Russell Adams, commercial vehicle manager, Lex Autolease Company strategy, Energy networks, Finance and investment, Strategy & management, Opinion, Lex Autolease, Russell Adams

Russel Adams unpicks the challenges and considerations for specifying a vehicle fleet

Utility businesses are duty-bound to provide a high-quality service. This means providing a consistent supply and fixing interruptions promptly. At the same time, emissions from fleets are increasingly prominent on requests for tender.

Balancing these requirements puts the onus on fleet decision-makers to specify the right vehicle, for the right job, and for the right budget. So it’s essential to have an understanding of the job roles of the fleet.

The versatility of a light commercial vehicle (LCV) – how easily it can be converted to different operational requirements – is a key consideration.

Clearly identifying job roles at the outset will help ensure that no vehicle is specified for a task that would cause either the vehicle or the trailer to exceed its ­maximum weight limit. If not properly managed, non-compliance could affect a firm’s operator compliance risk score and ultimately threaten its operator’s licence.

Given that the procurement and supply of energy is already intrinsically linked to the utilities sector, sustainability is naturally a significant consideration. The rapid expansion of sustainable technology means we’re likely to see increased take-up of low and zero emission ­(electric) vehicles in the coming years.

That said, the latest diesel vehicles remain the most practical option for many job roles in the short to medium-term, especially those with high mileage requirements. For low-mileage job roles – often in urban areas – electric vehicles represent an opportunity to make savings on fuel, maintenance, repairs, taxation and charges such as those for entering clean air zones.

Completing the transition to electric vehicles gradually in line with increased product availability and access to charge points will ensure that the lowest emissions and most cost-effective option is chosen for the task.

Costs control is naturally front of mind for most providers, but cheaper base models can become significantly more expensive to operate when fuel consumption and maintenance costs are taken into account. Fuel alone can represent 50 per cent of LCV operating costs.

Lifetime maintenance support is vital and a vehicle can be specified with a built-in maintenance package.

All vehicles specified should have safe standards of work designed into their operational requirements – reversing aids installed as standard, capability to work at height, and safe entry and exit at all times.

Overall, best practice comes down to thinking ahead and taking time to choose the right vehicle for the job.