We speak to Caroline Sandall, co-chair of the Association of Fleet Professionals, about how fleets are helping with essential services, what fleet managers can do to help and how businesses can manage their vehicles during the pandemic.

Caroline Sandall, Allstar Interview

What are the main effects of the CV19 crisis on the fleet sector?

One of the issues fleets are having to deal with is the repurposing of staff and vehicles to support essential services such as the NHS or food deliveries. This has been a massive undertaking and many businesses have had to be incredibly agile because they are stepping outside of usual, well-practised routines and procedures.

It’s meant speaking to industry groups and other fleets who do this to understand what they need to do, how to communicate it, and how to ensure it works.

Many employees are not used to thinking about their personal safety and the safety of others in such a detailed way and are having to re-learn many things. So if they are delivering or visiting NHS sites, care homes, delivery hubs, working in supply chains and so on, they are having to regularly deep clean vehicles – learning how to do it properly, swap seat covers, wear gloves and think about everything they used to do without thinking.

We’re seeing really amazing things being done by fleets to support every cog in the wheel. These businesses may not be in the front line like medical professionals, but in supporting them, their employees are exposed to higher levels of risk, and it is remarkable to see the willingness to get stuck in and help.

Obviously, the general day-to-day life of fleets has stopped and, by and large, the vast majority of company car drivers have been fantastic. They and their employers have accepted that factories are closed, and you can’t order cars. It’s not possible to make decisions on orders because they have no idea of the future cost of vehicles or when they can be delivered.

Simply, it’s not possible to predict what is going to happen, or what the new normal will look like when we come through this.

What are fleet suppliers doing to help?

For fleet management suppliers and leasing companies, there has been a massive undertaking to support operations, and they are having to do things they have never done before.

For example, providers of maintenance, repair and breakdown support have had to go through every vehicle they manage and work out which are providing essential services so they get priority over others. This has been a huge undertaking.

With many garages closed, there is not the capacity there was, albeit off-set to an extent by less vehicles on the road, but if an essential user has a problem it must be flagged, and the appropriate support assigned so it is off the road for the shortest time possible.

Are there issues specific to the pandemic crisis that you are having to deal with?

We have seen that situations arise on a daily basis that previously would have been inconceivable, and so businesses are having to react to issues that they have no plans or processes for.

An example is the recent issue around BIK. Somehow – and we’re not entirely sure where it has come from, but it has spread through social media – some employees have come to the understanding that as they are at home, if they return their car keys to their employer, either by post or by hand, they no longer have to pay BIK during this period. But it’s just not true, and returning keys will cause massive problems now, and in the future, with keys and vehicles separated and having to be put together again. So now businesses that already have numerous fires to fight have another issue to deal with, completely out of the blue.

Now, we are speaking to HMRC through the proper channels about the payment of BIK on vehicles, and will provide guidance when it is forthcoming.

Telematics are proving incredibly useful for businesses to control, and understand, vehicle usage. This not only applies to ensuring essential services and people are getting to where they need to go, and providing those drivers with support, but also making certain that employees are not using vehicles when they shouldn’t for non-essential journeys.

In the main, it seems employees have been very good about staying at home, but in some cases, telematics have flagged up people out driving multiple times a day unnecessarily, and so employers have been able to get in touch and discuss this with them.

What is your message to fleet managers and businesses?

Now is the time, when if your daily work is mostly sorted or on hold, you can use the time to repurpose your fleet operation.

So what we are saying to members is: can you look at your data mapping and improve access to it, examine opportunities to mine data and do something with it, because you didn’t have a chance before when you were too busy?

Make use of the time if you can from a consultative perspective, whether it’s strategy, communications, preparation or even looking at your policy and whether that needs updating.

People will be worried about the future and their roles, so now is a good time to demonstrate worth, to be ready for the day we are back in some semblance of normality and you can put these new processes in place to run an even more efficient fleet.

How do you think the sector might change as a result of the crisis?

I think after this crisis we may see many employers and employees looking at the way they work, and their attitude to the way they travel for business might change.

Clearly, working from home, or holding meetings using video technology, has been proven to work and we can see this continuing after the crisis, although to what extent nobody yet knows.

It will pose questions about whether travel is absolutely necessary. The sector has talked about this for a long time but for fleet managers there is an opportunity to find something positive out of this horrific situation, to help facilitate their businesses become more socially responsible and efficient in the way they use vehicles and interact with other companies.

How can business wanting advice about managing vehicles get hold of you?

The Association of Fleet Professionals has been formed recently, the amalgamation of the Association of Car Fleet Operators and the Institute of Car Fleet Management. So the first place to visit is our LinkedIn page and our all-new website will be released soon.

Click here to view the AFP Linkedin page.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is forcing local authorities to delay the introduction of planned Clean Air Zones later this year.

Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, which were due to introduce the UK’s first Zero Emission Zone in December, now say the scheme will implemented in summer 2021.

Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council has written to the Government requesting postponement to the launch of its Clean Air Zone. Scheduled for implementation in summer 2020, councillors have asked for a delay “until at least the end of the calendar year”.

It is also likely that Leeds City Council will delay implementation of its Clean Air Zone, which, it was announced earlier in March, would be introduced on September 28. However, any delay has yet to be officially confirmed by the authority.

Birmingham City Council is due to introduce a Class D Clean Air Zone. It will see non-compliant – non-Euro 6/VI for diesel or Euro 4 for petrol – cars, vans/light goods vehicles, taxis and private hire vehicles charged £8 a day to travel in the Zone and HGVs, coaches and buses charged £50 a day. There is no charge for motorcycles, mopeds or scooters to drive in the Zone, which covers all roads within the A4540 Middleway Ring Road (but not the Middleway itself).

The authority said in a statement: “The impact of Covid-19 on Birmingham has meant that the current priority for income workers and residents is to ensure that they and their families stay safe, and the effect on businesses has meant that their current focus is on trying to support employees rather than upgrade vehicle fleets.

“The Council has therefore requested to delay the launch of the Zone until at least the end of the calendar year, and it to be kept under constant review in conjunction with the Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit.

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, the Council’s cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “The current situation has meant we need to make changes to our original plans. Covid-19 is having a profound impact on the economy of the city and our preparations for the Clean Air Zone.

“Once we have addressed coronavirus in the immediate term, poor air quality will continue to be a significant issue in the long term, and we should not be complacent.

“We believe that a Clean Air Zone in Birmingham remains the most effective way of making a sustainable improvement to Birmingham’s air quality and we will continue to put in place the infrastructure required to support it.”

Meanwhile, introduction of the UK’s first Zero Emission Zone – banning all but electric and hydrogen vehicles from free-entry – has been postponed by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council and the current formal consultation process on the initiative closed.

In a joint statement, the local authorities said: “Amid the current situation with coronavirus with Government acknowledging an economic crisis, both councils recognise that businesses and residents across the city need to focus all of their attention on managing the current and potential impacts on their trade and way of life. The councils have therefore decided that during this period of uncertainty, businesses should not be expected to devote time to the detailed logistical planning required for the Oxford Zero Emission Zone.”

The Zero Emission Zone was due to be introduced in two phases starting in December: Phase one – known as the Red Zone and covering part of the city centre – would see non-compliant cars, vans, HGVs and mopeds/motorcycles charged £10 per day to enter; phase two – known as the Green Zone – covering the rest of the city centre was scheduled for introduction in 2021/22. It would be accessed free of charge by zero emission vehicles and with discounted charges for vehicles complying with the London Ultra Low Emission Zone standards (Euro6/VI for diesel vehicles/Euro 4 for petrol vehicles).

The statement continued: “The current plan to launch the Red Zone for the Oxford Zero Emission Zone in December 2020 is now postponed. We will be closing the current formal consultation on the Red Zone but responses submitted so far will be read and saved. The councils plan to resume the consultation in late 2020, and a view to implement the scheme in the summer of 2021.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, cabinet member for zero carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council, added: “We are all living through an unprecedented crisis. We have to get our priorities right at this time, and that means focusing on the immediate concerns of businesses who are key to the success of the Zero Emission Zone. We can’t expect businesses who are facing coronavirus challenges right now and potentially for months ahead to prioritise helping to shape the policy or focusing on the logistical planning required for these schemes.”

All cars, vans and motorcycles which usually would require an MoT test will be exempted from needing a test from Monday, March 30 2020 for six months, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has announced.

The move follows the suspension of MoTs for all HGVs, trailers and public service vehicles for up to three months from March 21, 2020.

Vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition, and garages will remain open for essential repair work. Drivers can be prosecuted if at the wheel of an unsafe vehicles.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We must ensure those on the frontline of helping the nation combat Covid-19 are able to do so.

“Allowing this temporary exemption from vehicle testing will enable vital services such as deliveries to continue, frontline workers to get to work, and people to get essential food and medicine. Safety is key, which is why garages will remain open for essential repair work.”

Drivers will still need to get their vehicle tested until the new regulations come into place, if they need to use it.

If drivers cannot get an MoT that’s due because they are in self-isolation, the Department for Transport is working with insurers and the police to ensure people are not unfairly penalised for things out of their control.

Full details are available at:

Fleet training organisation, the recently launched, Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) – embracing the long-established ICFM – is anticipating a membership boom with demand for its online distance learning courses increasing as the coronavirus pandemic bites.

AFP, which undertakes fleet industry training under the new Fleet Academy banner, following the merging of ICFM and trade organisation ACFO’s operations, offers both its Introductory Certificate in Car Fleet Management and Intermediate Certificate levels in Car and LCV Fleet Management programmes as online distance learning courses.

Only its Diploma (Advanced Level) Programme is exclusively tutor-based and the Fleet Academy has, in the light of UK Government advice and guidance, taken the decision to postpone further classroom-based training for that course as well as that for the Certificate course until September. However, any resumption will be kept under review as Government guidance dictates. The Introductory Certificate course is only available online.

Fleet Academy sales and marketing director Peter Eldridge said: “The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is having a seemingly unprecedented in at least a generation impact on the world generally and the fleet industry as a whole.

“The Fleet Academy is committed to providing online courses that take into account the limitations on travel and social gathering that we are all facing, and will continue to do so over the coming months.”

Training courses are applicable to fleet decision-makers – fleet operators, but also including those with fleet responsibility working in HR, finance and procurement roles and the fast-emerging mobility function – as well as to employees of companies supplying a wide range of services to fleets including contract hire and leasing and fleet management companies and dealer-based corporate fleet personnel.

The Introductory Programme leading to the Introductory Certificate in Car Fleet Management is designed specifically for new entrants to the fleet industry. In addition to providing a background on how vehicle fleet management has evolved, the course enables new entrants to begin to understand what’s involved in developing a fleet policy relevant to the needs of a business, the importance of asset management and provides a pointer to the changing face of fleet-related roles in the future. The course involves approximately 12 hours of study and costs £99.

The Intermediate Certificate Programme, which leads to the Certificate in Car & LCV Fleet Management qualification, which is the benchmark standard for those involved in the management of a vehicle fleet, covers five modules on: Principles of people management, effective vehicle fleet administration, finance, acquisition and remarketing and legal compliance. There are also assignments and knowledge reviews following the completion of each module.

The study time is anticipated to be between 30 and 40 hours in total, but one of the major benefits of the Programme is the ability to work through the course on a flexible time arrangement that fully supports business needs and periodic pressures. Students can ‘park and return’ to the Programme to suit their individual requirements – as they can the Introductory Programme. The cost of the programme is £1,500 with the option of external endorsement from the Institute of Learning Management at an additional cost of £74.

Each of the five modules comprising the Intermediate Certificate Programme are also available for purchase individually at a cost of £350 per module.

Online tutor support is available for all students undertaking both Programmes.

Mr Eldridge said: “The fleet industry and employee learning cannot grind to a halt amid all the sector-based challenges faced around, for example, changing legislation, tax regulations, new technologies and Clean Air Zones.

“The Fleet Academy is fully geared up to further enhance the skills and abilities of all employees with fleet responsibility and those working in the supply side of the industry as we all seek to overcome the new work and personal challenges imposed on us all by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Mr Eldridge added: “Online courses are generally popular because the way the new generation of fleet decision-makers are working and studying is changing. We believe that as home-working is being introduced by many employers it simultaneously offers employees a greater opportunity to expand their knowledge-base and qualifications.”

He concluded: “Regarding tutorial-led training, the safety and wellbeing of all our members and prospective members is of paramount importance. That is why all planned training courses involving delegates meeting and travelling will cease at least until September 2020 unless Government advice allows for an earlier resumption of activity. Further updates will be provided on a regular basis.”

Fleet Academy qualifications are viewed as the de facto stamp of approval for employees with fleet responsibility whether as full-time professional fleet managers or as part of an HR, finance or procurement role. They are also increasingly being viewed as job-critical for employees working in the fleet service support arena, including at contract hire and leasing companies, fleet management organisations and in dealer-based corporate fleet departments.

Further information is available on the AFP website – – or by emailing the AFP administration hub at [email protected].

Garages, fuel stations and car rental outlets are among the ‘essential businesses’ the Government is allowing to stay open as the UK moves into lockdown as a consequence of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

However, car showrooms are among the businesses, premises and places that have been forced to close in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s state of the nation address on Monday evening (March 23).

The Government has said that it will review its action in three weeks as it seeks to do “what we can to reduce the spread of coronavirus”. The full list of businesses and premises to close and those that are allowed to remain open is available at:

In other developments:

The National Franchised Dealers’ Association (NFDA) wrote to Transport Secretary to Grant Shapps to outline franchised dealers’ priorities during the Covid-19 pandemic in relation to workshops opening and MoT testing.

NFDA director Sue Robinson said in the letter: “It is crucial that franchised dealers’ workshops stay open to help the Government meet its goal of keeping freight transport on the roads operating, by ensuring that thousands of vans and smaller commercial vehicles will continue to able to be serviced and repaired.

“Workshops are vital in ensuring that critical vehicles can continue to operate safely and efficiently during these extremely challenging times.”

The NFDA said that it understood that vehicle technicians who were being asked to continue to work at franchised dealers’ premises were included under the definition of key workers, in line with Government guidance.

Fast-fit giant Kwik Fit has said: “Currently all Kwik Fit centres are open and operating as normal, as is our mobile fleet. Our number one priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our people and customers, providing a safe and clean environment for everyone.

“Where possible, our centres remain open as usual. Following the announcement from the Prime Minister yesterday (Monday, March 23), we are currently in the process of reviewing our position. We consider the services we provide to be essential for transport, however clearly the scale of our service will be reviewed accordingly.”

Kwik Fit says it has introduced additional hygiene measures both in its centres and for its mobile fitting fleet, and is practising social distancing to reduce any close contact between staff and customers.

The statement – available at – continued: “The company has seen a 15% increase in enquiries for appointments for tyre fitting at customers’ homes, the majority of which are due to customers self-isolating after being impacted by the Government’s latest guidance on the coronavirus.

“The company, which operates a fleet of more than 200 mobile tyre fitting vehicles across the UK, has put special precautions in place to ensure that it is helping to stem the spread of the virus, while also ensuring that motorists have access to a safe car if they need it in an emergency.

“To avoid direct contact between the Kwik Fit technician and the customer, the company is asking customers to provide their car key without direct contact, for instance by putting the key on their front doorstep and going back inside. Once the customer is at a safe distance, the technician will pick the key up. Where possible, Kwik Fit will ask the customer to also provide the locking wheel nut from inside the vehicle. This way, Kwik Fit can carry out the work without entering the interior of the car.

“The technicians themselves are thoroughly cleaning their hands between each job and using fresh protective gloves for each vehicle. These measures, along with not coming into close contact with the customer, are designed to minimise any risk of passing infection between customers.

“We’ve temporarily changed our practices to help minimise contact and will not ask for your signature on paperwork or in store tablets. We will clearly demonstrate work that is required to make your vehicle safe, show you any parts removed and demonstrate any faults. You’ll be invited to receive quotations and invoices by email which we would appreciate you accepting to minimise contact.

“While normal life has been severely curtailed and many people are keeping travel to a minimum, it is still important for people’s peace of mind that their car is ready in case of emergency. Those car owners who are self-isolating have realised that mobile fitting is the perfect way to ensure their car is in a safe condition for when they are once more free to move around. We have responded to the increased requirements with greater stock levels to meet demand, but more importantly, by introducing key precautions to help reduce the spread of the virus.

“We will update our operations in accordance with Government advice and provide information via our website.”

In the light of the escalating situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic and Government advice to cease all unnecessary travel, the AFP have taken the proactive decision to postpone all tutor-led training activity with immediate effect.

The safety and wellbeing of our members’ is of paramount importance to us and as such all planned training courses involving delegates meeting and travel will cease until September this year at the earliest.

On a more positive note, we will continue to support our members’ training and personal development requirements via our suite of online programmes.

Further updates will be provided on a regular basis.