nick Denton that it was “uneconomic to operate only two” and he had chosen not to put his vehicles in for preventative maintenance inspections for fear that the DVSA would find out. Nevertheless, a DVSA investigation in October 2020 discovered what was going on, as well as that the operator had no driver defect reporting system; drivers were not using tachograph cards or charts and a fifth vehicle was discovered in the yard fitted with false number plates.

Taylor accepted he had been wrong to act as he had done and asked the TC to give him three months to demonstrate that he could operate four HGVs compliantly. But the TC noted his reckless manner and his already chequered licence history.

In a written decision, Denton said: “A licence on which he was a director and transport manager was curtailed in 2010 for reasons which are similar to the shortcomings found by DVSA in their October 2020 visit. Upon his sole trader licence being granted in 2015 he proceeded immediately to operate double the number of vehicles permitted, with no preventative maintenance carried out on vehicles and in complete disregard of tachograph requirements. His past history and present wholesale non-compliance demonstrate conclusively that he absolutely cannot be trusted to comply in the future.”

The TC said he was only giving until 21 February for the revocation to take effect because of “the substantial threat to road safety posed by this wilfully non-compliant operator.” He said Taylor was “an incorrigible rogue operator and transport manager” and that he should not be allowed back into the industry in the future. “Because Mr Taylor has shown himself over the course of many years and two licences to be utterly uninterested in complying, I am making the disqualification indefinite,” he added.