A RECENT study commissioned by Verizon Connect has unveiled key challenges facing businesses with small to mid-sized vehicle fleets, around driver behaviour, fuel usage, fuel tax credits and vehicle maintenance.

The Australia-wide study, conducted by ACA Research, includes views from over 200 Australian fleet executives operating in various industries including services, construction, production, retail and education.

A separate ACA research recently pegged Australia’s fleet numbers at around 2.5 million, dominated by small to midsize companies.

“The fleet business in Australia is growing rapidly and this has been exacerbated by the pandemic – we now view fleet businesses and their drivers as providing a critical service,” said Greg Newham, head of Verizon Connect in Australia and New Zealand.

“Many executives conduct their business in an informal manner, and it is now more timely than ever for businesses of any size to not only improve cost management, but also look after the health and safety of a distributed workforce that is often at the coalface of the supply chain.”

Even before Australian fleet managers were forced to run their operations from their homes, the issue of trust and employee behaviour have dogged fleet businesses for years.

While trust was higher across larger fleet companies with more robust processes and policies, executives generally cited concerns over a lack of visibility over employee behaviour. This included the use of company vehicles for personal work, fraudulent use of fuel cards and the accuracy of timesheets .

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Unsurprisingly, the volatility of fuel prices was tagged as a significant business concern in more than three-quarters of respondents. While fuel prices in Australia have seen recent historic lows, smaller businesses continued to be challenged by fuel price fluctuations – in the past 12-months, smaller businesses reported an average increase of 9%-12% in fuel costs.

Under the glare of an ever-changing complex regulatory environment, a number of executives outlined concerns around the accuracy of records potentially causing businesses to underclaim on their fuel tax credits.

“With over 62% of Australia businesses currently claiming FTCs, around 38% of respondents indicated that they continue to struggle with complex data capture, validation and stringent reporting requirements,” Mr Newham said.

“Once again, it is smaller fleets which continue to face difficulties due to the lack of internal resources and knowhow.”

Regardless of fleet size, managing vehicle maintenance was tagged as a challenge by the majority of respondents. Interestingly, larger fleet businesses reported struggling with tracking maintenance schedules and ensuring adequate replacements during maintenance works.  Other challenges flagged included increased maintenance costs arising from negligent drivers (77%).

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