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Some daily rental companies are beginning to turn down fleet business in favour of higher margin consumer bookings, the Association of Fleet Professional (AFP) is reporting.

James Pestell, AFP Director, said that businesses were finding no vehicles were available using corporate rental online portals but then discovering that if they visited a rental outlet in person, they could hire a car or van at a retail rate using a credit card.

“We’re not saying all rental companies have adopted this as a policy and we are not saying that, even within the same companies, it is happening uniformly across the country – but it does certainly seem to be happening, according to feedback from our members.

“To some extent, suppliers doing this is understandable. Most of them are operating reduced fleets in a time of high demand, so it makes commercial sense for them to be employing their assets in markets where bigger margins are available.

“On the other hand, fleets are regular and reliable customers for daily rental and often have longstanding relationships with their preferred rental suppliers. Their needs should arguably be given due consideration. Certainly, we suspect that many of our members would rather be given the opportunity to have conversations about rates than simply be shown zero availability when there are vehicles available for rent.”

James said that rental shortages were currently a regular topic of conversation among AFP members, with widespread discussions about the difficulties that were being faced.

“It’s a situation that is showing few signs of improvement and may even get worse before it improves. Rental companies – like everyone else – simply can’t access new vehicle supply in the quantities they need.

“However, it does create difficulties for fleet operators in all the usual instances when rental vehicles are needed – to cover vehicles that are off the road for repair, for new employees, for temporary contracts and more.

“Some fleets are keeping hold of vehicles that they would normally have defleeted to use as pool vehicles as an alternative but this is far from a perfect solution, with the vehicles often in the wrong locations for the current need.”

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