Businesses that want to survive have got to keep moving forwards and improving the service they offer to customers. That is what light commercial rental giant Northgate has been busy doing, and its efforts have made it a worthy winner of the 2021 Rental Company of the Year award.

Customers can access a wide range of light commercials, with any type of vehicle available on request. The hire specialist has also made a point of ordering a stock of electric models and has expanded its electric van consultancy service. 

In addition Northgate has enhanced its accident management programme. It can manage every aspect of an incident, from first notification of loss to arranging the repair and replacement of a vehicle and any legal services that may be required.

It has upgraded its approach to telematics too, with improved dashboards and the addition of fuel card integration, which helps fleet managers measure fuel consumption and identify any activities that might be fraudulent.

Northgate’s Vehicle Inspection App supports compliance by enabling drivers to carry out their daily checks on a vehicle electronically prior to putting it to work. Doing so saves on administration by turning such checks into a paperless exercise.

The company also provides a Driver Risk Management package, which includes a four-stage assessment in order to understand whether the individual concerned might benefit from additional training. It embraces a reporting suite plus a range of e-learning modules and bespoke training that can be used at any stage, from when the driver is being recruited to periodic reviews of how well they perform at the wheel. 

The firm now operates out of 67 locations, most of which have their own workshops. In addition, it is expanding its fleet of mobile servicing units in a bid to minimise downtime for its clients. It has recently welcomed 16 mobile vehicle technician apprentices onto a 30-month apprenticeship scheme run in partnership with Ford and Peugeot.

Covid-19 has been a challenge, but it is one that Northgate has risen to. All its branches remained open during the crisis, supporting customers and their fleets. Northgate conducted strict health and safety risk assessments to ensure adherence to government guidelines, and introduced a contactless van delivery and collection service.

It also providing extra vehicles to customers who were experiencing increased demand for their goods and services, or who wanted to send two vans out to a job rather than two employees in one van in order to maintain social distancing.

Businesses that were unable to trade were able to avail themselves of Northgate’s Covid Support Scheme. Working with 833 customers operating 7,900 vehicles, the company offered deferred payments or waivers depending on need.

It also invested in the technology required to enable its customer service team to work remotely without affecting the level of support provided to clients. 

Four out of five team members can now work entirely from home if required to do so, and enable Northgate to respond rapidly to clients requests in what remains a challenging climate.

Highly Commended: Europcar Mobility Group

The ongoing development of nine strategically positioned van and truck supersites, as Europcar describes them, has helped the company win a Highly Commended rental distinction. They play a major role in underpinning its remarkably comprehensive hire network, with no customers more than nine miles away from their nearest local branch. 

The supersites have seen significant investment in electric vehicle charging facilities. Europcar has increased the size of its battery-electric and plug-in hybrid light commercial fleet, and worked alongside the manufacturers to provide a number of customers with a free-of-charge electric van trial programme.

It is a cost-effective way for businesses to see if the technology is viable for them. Europcar extended this offer to the NHS in Greenwich, London, which used the vehicles to collect coronavirus tests.

Europcar believes it runs the youngest fleet in the light commercial hire industry, offering a wide range of models, including tippers and dropsides, while the company has taken every step to protect both its customers and its employees from the impact of Covid-19 with a major global safety programme.