Car Usage Is Up Despite Lockdown – Why?
With the UK Government very carefully easing Coronavirus restrictions in the second week of May, and after seven weeks of a full lockdown, many businesses are facing the prospect of planning a detailed, sensible and cautious ‘return to work’ policy. This includes the area of fleet management, which comes at a time where important figures have been released to show that motor vehicle usage has already started to rise in recent weeks, despite lockdown still being in place.
The RAC has carried out a survey of 1500 motorists and released data showing how a number of factors have contributed to motor vehicle usage increasing between week two and week seven of lockdown.
It was found in the RAC survey figures that 11% more cars were on the road at the end of this period, whilst 23% more miles were being driven and 41% of people admitted they were now driving more frequently. This data was captured by a survey of drivers, but also using the RAC’s ‘black box’ driving data, breakdown numbers and route planning data. It was also found that breakdowns were up 18%, mostly due to flat batteries because cars have been left idle on driveways or in garages for weeks on end, as people faced the prospect of no work, no school runs and no visits to families or extra-curricular attractions.
However, the BBC also reported that car usage was increasing slightly since the start of lockdown compared to other popular modes of transport. Since lockdown was introduced on March 23rd, the use of motor vehicles has reduced by 46%, but usage is now showing an upwards trend, compared to the use of buses, the London Underground and national rail, all of which continue to flatline in terms of usage.
So why has motor vehicle usage started to increase?
There are a number of possible reasons:
- The fear factor of leaving the home, even for essential travel, has eased over time
- Some workplaces have found a way to open up safely within the original lockdown rules
- Some shops, such as DIY stores or food outlets, have opened up again
- People have started ‘taking the car for a run’ to give the battery a much-needed charge
In the RAC survey, 23% of people responded that they were using the car only for grocery shopping, whilst a worrying 5% said they were using it purely to buy alcohol. The same percentage did admit that DIY stores re-opening was giving them jobs to do at home and hence, a quick trip to the DIY store was becoming a necessity. In reality, a combination of lockdown fatigue, better weather and confusion over the lockdown rules has also contributed to an increase in motor vehicle usage, and while there has always been an argument over what is essential and non-essential travel, the recent easing of lockdown rules has presented a whole new picture.
Now businesses are starting to consider how they can safely re-open their workplaces, or how they can enable employees to work from home but use their fleet vehicles more where needed. People are being encouraged to work from home, but for fleet managers, it might still be possible to programme the use of vehicles cost-effectively, for meetings or for deliveries.
How fleet managers are tackling lockdown restrictions
In order to analyse this, fleet managers need to consider:
- The shortest journeys possible to minimise road usage and people being out of the house
- What are essential journeys?
- Will destination locations for travel be safe at the other end?
- Cost cutting in the new economic climate will need to include fuel usage, time management and the cost-effectiveness of vehicle types and lease deals, more than ever
- Is this a good time to invest in better technology to monitor and manage all these fleet management parameters more closely?
With KPIs and targets and objectives forming such a major part of the fleet manager’s job, now is a very important period of time for organisations, as they look to consider safely re-opening their businesses. Fleet management is a key factor in the financial and safety controls of this process, and the increased car usage on the roads suggests that many businesses are already well down the road in terms of putting these plans into place.