Mitigate Now: Nine Lessons from the Coronavirus


By Lukas Neckermann

April 2020

Part One of a Two-Part Series Crisis Playbook

Challenging times call for operational strategies that can evolve as the situation unfolds. Maintaining the operations of a business in a simultaneous health and economic crisis is a critical concern for every leader today.  As the coronavirus crisis rages, fleet and mobility managers have a specific responsibility to act swiftly – to ensure the safety of employees, to assist the business in staying flexible, and where possible, to support efforts to save lives. 

  • Avoidance and Guidance

Is each trip strictly necessary?  Consider providing guidance to staff, which vehicle trips are essential, and which are not. More than ever, encourage staff to replace face-to-face meetings with videoconferencing.  Good advice any time of the year, but today, this guidance is not about costs and the environment, it’s about the vital health and safety of employees. 

  • Ensure the Safety of Staff

Where trips are essential, and vehicles are shared – whether through pool-cars, corporate carsharing, or jointly-used distribution vehicles – ensuring the safety of all users must now be paramount.  Fleet managers should implement cleaning procedures for touch-surfaces within the vehicles. The easiest way to do this is to install antibacterial wipes in each shared vehicle, and instruct staff to wipe down steering wheel, sun-visor, gearshifts, radio and navigation-system buttons and main surfaces upon entry and upon exit to the vehicle.  Having wipes available in the vehicle also allows employees to wipe down any surfaces they encounter outside the vehicle, such as fuel pumps and EV charging cables.  

Consider providing surgical gloves and face masks directly inside the vehicles, so that any employee who still needs to maintain regular customer contact will have these available.

Finally, if you provide staff with a checklist – either manually or via an app – consider adding questions around the coronavirus to the checklist – even if it now seems obvious: 

  • Do you have a persistent cough or a fever? 
  • Have you recently been in contact with someone who may have contracted the coronavirus? 
  • Have you washed your hands before entering the vehicle? 
  • Have you wiped down key touch-surfaces in the vehicle?
  • Track Vehicles, Track People

Ensure that staff members monitor their own health.  Coronavirus is infectious, even when there are no symptoms.  Be proactive: Should an employee contract the virus, it is imperative for the health of colleagues to track all contacts that this employee had in the week preceding onset of symptoms – including the vehicles he or she might have used.  If you don’t currently keep a log of vehicle movements, fleet managers should implement this simple mitigation policy quickly. Being able to track individual contacts is an essential step in preventing the further spread of the virus.  

  • Enable Mobility Alternatives

With a focus on “physical distancing” comes a need to provide transport alternatives.  For companies and employees in urban areas, this may mean bicycles (in particular, electrically assisted bicycles) or e-scooters.  These have proven to be highly effective ways to zoom around cities, and of course, they are inherently “safe” from social contact.  Consider providing subscriptions to apps that supply shared bicycles and scooters – but also in providing guidance so that handlebars are wiped clean before and after use.

For longer distances, where cross-state travel is necessary, it may be advisable to provide cars, rather than a flight ticket.  The fleet and mobility manager should work with the company’s travel manager to source rental-cars where necessary, especially where employees don’t have reliable cars, or where they would otherwise take own cars over longer distances.  

If you usually have a carpooling policy in place, consider temporarily suspending this for the safety and wellbeing of staff.  

  • Use Downtime for Maintenance

Where telematics or maintenance schedules suggest a vehicle-service will be due, consider moving the schedule forward. Garages are, in most areas of the country, still exempt from lockdowns. This may prove to be an opportune time to schedule routine servicing of vehicles – thereby avoiding downtime later. Attend to all the tasks you have put off during busier times and put any available down time to good use.

  • Fill Gas Tanks

Currently, gas is at its lowest price in a decade – even below $1 per gallon in some parts of the US. If your company has the opportunity to buy and store gasoline or diesel, perhaps consider filling those tanks. 

  • Evaluate Vehicle Orders and Fleet Flexibility

Global and national travel is obviously impacted by the crisis – this is likely to last for some time. Some airlines have already suggested they will dramatically “rightsize” their aircraft fleets, even once demand resumes. Vehicle fleet managers should take the same consideration. Start by proofing all new vehicle orders, and also the term on existing leasing arrangements. Which orders are cancellable, which are not? Within the fleet, which vehicles are due for replacement? Which vehicles can be extended, which can be returned?  Having this information at the ready is important for when the inevitable questions come from Finance.

  • Be Mindful of Your Company’s Social Responsibility

If your business is subject to a temporary downturn and your fleet is currently parked, consider if there are ways for your vehicles to be made available for emergency services.  Do you have trucks or vans that can be used to transport desperately needed beds, ventilators or other supplies to emergency hospitals? Do you have staff vehicles that can be made available to doctors, nurses, or social care workers? Can you provide for food or medical equipment deliveries with your fleet? The vehicle you provide may just save lives.

  • Contribute to Company Strategy

Whether it’s a short or prolonged lockdown, we can be sure each company – including your company – will come out of this crisis different than before. For many companies, we know there is an immediate change in strategy: from growth to survival. Costs will likely need to be cut, dramatically and quickly in the short-term. In good times as in bad, the fleet and mobility manager within each company plays an important role in enabling the success of the company. Now more than ever, flexibility and proactivity counts.

Part 2 coming soon.

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