18 Feb 20

How fleet managers can solve the commuter challenge

The mobility revolution is leaving behind people who do not work in major cities. It is also presenting a valuable opportunity for fleet managers to future-proof their jobs. By developing solutions that help all colleagues, not merely company car drivers, get to work comfortably and efficiently, fleet managers have the chance to create a vitally important role within their businesses.

Across Europe, major employers face a similar set of problems: heavy traffic congestion on the roads leading to their workplaces; insufficient workplace parking to accommodate all staff cars; and inflexible public transport systems that do not offer the timetables, routes and capacity to provide an alternative for hundreds or thousands of workers heading to and from the same place at the same time on a daily basis.

The result is not merely employees arriving late, but also a recruitment and retention issue as workers rebel against the wasted time and stress of making their way to work.

Dedicated bus service

One solution to this employment (and environmental) crisis could be as simple as the old fashioned bus, particularly for companies based in locations that are poorly served by public transport.

Zeelo, a start-up in the UK and South Africa, is already providing commuter services to some of Britain’s largest employers, using data and technology to identify the optimum routes to work for their workers. Companies can designate pick-up points that suit their staff and Zeelo then arranges the right times and routes to meet employee needs.

The service is not ‘on-demand’ but employees can use an app to book their seat on a bus and select their most convenient pick-up point. Plus, the buses only head to one workplace, so no time is lost in diversions to other offices and factories, and Zeelo tends to use coaches with power sockets and WiFi so commuters can work during their commute.

Sam Ryan, CEO of Zeelo, said each bus removed about 30 cars from the daily commute.

“For most people who live outside the world’s biggest cities, driving is the only viable option to get them to work. In the mobility world we talk a lot about electrification and micromobility but that is not solving the core problem of how do we move people en masse at peak times. How do we solve congestion, which is getting worse and worse? We need to be talking much more about macro mobility – mass transit – in the mobility mix because that can have a huge impact today. Private companies have a huge part to play in making this shift to reduce congestion.”

Jaguar Land Rover is one of Zeelo’s customers, and a spokesman said: “Zeelo removes 300 cars a day from our car park which has allowed our site to operate as without any disruption."

And online grocery retailer Ocado has calculated that providing an easy way for its staff to commute has saved it £212,000 (€230,000) in a year in staff recruitment costs.

Commuter rewards programme

Encouraging employees to make a modal shift in their transport can be difficult, but it’s a problem that another start-up, RYDES (pictured above), aims to solve. Incubated by the Lufthansa Innovation Hub, Berlin-based RYDES provides a combination of Mobility as a Service with a rewards scheme, similar to air miles, for travellers who use alternative travel services to the private car, such as car sharing, bike sharing and eScooter sharing, as well as public transport buses and trains. Its goal is to aggregate different modes of transport into one app, make them bookable and then reward customers.

The rewards can be traded for free minutes from a mobility provider or vouchers for shopping and experiences. RYDES partners already include Miles, NextBike, Sixt, Uber, WeShare and Voi.

René Braun, RYDES project manager, said the company provides a: “loyalty programme that does not reward loyalty to a type of transport and thus reacts to the changing mobility behaviour of parts of the young, digital-savvy generation.”

Site-specific solutions

For some businesses, however, it’s in-work trips around large industrial sites or campuses, rather than the journey to and from work, that presents a corporate challenge and an opportunity for fleet managers.

Chemicals giant BASF, for example, needed to find a flexible way for its staff to travel around its vast Ludwigshafen site, where 40,000 staff work. The company already had a timetabled internal bus service, and has now supplemented this with an on-demand ridesharing service delivered by ViaVan. The service runs via an app that also calculates optimum vehicle routes, with the aim of reducing individual traffic on the site while simultaneously improving mobility.

Jess Oppetit, ViaVan General Manager UK, said: “We integrated the fixed route bus with our demand-responsive solution. You request a ride on your phone and if the best solution is a fixed route bus you get told to walk to the bus stop. But if there is not a fixed route bus that is coming in the next 15 minutes we will tell you to walk to a virtual bus stop, which is a corner, and you will get picked up by a DRT (demand-responsive transport) solution. The consumer doesn’t actually care what is picking them up. What they want to know is that when they request a ride something efficient and consistent is going to get them from where they are to where they want to be. And when that happens consistently they are very happy to get rid of the hassle of driving.”

Authored by: Jonathan Manning