22nd August 2017

What fleet trends are illustrated in the Arval Corporate Vehicle Observatory Barometer report for 2017?

Each year, wide-ranging companies and other organisations eagerly await the publication of Arval’s latest Barometer from its Corporate Vehicle Observatory, a neutral knowledge-sharing platform for fleet managers from private and public companies small to large, fleet owners and lessors, OEM vehicle manufacturers and the media. After interviewing 3,487 fleet stakeholders from across the UK for the CVOB 2017, some clear trends once again emerge, along with many positive indications and also some food for thought.


As the UK’s leading telematics provider, the section of this year’s report focussed on such technology was particularly of interest and it’s encouraging to see that a considerable 34% of UK fleets have implemented telematics overall compared to 20% in Europe. Looking at large fleets, defined as 50+ vehicles, telematics adoption is recorded at a sizeable 62% here in the UK versus 37% on the Continent. UK fleet managers clearly understand the many benefits of telematics but the figures also identify the strong growth potential in the European market, which is expected to accelerate and catch the UK up over the next couple of years.

The majority of the UK fleets surveyed “asked a car part supplier to provide them with telematics” as opposed to solutions having been provided by their vehicles’ manufacturers. From our own experience, fleet procurement managers keen to adopt the latest technology are increasingly trialling purely phone app-based telematics solutions like Appy Fleet, which help organisations keep vehicle operating costs down and drive employee engagement.

As to the motivators behind telematics adoption, Arval’s findings identify that 95% of large fleets use telematics to improve driver safety compared to 79% of small fleets, which is still a very positive figure that will no doubt be well received by road safety groups, the HSE and other welfare-focussed organisations.

Unsurprisingly, a higher percentage of large fleets rely on telematics to help them reduce costs, at 80% vs 64%, whereas 16% more small fleets utilise telematics to locate vehicles, with 24% more SMEs also “optimising journeys” by means of hardware or app-based solutions. The latter statistic will be true of many ‘gig economy’ businesses such as part-time couriers and ride providers, whose drivers and indeed customers benefit from the most efficient routes, simultaneously keeping road users and pedestrians safer while also reducing environmental impact.

Alternative mobility solutions

In the next three years, 31% of large fleets would consider car sharing vs 14% of small fleets, but the appetite for ride-sharing solutions hovers in the mid-30% range for organisations large and small, whilst 18% of small fleets would consider a mobility budget or card vs 5% of large fleets.

With only 11% of the UK businesses surveyed saying they would ‘certainly’ or even ‘probably’ be ready to reduce their purchased or leased vehicle fleets in order to increasingly utilise alternatives, it illustrates how much the company car remains inextricably woven into the psyche of many organisations. It perhaps also hints that alternative mobility solutions aren’t widely available and practical enough for some entities to use, highlights the need for increased education and perhaps additional incentives, and doesn’t say much for public transport.

General observations

Looking at wider patterns, 21% think their fleets will increase in size during the next year, compared to 17% when surveyed in 2015, pointing to increased confidence despite of Brexit and other uncertainty. Optimism among UK fleets is of course something for wide-ranging organisations to be happy about. It does also mean, though, that traffic volume won’t abate any time soon. With ‘at work’ driving still proven to be the most accident-prone, fleet managers will have plenty of safety education and incentives to keep on top of, which is another area in which app-based telematics scoring can be of real benefit.

UK fleets resell and replace vehicles more quickly than their European counterparts, at 4.5 years vs 5.9 years across the whole spectrum of organisations, which is great news for the burgeoning contract hire and leasing market.

Fleet managers largely know what they want, with just 12% of large firms seeking external advice in selecting the right vans and other LCVs, and large fleets are more likely to hold accreditation whereas 63% of SME fleets have no intention to apply.

To obtain vehicle specifications, safety, emissions, fuel and other data, the bulk of fleets of all sizes look to manufacturers, which is surprising given the great lengths many leasing brokers go to. Small fleets are more open to consulting general motoring websites (41% vs 27%), while 32% of large fleets regularly refer to specialist press such as fleet publications, helping automotive providers to hone their marketing.

Driver taxation and the mechanisms surrounding company car options and cash allowances have changed since last year’s Autumn Statement but just 25% of micro fleets are aware of the new rules compared to 77% of large fleets, 18% of whom will be changing their policies to reflect the adjusted legislation. This awareness disparity perhaps points to a combination of a lack of time on the part of busy SMEs, along with the need for improved communication from their accountants and indeed HM Revenue & Customs.

Alternative fuels

Fuel is a hot topic at the moment and it’s encouraging to see that 26% of UK fleets incorporate at least one alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV), a figure which rises to 52% for large fleets. LPG is being used by 4% of small fleets versus 2% of larger ones, with hybrid leading the way across the board, followed by plugins and EVs.

The UK is second only behind the Netherlands in terms of fleets already incorporating at least one AFV, with Germany surprisingly lagging behind on 26%. The UK leads by 1% in the hybrid category, ranks third in Europe for fleets adopting electric power, and tops the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) table at 20%.

Arval’s findings for their 2017 report are very encouraging across the board, with telematics, hybrid and EV adoption increasing healthily; so while alternative mobility solutions and finance departments perhaps have some catching up to do, the outlook for fleets and their providers looks undeniably exciting no matter what political shenanigans are going on.