Outlook for the van market in 2016

1The coming 12 months is set to be an interesting period for the van market, with new legislation and technology playing a major part in shaping driver habits and preferences.

In 2016, Northgate will continue to buy and rent a broad mix of vehicles across the whole of the sub-3.5T LCV range. Historically CDV has been the largest category for Northgate in terms of volume, however, we are seeing a slight movement towards larger vans as well as the usual Q4 seasonal increase in the same.

As well as the usual panel van demand we will continue to buy tippers, dropsides and Luton vehicles which remain a standard and important part of our fleet and value proposition.

Emissions

Without a doubt, the most interesting development in the van market in 2016 will involve the transition from Euro 5 to Euro 6.

This will represent a sea change of vehicles in terms of the technology that manufacturers are using to meet the Euro emissions requirements and van users in all sectors will be affected eventually.

Naturally, manufacturers will look to achieve a return on their investment in meeting the new emissions targets, but there will also be operational impacts due to the requirement to supplement fuel with the reduction agent AdBlue.

AdBlue is consumed in proportion to engine usage, with levels requiring regular monitoring and top-ups; falling levels are indicated by a warning light on the dashboard to tell the driver when the tank is reduced to a quarter full, and if it reaches minimal levels.

This has the potential to have a knock-on effect on payloads, and will require increased vigilance to ensure that warnings are heeded and AdBlue is regularly topped up to avoid hampering vehicle performance.  We should also see some emissions benefits passed on to our customers as a result of this legislation.

The emissions legislation is industry-wide and so no provider will be exempt; the key will be to ensure that communication is clear and that all van drivers are aware of the new requirements.

Technology

From a technology standpoint, the increased dependence on Bluetooth connectivity is becoming a necessity in all vans and will only continue into the future – not only as an optional extra, but as standard even at a base level, as it needs to be there for everyone.

Longer term, telematics or the “connected van” is gradually increasing in importance and will continue to do so, with greater functionality being offered with LCVs in the coming years and new standards being introduced.

Post by Mark Goss, asset procurement director at Northgate Vehicle Hire

Focus on flexible rental part three: Cost benefits

blog3-costbenefitsThe most important consideration for any business is taking care of the bottom line, and in many cases every penny or pound saved can be vital.

For finance directors, fleet managers and business owners, being able to track where money is being allocated, spent and saved forms an integral part of their long-term planning, and having a clear idea of this enables time and money to be spent on other core parts of the business.

The approach is particularly important when it comes to van costs and vehicle management; an area that can often contain several grey areas due to the unpredictable nature of business, which can fluctuate significantly.

At Northgate, we understand that workflow, business needs and vehicle requirements can change, which is why our pricing model offers as much flexibility, transparency and understanding as possible.

Flexibility

In an ever-changing business environment, it is more important than ever to be able to adapt in line with sector fluctuations and changing customer requirements.

As such, we offer a costing model that includes complete flexibility for the customer and does not restrict how they use the vehicle.

Initial rates are set according to the vehicle type and the customer’s expected annual mileage, but this does not mean that they are then tied into paying a set amount for a fixed term and it certainly doesn’t mean penalties for excessive usage. If the projected annual mileage looks likely to be exceeded by more than 10% when the vehicle comes in for a service, we will talk to the customer to identify why it is greater than expected and if it is likely to remain so. We will then agree new rates accordingly based on the original agreement. Equally, if a customer is likely to travel less than what they anticipated, we will alter the rate to take into account the reduced mileage, so they are not paying over the odds for their vehicle rental.

At Northgate, unlike some providers, we do not implement mileage clauses or ‘pence per mile’ charges into our service level agreements, providing peace of mind to customers, who do not need to worry about incurring significant penalties if their business needs change during the rental period.

Transparency

We believe in being fully transparent about upfront and potential van costs, which is why it is made clear from the outset what customers are liable to pay for. For example, damage to tyres and windscreens will incur a cost, but we make it perfectly clear what this will be on our website, making it easier to understand, and also to account for potential expenditure.

We also strive to pass on the benefits of our buying power and network to customers. By taking a vehicle to a Northgate branch, customers could save a significant amount compared to having the vehicle repaired at one of our third party suppliers.

Fuel

Our policy with fuel is full to full, which means all vehicles collected will have a full tank, and are expected to be returned with a full tank. This removes the uncertainty of picking up a vehicle with a half or quarter-tank and then having to return it with the same amount in. If a fleet extends to 15, 20, 30 or even more vehicles, confusion can soon mount up when attempting to gauge how much fuel will be required to quarter-fill every tank before its return, and costs can soon follow.

Our price is also based on the AA’s average cost for the UK, so we do not implement excess charges if the vehicle is brought back short – all of which is advertised in branch.

All-inclusive offering

The cost benefits of Northgate flexible rental are indicative of our all-inclusive offering, which when compared against the whole life cost of a vehicle which is purchased, comes out cheaper in most cases. We position our service as having no contract, no commitment and no risk to the customer.

We understand that risk stems from unknown costs that cannot be anticipated – anything from vehicle repair, to fluctuations in custom that require more vehicles to be used and more miles to be travelled. Our customers always have an understanding of what they are liable for and what the cost will be, helping to ensure a flexible, transparent model with tangible business benefits.

Contact us to find out about flexible and long-term van rental and leasing today.

Driver safety during the winter months

winter driving

Are you and your drivers prepared for the winter months?

Driving in wintry conditions can be dangerous, and the best advice is to simply avoid going out if the weather takes a turn for the worse. 

Unfortunately, modern business requirements dictate that this is not always possible, and sometimes you will find yourself taking to the road in spite of the snow and ice.

In these circumstances, planning is essential to ensure winter driver safety: that you are prepared for what may lie ahead and can maintain the safety of yourself, your vehicle and other road users.

Simple checks

A few quick checks can provide an effective safeguard without the need for any mechanical expertise. This includes ensuring your tyres have the correct tread depth – 1.6mm is the legal minimum, but to adequately cope with snow and ice it is recommend that tread is deeper than this or that the vehicle has winter tyres fitted, including the spare.

Check each light on the car to make sure they all are operating correctly, and also ensure that plastic light coverings are clean and clear.

Winter can take its toll on a car’s battery, particularly in older vehicles, so make sure it is fully charged and in good repair.

Another wise move is to fill up your windscreen washer reservoir with a good quality non-freezing solution with a 50:50 water concentrate, and ensure your window wipers are clean and in good condition by cleaning them with an alcohol-based liquid. If they are leaving streaks on the windscreen they may need replacing as this can hinder visibility, especially at night.

Regular servicing and maintenance should be able to identify any areas in need of attention and will ensure that the vehicle has all of the essential elements and liquids it needs to function.

As winter generally causes delays, try to keep as much fuel in your tank as possible to avoid running out in a queue of traffic, and top up whenever you can.

Other tips include keeping your mobile phone fully charged in case you need to use it to call for help, and monitoring traffic updates, particularly on routes that are liable to be impassable.

One more precaution is to keep a kit in your boot that includes a number of items that could come in useful, should the weather take its toll. A screen wiper, can of de-icer, high-vis jacket, torch with batteries and a first aid kit can all come in handy.

Dealing with ice and frost

Thanks to modern technology, the sight of people fruitlessly scraping their windscreen at the crack of dawn is a thing of the past, but it can still be tempting to take shortcuts.

It is still illegal to drive with your windscreen obscured by snow or ice, and it is also an offence to leave your car unoccupied with the engine running on a public highway, so consider these things before trying to save a few minutes on defrosting the vehicle.

Also, resist the temptation to pour hot water over the windscreen to melt any ice or snow, as it can cause the glass to crack and open up a whole host of new problems.

Driving over ice or snow

While it is certainly no guarantee, most motorists will, at some point, encounter snowy or icy conditions when driving, and in these circumstances a cautious approach is required at all times.

Proven approaches include dropping in to second gear using as little revs as possible to help avoid wheel spin, and turning the steering wheel gently and progressively when you need to change direction.

When accelerating, do so gently to avoid wheelspin, and reduce speed gradually where necessary while keeping a large following distance from the vehicle in front – at least ten car lengths is advisable.

Another important consideration is to keep moving, even at a crawl, and if you do find the vehicle skidding, take your foot off the pedals and steer into the skid.

Planning, as ever, is crucial; try to stick to busier roads that are more likely to be gritted, and keep an eye out for black ice, which is very difficult to see but will glint in the sunlight and moonlight.

If you get stuck in snow

If you do end up stuck in snow, try to stay calm and avoid spinning the wheels – rather than gaining traction, this will actually force the vehicle deeper into the snow.

Instead, turn your wheels from side to side several times to help push the snow out of the way, then gently push the accelerator; the slower, the better, as this will enable the tyres to take more grip.

If possible, exit the vehicle and clear snow away from the wheels, then place sand, gravel or grit in the path of the wheels to gain extra support. Shift from reverse to forwards, and back again, accelerating gently each time, to gain enough traction to escape.

If heavy snow is forecast and you absolutely must drive, pack a shovel in the boot and some extra warm clothes, and keep regular tabs on the weather forecast and traffic updates.

The best way to deal with driving in bad weather is to avoid doing it altogether, but if it is essential then always remember that careful preparation and planning can help to keep you and your vehicle safe.

Post by Colin Gilstin, Group Safety and Environment Manager at Northgate Vehicle Hire

Focus on flexible rental part two: Fleet size and diversity

A focus on flexible vehicle rental: The benefits of a large and diverse fleet

blog2-timeismoney

Time is money…

The modern business environment is 24/7, with the adage ‘time is money’ being more apt than ever.

Clients and customers are more demanding and expect swift and effective service, and as such it is essential to be able to respond to their needs as quickly as possible.

When these requirements extend to vehicles, it is especially important that near-constant mobility is ensured, so that the wheels are literally kept turning and deadlines and expectations are met.

At Northgate we recognise the vital importance of mobility, and as such we have a large and widespread network of vehicles and branches which caters for all customer requirements and ensures a quick turnaround with minimal downtime.

We see ourselves as more than just a rental company, with our all-inclusive service covering nearly every aspect of vehicle supply and maintenance, saving customers both time and money, which can then be invested in the core parts of their business.

Size and flexibility

When it comes to vehicle rental, size definitely does matter, though it must go hand-in-hand with diversity and flexibility.

Northgate has 77 branches located across the UK, and unlike some providers, the majority of them contain workshops, so that we can manage the full lifetime customer journey.

Rather than outsourcing all of the maintenance and repair of our vehicles to a third party located miles away, we are able to carry out the majority of work at the branch and have the vehicles turned around as quickly as possible, helping to meet client demand and expectations. We also have a fleet of mobile technicians who can be dispatched to a customers’ premises if necessary.

As these expectations change all the time, it is important to be ahead of the curve with our positioning, and as such we place vehicles strategically across the UK according to expected demand.

Northgate covers the full spectrum of LCVs, ranging from sub-one tonne vans to high payload Lutons, and manage the positioning of these so that we can satisfy customer needs at short notice.

If a customer is located within 25 miles of one of our branches, we aim to deliver the vehicle to them within four hours of the order being made. For our 1,500 specialist vehicles like our utility spec and welfare vans that have beacons, towbars and other bespoke features, we aim for 24 hours.

Client base

Northgate serves a number of national and regional utilities companies with utility spec vehicles and our stock of this vehicle, as with some of our other specialist builds, is located in a strategic way that avoids clients having to wait weeks for bespoke builds from contract hire and leasing companies, or rental companies that do not offer this as standard.

Having such a diverse network also offers plentiful advantages over so-called ‘supersites’. A site may be able to hold hundreds of vehicles but if it is hours away from a customer who only needs a small number of vehicles it is not providing an efficient service that minimises the disruption to the customer’s business.

By strategically situating our branches and the vehicles within them, we are able to deliver better customer service: local branches, local account managers and local branch contacts add a personal touch that caters for all customers, regardless of the size of the business.

At Northgate, we believe our flexibility is unrivalled, and this includes the ability to return and exchange vehicles at any time.

With smaller sites located across a wide variety of locations, the majority of which have workshops, it is also more convenient to carry out service, maintenance and repair (SMR), which we provide as standard.

Additional services

Our fleet management offering provides ancillary products and services that supplement the rental proposition, eliminating the hassle of having to maintain and repair the vehicles and doing so in a convenient way due to the location of the branches and our carefully managed third party network.

We are fleet managing 55,000 vehicles on a daily basis in a scalable way that never loses sight of flexibility; we aim to be a one-stop solution, which ranges from vehicle supply to SMR.

If a vehicle is due for a service, MOT or other work, our customers know that a branch and workshop is never far away, and that they can upgrade or change the vehicle any time.

Of course, if geography dictates or a customer requires it, we have a third party network of garages. However, rather than simply leaving the customer in the hands of a third party, we manage Service Level Agreements to ensure the best possible service that mirrors our own commitment.

Our fleet management services can also be rolled out to non-Northgate vans, which includes driver training and information provision as well as SMR, adding a further degree of flexibility to the offering.

The size of Northgate’s fleet is understandably important, but just as important to us is ensuring that vehicles are located in the right places, so they can be delivered to the right customers at the right times, saving both time and money and providing essential peace of mind that their business operations will not be disrupted.

Contact us to find out about flexible and long-term van rental and leasing today.

Why do businesses think rental is short term?

Why do businesses think rental is short term?

Post by Natasha Fry, National Business Development Manager at Northgate

van lineupFor many years, the belief has existed among businesses that vehicle rental is a short-term proposition; something to temporarily plug the gaps.

The truth is that this model is becoming increasingly archaic, as new, flexible, longer-term solutions are introduced that help to boost mobility while reducing the headache associated with contract hire or purchase.

Of course, different businesses have different ways of acquiring their essential fleet, and some are understandably wary about committing to a longer-term rental arrangement.

Common misconception

The likes of fleet managers would perhaps acquire the majority of their vehicles through purchase, lease or contract hire, and not consider rental as a long-term solution. This means rental is often used within fleets as a short term solution initially, with fleet managers coming to realise that flexible vehicle hire is a perfect way to acquire a fleet once they have begun to reap the benefits.

Often when speaking to a fleet manager of an SME, the individual is not even aware of flexible vehicle hire during the initial conversation, and this is another common obstacle – raising awareness of the model and its multitude of benefits.

National companies, on the other hand, have a different perception – larger businesses very much view it as a longer term solution, as they have an understanding around the no commitment and flexibility parts of the rental package, which many misinterpret.

Case study

One of our biggest clients is based in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector. Our partnership was initially based mainly on short-term rentals which the company used in order to transport drugs and other products to and from its many stores and warehouses, and deliver essential medicines across many general practitioners and care homes across the UK.

As our relationship with this customer developed, Northgate spoke to the organisation about developing the agreement and augmenting its fleet management and acquisition strategy to a longer term, flexible arrangement which would prove more cost effective for the business.

A tender process was required, but in doing so Northgate helped the business to move from a model where 80 per cent of its fleet was on short-term hire, to a longer term approach with flexibility and no contract that provided multiple benefits.

Having an open partnership with your vehicle supplier in this way enables a more strategic approach.

Northgate’s services are split between different parts of the company, with one arm employing a strategy to purchase outright through VW and then topping up the fleet with 150 Northgate vehicles on flexible terms.

The other arm of the business has 1,000 vehicles, 600 of which are rented through Northgate, meaning the bulk of the fleet is on flexible rental. The remainder of the fleet is purchased through Renault, but there would be significant benefits in expanding the flexible, longer-term approach to the entire fleet.

Manifold benefits

The greatest value in employing a long term rental model is having all assets managed; as Northgate takes care of servicing, maintenance and repair, keeps vehicles on the road for longer through a partnership with the AA, while the flexibility to adjust the fleet without penalty reduces downtime and saves money, making it ideal for a long-term approach.

With costs of maintenance, road tax, MOTs, road fund licence and much more being taken out of the client’s hands, effectively the whole life cost of the fleet is reduced, delivering both cost and time savings.

In an industry like healthcare and pharmaceuticals, where downtime can result in spoiled products and create supply chain problems, it is vital to have solid and sustained fleet performance.

The partnership with the pharmaceutical client is evidence that it is possible to change the perception of vehicle rental as short-term, and illustrate the many benefits that can be had from switching to a flexible, long-term model – something that is applicable to businesses of all sizes in every sector.

 

Low diesel prices: Don’t rest on your laurels

Low diesel prices: Don’t rest on your laurels

Post by Harry Palin, National Strategic Account Manager at Northgate

oilcoasterIt seems low diesel prices are here to stay… for now. The latest report from the AA shows diesel remains cheaper on average than petrol at the pump. Unleaded prices have dropped 3.6p from 114.8ppl to 111.2ppl, while diesel prices have fallen 1.5p from 111.9ppl to just 110.4ppl. It comes after August figures showed that for the first time since 2001, diesel became cheaper than petrol.

Earlier this year, RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams predicted that some businesses with large fleets would start buying diesel ahead of time to manage their fuel spend in case of price fluctuations. But in July, he indicated that price fluctuations may not actually happen for a long time. He said: “Fifteen years ago, when this happened last, diesel was cheaper than petrol for two and a half months, but with a new supply of diesel being produced from Saudi Arabia, there is a real chance that we may see the diesel price staying below petrol for some considerable time.”

The price of diesel has been on a steady downward path since the start of May 2015, driven by increased capacity from Asia. Meanwhile, the RAC has also forecast that if Brent Crude were to move to the 40 US dollars per barrel mark, the prospect of some enterprising retailers selling fuel for £1 per litre is on the cards.

diesel graph

 

All of this is fantastic news for transport managers, particularly those operating big, high mileage fleets which generally use diesel. Some of our customers have a fuel bill as high as £10 million a year, so a saving of 25 per cent on that figure makes a huge difference to company finances and the economy. Furthermore, falling fuel prices can make businesses more competitive and attractive to consumers as it enables them to drop the prices of their goods.

Although the RAC has forecast that fuel prices will remain stable for the foreseeable future, businesses that operate vehicles shouldn’t rest on their laurels. Rather, if they’re not doing so already, business owners and fleet managers should be looking to implement strategies and technologies that will further cut fuel expenditure to make them even more competitive.

At the pump

HM Revenue and Customs’ new Advisory Fuel Rates (AFR) were reduced on September 1 2015 to ten pence per mile. Mileage Allowance Payments (MAPs), which you pay your employee for using their own vehicle for business journeys, have not yet been cut – but because the price of fuel is falling, the government may also reduce these. This would have a positive financial impact on businesses in freeing up expenditure and driving further profitability.

However, rather than relying on the pay and reclaim or AFR models, I would suggest that businesses introduce fuel cards for their employees instead, as their benefits are manifold. Firstly, companies that use fuel cards often reap the benefits of lower-than-pump prices. But what is perhaps most valuable to transport managers is their ability to track big data, such as whether a van has been filled up at an expensive service station, a more cost effective supermarket, or indeed, if it has been filled up for personal use. This data can also be used to inform training programmes to improve driver behaviour, as harsh cornering, braking and accelerating can drain fuel.

Speed limiters

Installing speed limiters in vehicles not only helps drivers comply with the law, it also helps managers keep a lid on their fuel costs. By way of example, driving at 70mph instead of 85mph saves a huge 25 per cent on the cost of fuel. If you add to this the reduced maintenance bills associated with safer, less heavy-footed driving, the financial benefits speed limiters bring really start to speak volumes. The alarm and speed limiter manufacturer Cobra says less than five per cent of vans have them installed, providing the perfect opportunity for businesses to gain an edge on their competitors.

Telematics

Telematics can also help fleet managers and SMEs manage their fuel costs effectively. As we’ve already established, certain negative driver behaviours such as harsh cornering, braking and accelerating can lead to higher fuel consumption, which a tracking system can monitor. Data can be downloaded from the telematics software, which can then be used to initiate training schemes to help drivers improve their skills. In addition to the cost benefits, by adopting more careful and considerate driving techniques, employees are also reducing fleet risk.

To further assist some of our largest customers, at Northgate we have developed a specialised online driver assessment and training service, as well as in-vehicle driver training through our RoSPA trained employees.

There’s little doubt that as well as health and safety, one of the most important aspects of running a fleet of vehicles is to ensure that costs are kept down. The financial outlay associated with service maintenance and repair (SMR), filling up at the petrol station and vehicle downtime to name but a few can very easily spiral out of control. After cost of ownership, fuel costs are the most expensive aspect of running vehicles. So, instead of fleet managers relying on the current low fuel prices, it’s imperative they introduce strategies and technologies to control and reduce fuel costs that will work in the long term too.

Social media and your fleet

Social media and your fleet

social media

Do you tweet about your fleet?

Social media can showcase a company’s best assets to customers, but it can also highlight the worst. The line between the two is fine. Organisations striving to improve customer interactions are embracing social media, but people are generally more likely to make their voice heard over a negative experience than a positive one.

As such, care is essential when creating a social media presence, particularly for fleet managers, who may attract comments and posts from members of the public referring to the behaviour of their drivers – we’ve all seen the growing number of videos posted from dashboard cams and helmet cams. While social media may seem a risky proposition, the benefits are manifold, and can provide immense value if handled the right way.

Social media should first and foremost be used for education and positive engagement – educating the public, customers, clients and staff alike – and it is important not to shy away from news, whether good or bad.

Making your voice heard

People make their voice heard in order to gain a reaction, and if a company reacts in a timely and efficient manner, it can help to nip any problems in the bud and also go some way to address similar concerns that others may have.

Social media should be viewed as an extension of the brand, and for this reason it is important to consider it when drafting all correspondence, even if it is effectively firefighting.

For fleet managers, the biggest bugbear often picked at by the public is driver behaviour – or the misconception of the stereotypical ‘white van man’ – with complaints being levelled against those who park vehicles across exits and pathways, cut other road users up in traffic or generally cause havoc.

The problem is not just the fact that this has occurred, but more that the driver generally remains anonymous, with the company brand on the vehicle being the only recognisable factor.

While on one hand social media is a portal through which voices can be heard and problems highlighted, on the flipside it can also be used as a tool to help improve driver behaviour and encourage training programmes that facilitate this.

For larger brands, a social media coordinator can play a major role in creating a positive online impression of the company simply through their own conduct; speedy responses and promises to help, followed by taking the conversation offline to a positive resolution, can all help to boost faith in an organisation.

Choosing the platform

Breaking down the most popular sites, Facebook can provide an effective platform through which fleet managers can communicate with drivers, and where administrators can foster the culture of the company.

Facebook can also be used to push out positive examples of content marketing, whether pertaining to the company or the industry as a whole, with targeted blog posts, infographics, case studies or videos all boosting awareness while also counteracting any negative news.

From an internal communications perspective, the platform can be used to disseminate driver training guides. This mitigates the impact of poor driver behaviour by improving safety and efficiency and also reduces maintenance, repair and fuel costs thanks to smarter techniques.

While less visual, Twitter has the advantage of being truly public with all tweets being viewable, and therefore enables hundreds or even thousands of customers to have their questions answered simultaneously, simply by responding to one tweet.

As well as being another strong means of distributing content, Twitter’s timestamping can cast a positive light on any rapid responses and update followers on breaking news and announcements.

On a more personal level, LinkedIn can help to bridge the gap between casual and professional acquaintances, with targeted copy and updates helping like-minded industry members to share and collaborate.

Fleet managers themselves can interact with peers and exchange business advice and ideas, helping to further brand recognition and ultimately succeed in achieving the key social media goal – boosting awareness.

Social media is a powerful tool and – if used correctly – can help businesses to make themselves heard and promote positive activity, even in the face of criticism.

Fleet managers are in charge of the most visible part of their company’s brand, with the power to elevate their organisation and protect their brand identity through harnessing the power of social media. Start now and immediately reap the benefits.

Contact us to find out about van long-term rental and leasing today.

Focus on flexible rental part one: LCVs

A focus on flexible vehicle rental: The benefits of a specialist

certificate

Currently around one in ten vehicles on UK roads is a light commercial vehicle (LCV), and this number is growing rapidly. A report by CV Informer in June 2015 found that the total UK van fleet equals 3.35 million vans, with a 2.7% increase in Q1 2014 compared to same quarter in 2013, the biggest rise since 2008.  To add to this, a report from the RAC predicts that by 2040, the current number of vans on the road will double.

One of the factors fuelling this boom in the van market is the growth of online shopping, with Office for National Statistics figures showing that in 2013, 72 per cent of British adults shopped online, up from 53 per cent in 2008. More online shopping means more parcels out for delivery, which equals more LCVs on the roads.

To keep the wheels of the British economy turning, it’s vital that fleet operations run as smoothly as possible, with minimal disruption. With our specialism in LCVs and as the pioneers in flexible vehicle hire, we have a fundamental understanding of how important vehicles are to business operations.  Businesses don’t just choose us because we offer a flexible alternative to contract hire or purchase – although this does offer major benefits financially and operationally, with Northgate they also have the ongoing support of an LCV specialist, right on their doorstep thanks to our national reach. Here’s why this is a big tick in the box…

Knowledge

With longevity comes experience and knowledge, so knowing that your fleet is in experienced and safe hands can help you focus solely on your business without the added worry and hassle of managing your vehicles. Northgate Vehicle Hire has been supplying and managing vehicles since its conception 35 years ago and has always specialised in LCVs. As a consequence, it is unlike other national LCV rental suppliers, who are more car rental turned van rental and therefore can’t necessarily offer the same level of expertise where LCVs are concerned.

As a fleet operator in its own right, whatever challenges a business might face in terms of fleet operations, Northgate has experienced them too. So whether you’re a fleet manager at a blue chip company or heading up an SME, we are well placed to advise on best practice and deliver what you need. What’s more, the relationship doesn’t end when we hand over the keys.

Northgate helped SME Quicksilver Transport create a fleet solution that helped it save £7,500 in year one. In 2012, it was looking to expand its small fleet to include a 7.5t lorry but the outright purchase of even a second-hand one would have stripped the business of its accumulated savings. Contract hire was deemed too risky because the company had no formal contract work. So, the business owners concluded that flexible hire was the best option and contacted Northgate as the market leader in the current marketplace. Northgate quickly helped the company identify ways of making huge savings, which included covering all servicing and providing replacement vehicles, therefore reducing costly downtime.

At the opposite end of the spectrum after winning a contract with Virgin Media in 2011, Fujitsu Telecommunications quadrupled its employee base, and with that came a need for a new fleet solution. We worked with Fujitsu to create a flexible rental fleet management strategy using Northgate vehicles. Our expertise meant we were able to deliver savings of more than £35,000 per month for the company, which operates a fleet of nearly 1,000 LCVs.

Quality

For many businesses, smooth fleet operations are pivotal to achieving business objectives and maintaining high levels of customer service, which is why the quality of your vehicles is so important. Modern, reliable vehicles that remain on the road can minimise business disruption and lost business. This might sound like an expensive proposition but with Northgate’s flexible rental model, this is possible without a huge financial outlay. By using a Northgate fleet of vans, a business can raise the standard of its fleet, with newer vehicles improving brand image and customer service delivery at the same time.

Quality standards should extend beyond just the age of a vehicle – businesses should select an LCV supplier that can guarantee quality in terms of the level of service delivered. With Northgate, minimum Rentable Standards give the hirer reassurance that every vehicle hired is not only legal and safe but also maintained to a high standard for a satisfying driving experience.

A quality service also means choice and although there are numerous flexible vehicle hire suppliers on the market, few have the breadth of choice that Northgate can offer. A fleet of over 55,000 vehicles, from leading manufacturers, across 76 branches can be a great reassurance to businesses that operate regionally or nationally. Its LCV expertise and supplier relationships also mean it is able to offer more bespoke commercial vehicles for its customers. It is willing to go above and beyond normal standards to provide solutions that perfectly fit the customer’s needs. For example, customers can to tailor their vehicles so they are fit for purpose, with the ability to add van racking, roof racks, tow bars, their own company branding and more.

Understanding fleet operations

The reassurance that your supplier truly understands you is vital for a long lasting relationship. Northgate listens to and understand its customers. Indeed, Northgate’s flexible rental model has been engineered with the customer in mind to minimise disruption and reduce any potential impact on business operations. What’s more Northgate’s network of 76 branches means customers experience a local, personal touch and a point of contact that can often be missing from other LCV providers.

We appreciate how costly vehicle downtime can be to businesses (it can cost £727 per day, according to Autoglass – source Fleet World 2013). One of our largest and most loyal customers, Enserve, once said, “If the wheels aren’t turning we’re not earning”. This is a universal truth for any van operator, whether it’s a one man band, a business start-up, an SME or a large blue-chip company.

So thanks to the inclusive service, maintenance and repairs (SMR) carried out through Northgate’s in-house workshops, replacement vehicles and partnership with the AA to provide a market leading breakdown and recovery service, businesses can be assured that disruption will be minimised.

Selecting the right LCV supplier can be a risky business, choosing the wrong van supplier can affect a business’ ability to stay on the road, serve customers and ultimately generate a profit. When selecting your supplier, think expertise and quality; think the market leader.

Contact us to find out about van long-term rental and leasing today.

How telematics will help your business

How telematics will help your business

Post by Alastair Houston, Head of National Fleet Sales at Northgate plc

http---s3.amazonaws.com-feather-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1-8CrArePEd0Wq2J0Yc1ouSg-2015-10-06-3ca2943d26964567b06441aee7dd9370The UK’s roads are becoming increasingly congested, with this problem predicted to cost the British economy more than £300bn over the next 16 years. At the same time, customers are demanding faster turnaround of deliveries and higher levels of customer service than ever before. These changing consumer attitudes and the fast pace of our modern lives aren’t set to change any time soon, so it’s crucial that businesses adapt to increasing pressure by improving operational performance.

So what can be done to combat this challenge? A simplified response would include the words ‘visibility’ and ‘control’. Whether a fleet manager operates cars, vans, trucks or plant vehicles, this control can be acquired through the introduction of telematics software.

There is little doubt that the adoption of telematics amongst fleet operators is increasing, should more businesses be considering integrating telematics into their fleets? Broadly speaking, the benefits of telematics centre around cost efficiencies, reduced CO2 emissions, improved customer service and reduced fleet risk. 

Monitoring and improving driver behaviour

For companies that want to create efficiencies and reduce costs, telematics delivers a variety of benefits. Increased visibility of driver behaviour from telematics means driving styles can be positively influenced to improve business efficiencies, all while enabling businesses to operate safe fleets.

By monitoring driver behaviour, you can identify drivers with inefficient behaviours such as heavy acceleration, idling and harsh braking. You’ll also be able to spot potentially dangerous drivers and then introduce appropriate training courses to help them improve their skills.

From a business improvement point of view, a key benefit from is that you will be able to pinpoint the location of your drivers. This means you will be able to identify the location of stolen vehicles and any employees who may be exaggerating overtime claims or using the vehicle out of working hours (which means they could be uninsured and using company fuel for personal use).

Additional features include the ability to export data reports, making it a powerful business tool. Morgan Sindall has proven that Northgate’s vehicle monitoring system can boost employee engagement through rewarding the safest and most fuel efficient drivers. The company recently named Mick McHugh as the winner of its quarterly Driver Challenge competition, which aims to develop and reward best practice on the road.

Duty of care

Improved driver behaviour and safety are undoubtedly interlinked. Since implementing Northgate’s vehicle tracking system, Morgan Sindall has reduced off-hire damage, in-life damage, fuel consumption and accident damage, as well as recording a 20-30% reduction in speeding instances.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a statutory duty to carry out a health and safety risk assessment of their employees which includes any driving activity. Furthermore, by law, employees can’t be asked to work more than 48 hours a week on average. Telematics provides an excellent way for employers to be able to monitor hours driven and the number of breaks taken, thereby reducing fleet risk.

Reducing fuel costs and CO2 emissions

Improved driving styles can also have a positive impact on reducing fuel consumption, which directly correlates to reduced fuel costs and lower CO2 emissions. It’s worth considering setting KPIs around monitoring and reducing CO2 emissions to really analyse the benefits telematics can provide.

If your company is a PLC, it is important to be able to demonstrate a reduction in your carbon footprint on an annual basis (to meet ISO 14001 and 19001 standards), both from a perception and a money-saving point of view.

Improving customer service

Meeting, and indeed exceeding, customer expectations is top of the list for customer-focused brands and this is where the benefits of telematics can really come into their own. With customers looking for better communication and certainty around delivery times, Northgate Vehicle Monitoring enables accurate time management by providing minute-by-minute updates on the status of your fleet.

Using telematics to identify the location of your fleet at any given moment can be perfect for businesses which need to provide an emergency response service to their customers. You’ll be able to identify the closest vehicle to an incident and route it to the destination, saving money, time and ultimately improving service delivery.

The access to data reports and ability to set KPIs and targets means that fleet managers and business owners can see a clear return on investment through adopting telematics. So, if your business values safety and efficiency and is operating within a challenging consumer-oriented climate, telematics could offer the perfect solution for you. For more information visit our page on telematics.

Contact us to find out about fleet management or van long-term rental and leasing today.

Van insurance: Understanding the pitfalls

Van insurance: Understanding the pitfalls

Post by Thomas Strachan, UK Insurance Manager at Northgate plc

van insurance

Understanding the different types of vehicle insurance and the wording on certificates can be a minefield…

More than 45 million people hold a driving licence here in the UK, so it’s safe to say that being on the road has become part of our everyday life. It’s quite worrying to hear then, that as many as one in three UK motorists don’t understand their insurance policy, despite the fact that this is one of the most important aspects of operating a vehicle.

The findings by Churchill revealed that 35% of British drivers think that if they hold a fully comprehensive insurance policy, they can drive any car they want and still enjoy the same level of protection. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth – and in actual fact, by breaking the rules, drivers run the risk of being fined or even prosecuted for driving without the correct insurance cover.

You can avoid this risk by reading this blog post, in which I examine the pitfalls associated with a lack of understanding of the different types of insurance available.

Operating over 57,000 vehicles and serving 7,000 customers, at Northgate we’ve encountered a variety of issues concerning customers’ own insurance…

Issues with certificates

  • Customers present a certificate of motor insurance for a vehicle, however the name on the certificate doesn’t reflect the name on the account, or the certificate does not identify the correct registration number for the vehicle being provided.
  • The name on the certificate must reflect the name of the account under which the customer has taken out a contract with Northgate – if this is not done, it can present issues when trying to get claims settled. Furthermore, if the customer presents a specified certificate of motor insurance that is not for the vehicle they want to hire, we are unable to release the vehicle as it will not be insured.  

Types of certificate and class of use

There are some other aspects surrounding the certificates of motor insurance that can be very confusing, one being the type of certificate issued, and secondly the class of use. It’s important to remember the following:

  • Insurers issue two types of certificates of motor insurance, one called a ‘Specified Certificate’ which identifies the vehicle by the registration number and the other a ‘Blanket Certificate’, which is generally issued for fleets
  • ‘Class of use’ can be an issue. For example, if the cover is for social, domestic and pleasure but excludes hire and rewards.
  • Some customers are also confused when they come across the term ‘insurable interest’. To make this a little clearer, an individual who has the potential to incur a financial loss following an incident or accident has an insurable interest in the property or interest which is insured against that event. 

Wording on certificates

One of the most common problems our customers come across in terms of understanding their certificates is what certain wording and jargon means. To help you out, here is a simplification of what some of the key terms mean:

  • “Any motor vehicle belonging to the policyholder or hired, leased or lent to the Policyholder excluding motor vehicles owned by employees of the Policyholder or hired, leased or lent to them.” This wording means the customer can use any vehicle their certificate entitles them to drive, but excludes cover for vehicles supplied by employees.
  • “Any motor vehicle not belonging to the policyholder nor hired, leased or lent to the Policyholder which is causing an obstruction or otherwise preventing the operation of the policyholder’s business and which is being moved to facilitate the passage of a vehicle.” This means the policy holder can operate any vehicle causing an obstruction, impacting on their ability to conduct their business.
  • “Any motor vehicle the property of the insured and/or for which they are legally responsible.” This wording means the customer can use any vehicle which belongs to them or for which they are contractually responsible for.
  • “Any motor vehicle of the private car, estate car, utility car or minibus type the property of or on hire or loan or leased to the policyholder.” This means the customer can use any vehicle which belongs to them or for which they are contractually responsible for. 

Costly mistakes

To demonstrate how critical it is that you understand the wording on your insurance certificate, I recently came across an example of how it can all go wrong.

A man was going to drive his son’s car the next day to return it to the garage. The son had his own insurance and the father was not insured on the policy, which was also due to expire that evening. The man thought that his certificate would automatically cover him for driving his son’s car as he interpreted the loan to include him borrowing his son’s car. However, it didn’t, as there was no contract between the father and son. Therefore, I would like to emphasise that this sort of cover only applies where there is a contractual loan in place – for example, when a garage loans someone a vehicle whilst their own vehicle is being serviced.

What to tell insurers

If a Northgate customer has their own insurance and they want to make a claim, they need to deal with their own insurer and our Accident Management department. However, if they are a one-time customer they can use Northgate’s policy (which is third party only cover, excluding personal effects/belongings).

We find that some of our business customers take out a vehicle on an account and tell their insurer they are the registered owners of the vehicle, but this isn’t correct, and can actually invalidate the insurance. Instead, people should actually tell their insurer that the vehicle is out on long-term hire. Furthermore, if you buy insurance but fail to disclose a material fact such as a past accident, a driving conviction or criminal offence, your insurer could decide to cancel the policy and fail to indemnify you. In this case, you would be liable for the repairs and/or total loss value of our vehicle and any third party claim.

You must check that the vehicle you are hiring is insured comprehensively, so do double check whether vehicle repairs are covered. Remember, some insurers will cover replacement engines in the event of misfuelling, while others don’t. At a cost of approximately £6,000 for a new engine, it is definitely worthwhile establishing the extent of cover you are actually buying.

Contact us to find out about van long-term rental and leasing today.