Coronavirus: UK businesses ‘flex’ their fleets

Flexible rental has enabled UK businesses to change the number of commercial vehicles they operate in response to changing customer demand, according to Enterprise Flex-E-Rent.   A key element, during the Covid-19 lockdown and since restrictions have begun to be lifted, has been the ability to de-fleet without incurring penalties. At Glasgow-based City Technical Services, which provides gas and electric engineering services, including heating installations and renewables, coronavirus resulted in an immediate downturn of business, with up to 80% of its 150-strong van fleet, provided by Enterprise on flexible rental, sitting idle.

Enterprise enabled City Technical Services to scale back its vehicle commitments in May and later extend this into June as well, helping it to cut costs immediately. As demand has returned with the end of lockdown, the business has once again expanded its van fleet, with Enterprise providing vehicles in response to customer requirements. Kenny Henderson, managing director at City Technical Services, explained: "The pandemic drastically affected our business, but Enterprise's flexibility made a huge difference.

"By downscaling our commitment at first and then increasing it again, paying only for what we need, we've been able to match our costs to our customers." Roofing contractor, Avonside Group, saw the majority of its new housing sites temporarily closed during the first few weeks of lockdown. It urgently needed to remove cost from the business, including reducing its fleet of around 90 Enterprise vans.

Enterprise worked with Avonside to create a programme that enabled the business to de-fleet almost all of its flexible rental vehicles rapidly, without incurring additional charges and in the process freeing up cashflow. As demand for its services returns, it is working with Enterprise to grow the fleet again. "Enterprise's flexibility helped us to continue trading in a very difficult period and keep cash in the business," said Simon Smith, group commercial director at Avonside Group.

"We're now growing the fleet again and are sticking with flexible rental, because we know first-hand that it's a solution that doesn't force us to invest in expensive assets." Hermes UK, meanwhile, experienced unexpected and unprecedented demand during the lockdown, reporting more than double typical seasonal levels and even surpassing the peak Christmas period. It used Enterprise Flex-E-Rent to supply additional delivery trucks to help it meet this new level of demand and maintain its customer service levels.

Mervyn McIntyre, head of fleet at Hermes, said: "Enterprise's flexible rental enabled us to meet a wave of demand that appeared almost overnight and is still ongoing. "We've brought new vehicles into the fleet without a massive capital investment and have the security of knowing we can just hand them back if demand slows down." Manufacturers has also recognised the growing demand for flexibility from fleets. Groupe PSA is launching a rental platform and app in the UK later this year to take advantage of growing demand from customers for flexible rental. 

The new short and medium-term rental offering is being launched under Groupe PSA's Free2Move brand and will be called Free2Move Rent.  The vehicles will be supplied by Groupe PSA retailers or outsourced by Free2Move Rent via a third party provider if a suitable vehicle is not available with a retailer in a certain area so that a booking can be guaranteed. Martin Gurney, Groupe PSA's director - fleet and used vehicles, said: "In the same way Free2Move Lease replaced Peugeot Contract Hire and Citroen Contract Motoring, Free2Move Rent replaces the Peugeot car and van rental programme but expands into a much wider, multi-brand (Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Vauxhall) dealer-based rental solution."

Danny Glynn, managing director of Enterprise Flex-E-Rent, explains that rental was able to help businesses hit by the pandemic adjust their vehicle fleets quickly to match changes in demand. "Some had to contract the number of vehicles in the short term," he said. "Others are seeing demand skyrocket and need extra vans or trucks in a hurry. "Flexible rental is fast becoming a preferred choice because it allows organisations to scale up or down to meet customer demand at a moment's notice, without incurring penalties.

In a world still filled with considerable uncertainty, flexibility is more important than ever."

In May, Enterprise also launched its Complete Clean Pledge to further enhance the cleaning protocols between each rental.

This includes washing, vacuuming, general wipe down, and sanitising with a disinfectant that meets leading health authority requirements, with particular attention to more than 20 high-touch points.

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