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TNB talks to the vehicle rental and leasing trade body BVRLA about how its members have tackled the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis

07 May 2020 #CV Sector #Features & Interviews #TNB News

The BVRLA is the UK trade body for companies engaged in vehicle rental, leasing and fleet management and its members are responsible for a combined fleet of more than five million cars, trucks and vans on the UK road – that’s 1 in 5 vans and 1 in 4 trucks.

We spoke to Toby Poston, BVRLA’s Director of Corporate Affairs, about the challenges that its members faced over the past month and how they dealt with the unprecedented lockdown.

TNB: What were the main challenges for BVRLA members when the government first announced the lockdown on March 23, and had any pre-planning taken place?

TB: “It was important to clarify the sector’s status as a provider of essential services and thus exempt from having to close like many other retail businesses. They had to reposition and re-scale their businesses to cope with the almost complete disappearance of any leisure customer demand.

“Then it was a case of working out how they could help provide vehicles to key workers and essential service providers. Importantly, March is a key month for vehicle deliveries and collections so lease companies had to work out what collections and deliveries were able to take place as the vehicle logistics industry gradually slowed to an almost standstill position.

“Lease companies had to liaise with customers to discuss their requirements. These discussions will have been a mixture of customers wanting to cancel orders, get help with making their payments, extend their existing leasing contracts or agreeing how to deal with vehicles that had come to the end of a contract but couldn’t be collected.

“Members had done some pre-planning in terms of maintaining social distancing and safety in their offices and branches. Many companies had already made plans for remote working and had cancelled external meetings.

The industry guidance gave members an idea of ‘best practice’, so that the movement of vehicles could continue during lockdown. How did you put together those best practices?

“We worked in collaboration with our colleagues at the FLA and SMMT. Our aim was only to provide advice and suggested best practice, and this was mainly based on government and Public Health England guidelines, legal advice and input from members. Our aim was to tell companies what they were able to do and give them some ideas on how they could do it safely. It is up to them to adapt these guidelines for their own circumstances and talk to their staff and supply chain partners.”

The commercial vehicle sector has been a linchpin to keeping the wheels of the country turning. Do you think there will be a change in perception for drivers and fleets, in similar fashion to the way we now regard the NHS as a critical part of our economy/society?

“We would like to think so. The logistics sector has always had a relatively low profile and been an underappreciated sector of the economy. It’s a vital cog in so many parts of life – it really is the lifeblood of our economy.”

Right across the board, the economy has taken a massive hit during the crisis, but do you think there will be a long-term impact on the commercial vehicle sector and what have you learned from the crisis?

“This is the big question! It is worth remembering that the economy has slowed down because the government told it to slow down. Business will bounce back eventually, but we all need to work together in order to get back up to speed. This crisis has really brought home how interlinked we are and how much we can achieve if we take a co-ordinated approach.”

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