Mobility is continuing to evolve. As technology advances at an ever-faster pace, mobility brings new and innovative options that fleets can leverage to save time and money. One of the latest movements in mobility we are seeing is a move toward vehicle access.
What Access Looks Like
For companies in urban areas or businesses with clustered locations, having access to a centralized pool of vehicles can provide significant benefits. The Boston metro area and its many colleges and universities are an example of a prime location for this type of model.
Each Boston area college and university has a variety of departments that need different types of vehicles for different amounts of time. Rather than each campus having its own fleet, which may sit idle, they can have a centralized location, in proximity to all of them, that houses a variety of vehicles. The colleges then share this single pool of vehicles.
One common occurrence might be that a faculty member needs a 10-passenger van to drive a group to a program off campus, and the event will take about half the day. Using an online reservation system, the faculty member can book the van for only the day and time it is needed.
When they need to access the vehicle, they use a secure access card, which acts as their key. Once they make a reservation, all they have to do is pick up the vehicle at the centralized location by unlocking it with their card, and they are ready to go. When they are done with the event, they return the vehicle at their convenience, even if their return time falls outside of regular hours and the lot is unattended.
In this case, the college that needed the vehicle had access to it, but did not have to keep it on their own lots and had the ability to pay for only the time the vehicle was used.
Benefits vs. Risks
The largest benefits of embracing vehicle sharing are convenience and flexibility. In the case of the faculty member example above, they were able to access the transportation they needed in a way that was truly flexible and on-demand, without the college having to dedicate a staff resource to coordinate the logistics. For the college, the other major benefit is cost savings. Instead of investing heavily in capital or full-time fleet management, or having to deal with the costs and logistics of picking up and dropping off a daily rental, the faculty member simply uses the resource when it is needed and puts it back, and the college only has to pay for the time the vehicle is used.
One concern in this type of arrangement is around the level of risk since it is a shared resource. The solution is quite simple: vehicles are covered under the institution’s insurance – just like with a daily rental.
There is also the learning curve that comes with change. At this early adoption stage, companies who believe in the technology and take the leap are the ones realizing the benefits to supplement their core fleet. Many people have seen this type of model on a consumer basis; for example, Zipcar has become a known name in the vehicle sharing industry. Right now, the market is trying to translate that model from B2C to B2B, and it’s a matter of shifting mindsets. So far colleges, universities, and municipalities have been the early adopters, and situations like the one described above are already a reality for some universities.
Where Do Companies Start?
The first step is for a company that is interested in vehicle sharing to attempt to find like-minded businesses in their area who use similar vehicles at similar timeframes so they can begin to build a pool. Companies see the most benefit from this vehicle sharing model when multiple entities come together. It can be done with a single company, but with more participants the stronger the savings, the service, and the possibilities. It’s not uncommon for a company to have extra capacity. A great place for this type of model could be a corporate office park, where there are multiple, similar businesses in proximity.
In this scenario, you could have several delivery companies located near a transportation hub, such as an airport. Delivery Company A may have five extra vehicles, and their neighbor Delivery Company B might have ten. If these companies combined and shared vehicles in a single pool, each of them would reap significant savings, and their couriers would have access to more vehicles, when they were needed. Flexibility increases while costs and idle time decreases.
Sharing is the Future
Fleet companies must continually innovate better solutions for their clients, and this includes connecting clients to the possibility of vehicle sharing. Vehicle sharing is already becoming common in our personal lives, so it makes sense that schools, businesses, and local government can also benefit from the convenience and savings of vehicle sharing. As more companies embrace this technology over time, transportation will become more nimble for end-users, and organizations will benefit from a process that, thanks to technology, is self-managing.
John Cail serves as the Vice President of Mobility at Merchants Fleet. Over the course of his career, John has serviced thousands of clients, provided over 100,000 short-term leases to mobility clients, worked across 45 industries, and managed over 600 employees. He is a strategic leader in the Merchants Fleet family and the executive sponsor for new verticals in the Merchants Fleet suite of products and services.