Fleet managers have developed new skills and strategies that make these longer cycles operationally viable and economically attractive. The difficulty in acquiring new vans in recent years has compelled businesses to explore longer replacement cycles, leading to surprising findings. Some fleets, which previously operated vans for a maximum of 5-6 years, are now successfully extending the cycle to 7-8 years without encountering major difficulties. Paul Hollick, the chair of AFP, emphasized the need for increased management attention to ensure the safety and reliability of these vehicles, but he also highlighted the economic benefits that outweigh the associated challenges.
A key component of the strategy to extend replacement cycles is a strong focus on service, maintenance, and repair (SMR) management. Fleet operators have embraced various developments in this area. Simple practices such as bundling SMR jobs together to minimize workshop visits and conducting pre-MOT checks to ensure a van will pass have proven effective. On the other end of the spectrum, the use of telematics and fleet management software has increased, enabling operators to anticipate potential issues. The approach involves acknowledging that vehicles may become less reliable over time and implementing provisions to address this, such as operating a pool fleet. However, there are limits to consider. Most fleets prefer not to operate vans beyond 150,000 miles, although this still represents several years of operation for many businesses.
Hollick noted that a similar trend could emerge among car fleets due to rising leasing costs. However, various factors, including human resources considerations and other pressures, are likely to prevent car replacement cycles from reaching the same extreme extensions as vans. While employees in car fleets show a strong desire to transition to electric vehicles due to low benefit-in-kind taxation, the escalating costs, which can rise by as much as 20% month-by-month, may lead to the general extension of replacement cycles. A shift towards average replacement cycles of 4-5 years appears to be a feasible possibility.