There has been a seismic shift towards carbon neutrality, facilitated by the pandemic’s influence on changing working practices, which has highlighted the fact that large international businesses do not necessarily need to return to travel to achieve all their targeted objectives and goals.
This in turn has prompted them to look at overall mobility solutions, with a clear focus on electric vehicles and alternative modes of transport.
This is the view of Group Director of International Implementations, Quality and Audit, Michelle Clarke, who is responsible for helping new clients come on board with Fleet Logistics, understanding their objectives and ensuring these requirements are met.
We caught up with Michelle during a break in her busy schedule and asked her about her role at Fleet Logistics and how client needs were evolving, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic and the growing movement towards electrification across Europe.
How long have you been with the business?
I have worked in the industry for 33 years and with Fleet Logistics for close to 18 years with a brief break in service 10 years ago.
Has implementation and the scope of services offered to clients changed much since the pandemic?
Yes, very much. Before COVID, much of our implementation was carried out with face-to-face meetings with both clients and suppliers.
It has always been at the core of our overall approach, building relationships, creating trust and demonstrating the knowledge base and experience we have.
Therefore, the team and I had to look at ways to break down what would normally have been full-day workshops into bitesize chunks which worked well over virtual conference calls. It is important to ensure we have an engaging communication approach whilst ensuring we create a collaborative environment.
2022 was a very busy year both internationally and locally. What type of clients and fleet sizes were typically involved?
We have been particularly successful with Pharma companies with very large fleets exceeding 10,000 units, primarily distributed across EMEA.
What types of vehicles do clients now operate and have there been changes to the fleet make-up implemented during your implementation projects? How did Fleet Logistics support this?
We have definitely seen a seismic shift towards carbon neutrality and I think COVID propelled that, as it highlighted the fact that you do not need to necessarily travel to achieve all of the required objectives and goals with our clients.
This in turn has led to the opportunity to look at overall mobility solutions, with a clear focus on electric vehicles and alternative modes of transport.
In terms of what FL has done to support this, we are very focused on the overall solution and our MobiltyFIT service, which recognises that a car is only one potential solution when looking at ways to provide travel solutions for our clients and their employees.
We have implemented a driver profiling tool, honing in on the granular detail such as the breakdown in business and private mileage, typical journey lengths they make, accessibility of charging and so on, to help make the decision on the greenest suitable powertrain easier for both fleet operators and their drivers.
Were there any trends that showed clients focusing on particular markets or groups as a priority and why?
There is a clear focus on the more mature markets to move to electrification, for example in Belgium and the Netherlands, and we often use them as our best practice examples when looking to implement in other markets.
However, we are still seeing a push for the smaller markets to wherever possible promote carbon neutrality as clients look for opportunities to accelerate emission reduction. Where EVs are not feasible across the board, this might still retain a reduced selection of ICE vehicles.
With the movement away from ICE to EV, how is this affecting implementations?
The devil is definitely in the detail and, as we move through the processes, it highlights the need to think about areas such as a reallocation of an electric vehicle, home charging accessibility and alternative solutions where it is not possible.
There also currently is a wide variation in solutions, legislations, and fiscal incentives from market to market, so it is vital that Fleet Logistics is up to date with knowledge, processes and solutions in each market and that we work with our clients to identify the optimum solution.
In such a challenging market, are there any key fleet management issues that have come up during projects that you and your team are currently working through with clients?
I suppose the obvious one is manufacturer lead times, which are still impacting every market and fleet at the moment, regardless of the type of vehicle being ordered. We are looking at ways of optimising clients’ existing fleet, especially as driven mileages have reduced dramatically over the last few years due to the wider adoption of remote and hybrid working. This enables us, in a lot of cases, to extend contracts for clients without penalty.
You also manage quality and compliance for the business? How has this evolved during the last year?
Data is such a critical and integral part of what we do, how we report it and what story it tells our clients. The journey always starts with the receipt of the existing client data during the implementation phase, and then we work with our clients to look at how we process and monitor the integrity and quality of what we receive and how we manage it.
As part of our internal quality control function, we monitor the evolution and work with our countries to ensure we are constantly improving our data processes.
What do you see as the main big issues that your clients face and how do you help them tackle this?
Electrification, infrastructure and balancing its management against an EMEA strategy, which is typically launched from a central place, remains the biggest issue. However, there is still the need for fine-tuning a policy for each country to meet the varying maturity of solutions, the different legislation and the varied levels of understanding that might exist. This is undoubtedly our current focus.
Is there any advice to international fleets thinking of implementing changes that you would like to add?
Communication, communication and communication. We have seen in the last 18 months that when looking to introduce changes, even small ones, the most successful projects are where there is regular and tailored communication to the target audience or stakeholders to ensure buy-in and positive acceptance.
You don’t give the same message to the end user, the driver, that you do to the procurement or HR stakeholders, and regular bitesize updates seem to be a key success factor when looking to implement change.