Shortages in drivers, vehicles and fuel mean fleet management is undergoing a fundamental change in becoming more resource rather than cost-based.

Fleet software company FleetCheck said that the situation – prompted by everything from the pandemic to the semiconductor shortage to Brexit – was likely to persist for some time.

Peter Golding, managing director, explained: “Without realising it, fleets have been operating through an extended period of plenty. If you needed drivers or vehicles or fuel, you could get them and they were in sufficient supply that you could afford to aim for the best cost.

“We’ve now very clearly moved beyond that. Virtually every cost that fleets face is rising while, at the same time, supply has become noticeably limited in several essential areas.

“This really does represent something of a paradigm shift. Beyond safety, which should be the first consideration of every fleet, we are now moving into a situation where resource management, rather than cost, is frequently becoming the key consideration.

“Shortages mean that simply keeping your fleet moving is taking up more and more management attention and so cost is taking a metaphorical back seat. We have seen this in recent weeks with fuel shortages, where many fleets have had to pay whatever price was being demanded for petrol or diesel, just to keep their operations functioning. In the longer term, there’s a similar situation underway with drivers and rapidly increasing wages.

“When fleet managers are faced with those kinds of instances, simply getting hold of the resources they require is the overwhelming priority in order to keep vehicles on the road.”

However, Peter added, this did not mean that any attempt at controlling costs should be abandoned because it remained crucial to work hard to minimise increases.

“In a very real sense, if costs are going up, it is ever more important to continue to follow fleet management best practice when it comes to purchasing and operations. If costs in an area could’ve gone up by 15% but you keep them down to 10%, that’s a real achievement.

“This is something we’ve seen very much happen in fuel. Costs were rising in this area even before the recent shortages but, by working with our user base, we’ve been able to help many of them keep those increases to a minimum by following basics such as adopting a fuel card, promoting responsible driving and monitoring fuel consumption across different employees.

“The same principle applies to other areas. If you are the person who is able to keep cost increases as low as possible for your employer, that can provide a real competitive edge.”