It is fascinating to look at all the different things which are going on in the municipal arena right now, in terms of all the ways that the players in this market interweave and interact, looking always to find the best solution for the best value.
Local authorities themselves are in a constant state of flux; some are outsourcing all their fleet operations, others are bringing everything in-house. Some are rejoining groups of other local authority structures in order to increase buying power, others are going it alone, but moving to purchasing patterns and funding mechanisms which were almost unheard of just a few years ago.
That, if anything can, encapsulates the current state of the market: everyone is looking at new and creative ways to meet service requirements from an ever diminishing budget. Martin Bragg, National Fleet Manager at Isuzu Trucks UK, tells us a little about what this means to suppliers like Isuzu.
“The thing is that the municipal market is becoming more and more fragmented because of the pressures on budgets. It is becoming harder and harder to keep up with everything that is going on in the market and to understand how every different opportunity is coming to tender. It gets incredibly complex, just because of the number of different entities involved in getting the necessary equipment to the right place at the right price
“Most municipal equipment needs a lot of specialist equipment to fulfil all their specialised requirements. What size chassis is required, in terms of weight, load capacity and physical dimensions? What body work is required and who is going to build it? What specialist sub-systems are required, and who is going to source, fit and maintain them? What about the tyres? What about telematics? What about on board cameras? What about cyclist safety? Who is going to integrate all of this, who is going to manage the vehicle acquisition and delivery, and who is going to maintain it?
“Only after all of this do we look at the procurement process itself. By whom will a contract be placed, and with whom? How will the funding work? Will the equipment be bought in, or acquired on lease or on long-term contract? How will we support our component of this jigsaw, both in the pre-delivery and post-delivery phase? These and hundreds of other possibilities, all of which must be considered and managed. It’s no wonder that everyone is so busy today.”
Despite all the complexity in the municipal marketplace however, Isuzu Trucks are doing very well in this sector at the moment, and Martin puts this down to three very specific factors.
“The good thing about the market these days, for all its complexity, is that it is never about price, it is always about value. Isuzu has got great products, and they offer terrific value for money, but even that is just a part of the story. The focus is now very much looking at maximising and optimising vehicle load and specification, with a view to making sure every vehicle’s work cycles are optimal, thereby reducing the total number of vehicles required. Our Grafter, Urban and Forward vehicles are all recognised for their high payload capabilities, because of their lightweight chassis and advanced engineering, and this is married with strong performance and great reliability. So one of the key areas where Isuzu are particularly strong is in delivering vehicles which suits today’s market requirements for strong, lightweight, reliable equipment.
“The second key area of today’s market, and one in which we are particularly well placed, is the requirement for flexibility. Multi-purpose is one of the keys to this: if a vehicle can be used in more than one application, or indeed across a range of application areas, then that too very significantly contributes to fleet efficiency. Because our vehicles are both compact and lightweight they are particularly suited to this kind of environment. We have been very successful recently in the Food Waste sector, and I think that there are two key reasons behind that. Because of our good payload capacity we can handle this kind of operation well, but the capacity also provides the possibility of using these machines for a wide range of other uses. The other thing is that because our machines are relatively compact they are very agile, so they are flexible enough to operate in narrow rural lanes, in congested urban streets, and in the tight back-lanes of our cities. Flexibility is very important for municipal fleets these days and we seem to have some good offerings in that area.
“Thirdly, I’d just like to mention our Dealers. They are key to our success because, at the end of the day, although the product the customer buys may be built almost anywhere, from sub-components sourced from worldwide manufacturers, they are used locally and must be supported and looked after locally. We at head office work on municipal opportunities up and down the country, tying everything together, but we always make sure that our local dealers are involved and are part of the whole project, because after all the other considerations we have looked at here, a customer still needs to know he will be well looked after by someone close enough to call in for a chat, and fully involved in making sure that he, the customer, is happy with the investment he has made, no matter how convoluted that investment may be.”