The importance of a well-managed fleet has been revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a speaker at an Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) event.

Auto Windscreens head of fleet and facilities Shaun Atton made the comments on the AFP’s webinar ‘Back to normal? A post Covid-19 landscape for fleet operators’.

Atton said that the continuing impact of the pandemic on management had been diverse.

He said: “There have been many issues to consider. For example, because so many of our vans were sitting unused during lockdown, we had a lot of unused mileage on our contracts. As a result, we’ve extended our lease cycle from three to four years, creating the opportunity to use all of our contracted mileage and make significant savings.

“However, we have reinvested that saving into the fleet with a range of new measures including installing rear view cameras, upgrading our telematics and more.”

The webinar also heard from ISS head of fleet Duncan Webb, who said that managing the potential risk of a new event on the scale of the pandemic was set to become an essential part of fleet management.

Webb said having formal documents covering that sort of eventuality was likely to soon become a prerequisite for winning new business.

He said: “Potential customers will probably want to see assessments of what would happen to your fleet supply chain as part of tender documents before they commit to working with you.

“Making sure that risks are better understood and managed, as well as how they would be handled in the event that anything like this happens again in the future, is going to be an ongoing part of vehicle management.”

Webb said that the pandemic had changed the way he approached managing his fleet in several ways.

He said: “During lockdown, we saw a one-third reduction in accidents and we want that to continue, so we now have a plan of activity designed to achieve that objective, getting people back to work safely from the point of view of both driver and vehicle.

“Also, we don’t want to return to the kind of overall mileages that we were seeing pre-Covid and we are looking to technology to help us do that, especially through the integration of fleet and travel functions. People will simply move around less in the future.”

Webb added that he thought the effects of the pandemic had not yet been fully realised by fleets.

He said: “We are going to be living with Covid for a while yet. Personally, I think the direct effects on how fleets are operated will last at least another 12 months, with the impact working its way through the industry.”