Fleet management is “likely to remain a much more remote activity” as lockdown starts to ease across industry, FleetCheck is warning.

The fleet software specialist says that, looking at its customer base, large numbers of companies are planning to never completely return to conventional office or depot-based working, and this will unavoidably have an impact on how company vehicles are managed.

Peter Golding, managing director, explained: “While the situation remains very fluid, there are many businesses who have learnt, over the last few months, that home working is very viable for some or all of their staff. They recognise the advantages for both employer and employee and have no intention of returning fully to the ‘old’ way of working.

“The exact extent of this is impossible to predict at the moment but even a relatively small shift will have very definite implications for how fleet management is approached generally. It is likely to remain, as it has become in certain weeks, a much more remote activity than in the past.”

He said that, if more people driving company cars and vans were home working, processes would have to change, especially around risk management.

“The fact is that, in the real world, a lot of fleet management happens in an informal manner, especially in small-medium-sized companies. If damage occurs to a vehicle, the fleet manager is likely to notice it on the car park and if a driver is perhaps too ill to drive, you might know purely from the way they look when they are standing in front of you.

“Increased remote working removes these casual interactions to a very large degree. It means a tightening up of your processes to ensure that drivers and vehicles are safe, even if you very rarely see either of those variables in your risk management in the flesh.”

Peter added that there were other implications, such as deciding where vehicles were serviced, and how other essential fleet services were accessed.

“If your workers are now geographically spread across a much wider area, the garages you may have used may no longer be convenient and this means constructing new supplier networks. The same might apply to buying everything from tyres to windscreens. This may have a knock-on effect in terms of how these suppliers are paid and more.”

A key point from a fleet software point of view, Peter added, was that fleet managers who are themselves working from home needed to be able to access data remotely.

“This is something of which our systems have long been capable but where we have seen a definite increase since lockdown. If you have a person or a team of people who need to be able to examine and change key fleet data from home, you need software that can do that. We’ve been assisting our customers with doing this over recent months.

“Also, where they are committing to longer-term home working, we are encouraging the businesses with which we work to sit down and look at all of their fleet policies from scratch, a process with which we are also happy to assist. The impact will differ from fleet to fleet but, in every case, there will be definite implications.”