Stuart O'Brien, Author at Fleet Summit - Page 4 of 29
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Stuart O'Brien

Ford and Hermes partner on autonomous delivery vehicles

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Ford has announced a new Self-Driving Vehicle Research Programme designed to help businesses in Europe understand how autonomous vehicles can benefit their operations.

Hermes is the first business to partner with Ford on the programme. Using a customised Ford commercial vehicle, the research aims to better understand how other road users would interact with an apparently driverless delivery van.

The specially adapted Ford Transit features sensors that mimic the look of an actual self-driving vehicle plus a “Human Car Seat” in control of the vehicle – this enables an experienced, hidden driver to drive while giving the impression to others around that there is no one at the wheel.

“As we plan to bring autonomous vehicles to the roads, it is important that we focus not only on enabling the technology, but on enabling our customers’ businesses,” said Richard Balch, director, Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility, Ford of Europe. “Clearly, there is no better way to identify how they may need to adapt than to experience those processes in real life.”

Ford has for six years been Europe’s market leader in commercial vehicles. 1 By harnessing this experience with expertise from delivery firms, the company intends to identify new opportunities and models for autonomous vehicle operations – in particular understanding how existing processes and human interactions can work alongside automated vehicles. Commercial vehicles’ planned operations and many human interactions are an ideal test case.

A commercial vehicle driver’s responsibilities sometimes extend beyond simply driving from one destination to another. In a delivery or logistics operation, for example, the driver may also be tasked with sorting and loading goods, manually handing packages over to recipients – or reloading them onto the van if delivery is not possible.

However, in this research, the driver will play an entirely passive role, simply driving the vehicle. Pedestrian couriers who support the delivery van are equipped with a smartphone app that lets them hail the vehicle and remotely unlock the load door after it is safely parked at the roadside. Once inside, voice prompts and digital screens direct the courier  to their locker, containing the parcels to be delivered.

Understanding and designing how humans will interact with the vehicle will ensure that business processes are able to continue safely without a driver present.

The two-week research project with Hermes builds on the success of Ford’s “last mile delivery” trials in London, in which a team of pedestrian couriers collects parcels from a delivery van and fulfils the last leg of the delivery by foot resulting in fast, sustainable and efficient deliveries in cities.

The research vehicles will enable Hermes and other businesses to begin designing how their teams could work alongside driverless vehicles. For Hermes, this user design research has included developing an app that enables the pedestrian couriers to access the van to collect parcels, once again, this is a role that the human driver would normally fulfil.

“We’re excited to collaborate with Ford on this proof of concept trial, which is all about understanding the potential for autonomous vehicles and if they have a role in delivery in the longer-term future,” said Lynsey Aston, head of product, Innovation and Onboarding. “We’re constantly innovating to incubate and then explore concepts like this, and we look forward to the initial findings, which will no doubt be useful on an industry-wide level.”

Ford researchers are already investigating how self-driving vehicles will integrate seamlessly into our daily lives, including developing a light-based visual language to convey to other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists what autonomous vehicles intend to do next.

Ford has been testing self-driving technology in major cities across the U.S. and plans to invest around $7 billion in autonomous vehicles during 10 years through to 2025 – $5 billion of that from 2021 forward – as part of its Ford Mobility initiatives.

In collaboration with Ford’s self-driving technology partner, Argo AI, autonomous test vehicles operate daily in six U.S. cities. Last year, Argo AI’s comprehensive self-driving system enabled address-to-address autonomous deliveries of fresh produce and school supplies through a charitable goods pilot in Miami, Florida, in the United States.

5 Minutes With… Beverley Wise, Sales Director UK & Ireland, Webfleet Solutions

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In the latest instalment of our fleet management executive interview series, we spoke to Beverley Wise, Sales Director UK & Ireland at Webfleet Solutions, about the company, the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the industry, rising expectations on standards of service and the importance of telematics…

Tell us about your company, products and services.

Webfleet Solutions, now part of Bridgestone, is one of the world’s leading providers of telematics solutions for fleet management, vehicle telematics and connected vehicle services.

Our WEBFLEET platform gives fleet operators everything they need to reduce costs and boost productivity, while enhancing customer service and improving the safety of their drivers.

We were one of the first telematics providers to foresee the importance of connectivity and have invested heavily in developing ways to integrate our hardware and software with specialist providers to offer the most reliable and easy-to-use vehicle hub solution on the market.

Alongside the core telematics functionality of mileage recording and driver behaviour monitoring, WEBFLEET also integrates seamlessly with additional hardware and software solutions, such as cameras, vehicle check and signature capture tools and digital forms. This allows you to run everything from one easy-to-use interface.

The cloud-based software system supports seamless communication with mobile workforces and helps streamline workflow management, leading to happier customers and safer, more productive drivers.

What have been the biggest challenges and opportunities the Fleet Services industry has faced over the past 12 months?

The Covid-19 pandemic has proved a real test of business flexibility and resilience, with unprecedented times calling for unprecedented approaches to how we work. There has been a need for everyone to work together for the greater good.

Fleet service providers have had to work harder than ever to help businesses generate bottom line savings in the wake of the financial pressures many have faced. Telematics has had an important role to play here, helping support remote working, streamline processes and optimise vehicle utilisation. 

Fleet managers are now looking to the future with different mind-sets to the ones they had before the pandemic struck. Economic uncertainty continues to make flexibility and agility vital business requirements, with digital solutions acting as an important enabler. Connected fleets can ultimately work faster, more efficiently and with greater dexterity. 

All the while, collective efforts to decarbonise transport are accelerating. Fleet service providers must continue to innovate and create new opportunities for companies to make the right decisions at the right time – and build that all-important competitive advantage.

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market over the coming months?

As the world returns to normal, we can expect fleet businesses to demand higher levels of automation around their core processes.

Expectations for improved standards of service will continue to rise, while the road to zero and safer transport is putting a greater onus on organisations to change how they operate.

In response, we can expect to see tech innovation continuing to transform business mobility.

Telematics data will become increasingly pivotal for businesses embarking on their EV journey, for example, artificial intelligence (AI) is set to play a greater role in helping inform fleet data, while Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) will continue to gain traction with this data providing the cost and behaviour insights needed to optimise journey planning.

What technologies will have the biggest impact on the market over the next 12 months?

With the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans being banned from 2030, and clean air zones being rolled out, businesses must plan their transition to EVs sooner rather than later.

Software solutions that can help fleet business shape their electric vehicle (EV) strategies, supporting both EV adoption and for their ongoing management, will be vital.

Current innovations include planning reports to identify the fossil fuel vehicles that could be replaced with EV alternatives, EV health data that enables pre-emptive maintenance and charger connection reports that help ensure charging occurs when tariffs are most favourable, and just before vehicles are needed for operation.

The interconnectivity of technology will also continue having a huge impact. Integrations between fleet management software, office suites and mobile hardware may not be new, but the opportunities for these to underpin new ways of working for management teams in the post-pandemic environment have never been more important.

In 2022 we’ll all be talking about…?

It’s very difficult to predict, as the world is changing at a phenomenal rate, but my best guess would be the continued innovation around EVs and data aggregation from OEMs.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Fleet Services sector?

Its resilience and the ability to absorb change – and never more so than in the last 18 months.

You go to the bar at the Fleet Services Management Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?

Has to be New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Churton preferably.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Listen, listen and listen again.

Peaky Blinders or The Crown?

Now that is a difficult one, but I think Peaky Blinders just edges it – gritty, well produced and with the added advantage of Cillian Murphy!

Fleet Summit: Last call for delegate places

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This is your last chance to register for the Fleet Summit, which takes place on the the 7th & 8th July at Whittlebury Park (Golf & Spa Hotel) in Northamptonshire.

We understand that your time is precious and extremely limited, which is why we want to ensure that you don’t miss out on this entirely free pass that includes; 

– Your own bespoke itinerary, designed to connect you and suppliers through short 1-2-1 meetings
– Access to a series of industry seminar sessions – view current speaker line-up here
– Overnight accommodation
– Breakfast, lunch and refreshments throughout
– An invite to our exclusive networking dinner with entertainment.

Plus, we have many attendance options to suit your schedule (including virtual attendance).

Click here to accept your free invite

Do you specialise in Fleet Contract Hire & Leasing? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on Fleet Management Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the fleet market – and in July we’ll be focussing on Contract Hire & Leasing solutions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help fleet buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Contract Hire & Leasing solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Chris Cannon on 01992 374096 /

Here’s our features list in full:

Jul – Contract Hire & Leasing
Aug – LPG/Alternative Fuel & Fuel Management
Sep – EV Infrastructure
Oct – Duty of Care
Nov – Grey Fleet
Dec – Service, Maintenance & Repair

Business confidence ‘drives cautious recovery’ in car registrations

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With the year’s first full month of showroom openings, new car registrations in May reached 156,737 units, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The total represents an almost eightfold increase on the same month last year, but is down -14.7% on pre-pandemic May 2019, and -13.2% on the 10-year May average.

Uptake was in line with the most recent industry outlook, published in April, which sees the sector anticipating around 1.86 million registrations by the end of the year – with 723,845 achieved so far.

Against a more positive economic backdrop – including OECD forecasting a 7.2% increase in UK GDP during 2021 – fleet registrations grew more than twice as fast as private purchases in May.3 Large fleets accounted for 50.7% of all new vehicles hitting the road, demonstrating improving business confidence compared to the same month last year.

In terms of segments, dual purpose vehicles saw a small decline in market share in the month, down to 26.7%, leapfrogged by lower medium cars which rose to 27.8%. Superminis remained Britain’s most popular car choice, with a 31.1% share.

Battery electric vehicle (BEV) market share declined from 12.0% a year ago to 8.4% in the past month, although the May 2020 performance was distorted by lockdowns when new cars could only be purchased through click and collect or delivery, giving rise to variable purchasing patterns.

Looking more broadly across 2021, plug-in vehicles now comprise 13.8% of new car registrations, up from 7.2% a year earlier, with the most rapid growth seen in plug-in hybrid (PHEV) derivatives. Pure petrol and mild hybrid petrol cars so far account for 60.4% of registrations, while pure diesel and mild hybrid diesels took a 18.0% share year to date, compared to 64.6% and 22.4% last year.

Meanwhile, total registrations for 2021 sit at 296,448 fewer units, or -29.1% less, than the average recorded across January to May during the last decade, evidence of the scale of the recovery still needed given the impact of Covid on the market.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “With dealerships back open and a brighter, sunnier, economic outlook, May’s registrations are as good as could reasonably be expected. Increased business confidence is driving the recovery, something that needs to be maintained and translated in private consumer demand as the economy emerges from pandemic support measures. Demand for electrified vehicles is helping encourage people into showrooms, but for these technologies to surpass their fossil-fuelled equivalents, a long term strategy for market transition and infrastructure investment is required.”

Join the industry at next month’s Fleet Summit

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As a fleet professional, we’d like to personally invite you next month’s Fleet Summit on the the 7th & 8th July at Whittlebury Park (Golf & Spa Hotel) in Northamptonshire.

We understand that your time is precious and extremely limited, which is why we want to ensure that you don’t miss out on this entirely free pass that includes; 

– Your own bespoke itinerary, designed to connect you and suppliers through short 1-2-1 meetings
– Access to a series of industry seminar sessions – view current speaker line-up here
– Overnight accommodation
– Breakfast, lunch and refreshments throughout
– An invite to our exclusive networking dinner with entertainment.

Plus, we have many attendance options to suit your schedule (including virtual attendance).

Click here to accept your free invite

Motorparc: Total vehicles on UK roads falls to 40.35m

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Vehicle numbers on UK roads fell to 40,350,714 in 2020, according to Motorparc data released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the first time the total number has fallen since the global financial crisis of 2009.

As the pandemic stifled new vehicle uptake, the average age of cars on UK roads is now the highest on record at 8.4 years. Van uptake, however, has grown to the highest level in history, accounting for 11.4% of all vehicles on the road.

The latest parc data illustrates that, for the second consecutive year, there were more than 35 million cars registered on UK roads (35,082,800), although that figure represents a modest -0.2% dip as Covid impacted new volumes entering the market.

Light commercial vehicles (LCVs) – the only vehicle type to see an increase – saw 1.7% growth over the past year, up to a new record high of 4,604,861 vehicles. Many of these have been instrumental in supporting the nation during the pandemic, providing support to the NHS, and delivering food and goods across Britain.

Meanwhile, the number of heavy goods vehicles on our roads declined by -3.1% to 589,445 units. Bus and coach numbers saw the most significant fall at -10.7% to 73,608, as the pandemic dramatically reduced already-declining passenger numbers causing fleet operators to pause new fleet purchases and take unused vehicles off the road.

With showrooms closed for large periods of 2020 due to lockdowns, fewer new cars were registered, resulting in the oldest average car fleet since records began. The average car on UK roads was built in 2011, while almost 10 million cars have been in service since 2008 or earlier. While this is testament to the durability and quality of modern vehicles, an ageing fleet risks stalling the UK’s attempts to reduce emissions.

A new car from 2020 emits, on average, 112.8g/km of CO2, which is 18.3% better than a model registered in 2011. Fleet renewal is essential if the UK is to reach its net zero target, with both conventional and alternatively fuelled vehicles having a significant role to play in the transition.

As part of the journey towards zero emission motoring, the number of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on UK roads increased by 114.3% to a record high of 199,085, while plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) also saw their numbers increase by 35.2% to 239,510.

However, combined, they represented just 1.3% of all cars on our roads – emphasising the importance of replacing older vehicles with newer, cleaner ones. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) saw their numbers grow by a fifth to 621,622 cars. Petrol car volumes remained stable, down -0.2%, with diesel falling -2.3%. Combined, internal combustion engine (ICE) models accounted for 97.1% of the total parc – or 34,018,599 units.

Britain’s favourite car types are still the supermini and lower medium segments which account for six in 10 cars in service, at 11,620,733 and 9,256,839 units respectively. Dual purpose vehicles remain a distant third, with 4,619,061 in use but now account for 13.2% of cars on the road, as consumer tastes and demand shift.

Record numbers of vans on UK roads

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Commercial vehicles now account for 13.1% of all vehicles on the road in Britain – the highest recorded this century, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

SMMT’s annual automotive census has revealed that, as of the end of 2020, there were 4,604,861 vans, 589,445 trucks, and 73,608 buses and coaches on the road, out of a total of 40,350,714 vehicles in use.

Truck numbers declined by -3.1% to return to levels last recorded in 2015, while bus and coach units are at their lowest since records began, a consequence of the significant drop in passenger numbers caused by the pandemic.

More positively, vans recorded their 11th year of consecutive growth, increasing by 1.7% year-on-year as an upsurge in home delivery and construction stimulated demand. Many of these vehicles have also been instrumental in supporting the nation during the pandemic, providing support to the NHS, and delivering food and goods across Britain.

The average age of commercial vehicles has also increased, with significant implications for emissions targets and air quality goals. The average van is now just under eight years old, with a considerable number of older vehicles still in operation – including around 725,000 that were first registered in 2005 or earlier.

Meanwhile, at 7.4 years old, the average truck would predate the introduction of Euro VI, meaning they would be fined for entering the London Ultra Low Emission Zone,the Bath Clean Air Zone and, from next month, would also incur penalties in Birmingham. Buses, meanwhile, are now, on average, more than a decade old.

Manufacturers have invested massively to provide a wide range of vehicles with a variety of fuel options – meaning operators are spoiled for choice when renewing their fleet.

With the end of sale of new petrol and diesel vans scheduled for 2030, plug-in van uptake continues to grow but remains far lower than that experienced in the car market.

There are now 14,021 battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vans in service, accounting for 0.3% of all operational vans – four times lower than the proportion of BEV and PHEV cars.

Based on the SMMT data, Slough is Britain’s zero-emission van capital, having both the highest percentage of electrified van registrations (2.2%) and the highest total number (2,087).

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The past year has highlighted how much Britain relies on its commercial vehicle parc. With less than nine years to go until the end of sale of new petrol and diesel vans, much needs to be done to avoid a long fossil fuel hangover from operators resisting the switch. Fleet renewal must be a high priority for the commercial vehicle sector and the government’s Bus Back Better strategy must be implemented immediately to reverse the decline in bus operations.”

Oxford to get ‘Europe’s most powerful’ EV charging hub

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UK-based Pivot Power, part of EDF Renewables, and Oxford City Council have joined up with Fastned, Tesla Superchargers and Wenea to deliver what they are calling Europe’s most powerful EV charging Superhub.

The hub, initially featuring 38 fast and ultra-rapid chargers in a single site, is the most powerful in Europe – with up to 10MW of power on site – and will scale up to help meet the need for EV charging in the area for the next 30 years. It is the first of up to 40 similar sites planned across the UK to help deliver charging infrastructure needed for the estimated 36 million EVs by 2040.

Unlike any other UK charging hub, the site, at Redbridge Park & Ride, is directly connected to the high voltage national electricity grid, to provide the power needed to charge hundreds of EVs at the same time quickly, without putting strain on the local electricity network or requiring costly upgrades.

This network, developed by Pivot Power, has capacity to expand to key locations throughout Oxford to meet mass EV charging needs, from buses and taxis to commercial fleets.

Fastned will initially install ten chargers at the Superhub with 300kW of power, capable of adding 300 miles of range in just 20 minutes for up to hundreds of EVs per day. The station will be powered by 100% renewable energy, partly generated by the company’s solar roof, and all makes and models of EVs will be able to charge at the highest rates possible simultaneously.

The announcement is a key milestone in the completion of Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO), due to open in Q4 this year, and comes as Oxford is set to launch the UK’s first Zero Emission Zone this August, where vehicles are charged based on their emissions, with EVs able to use the zone for free.

The £41m world-first project, led by Pivot Power, integrates EV charging, battery storage, low carbon heating and smart energy management technologies to support Oxford to be zero carbon by 2040 or earlier. ESO will save 10,000 tonnes of CO2 every year once opened later in 2021, equivalent to taking over 2,000 cars off the road, increasing to 25,000 tonnes by 2032. It provides a model for cities around the UK and the world to cut carbon and improve air quality.

Matt Allen, CEO at Pivot Power, said: “Our goal is to help the UK accelerate net zero by delivering power where it is needed to support the EV and renewable energy revolution. Oxford is one of 40 sites we are developing across the UK, combining up to 2GW of battery storage with high volume power connections for mass EV charging. Energy Superhub Oxford supports EDF’s plan to become Europe’s leading e-mobility energy company by 2023, and is a blueprint we want to replicate right across the country, working hand in hand with local communities to create cleaner, more sustainable cities where people want to live and work.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford at Oxford City Council, added: “For Oxford to go zero carbon by 2040, we need to electrify a lot more of our transportation. As an innovative city embracing technologies and change, Oxford is the natural home for the UK’s largest public EV charging hub. We are excited to be taking a major step forward in the completion of Energy Superhub Oxford, working closely and superbly with our private sector partners. As an ambitious city, we are excited about the prospect of further innovation and investments, building upon our record of transformational public and private sector delivery.”

Government plans to cut carbon emissions and improve air quality will see millions of EVs in use by 2030, and the project will show how this can be achieved while maintaining a stable and cost-effective electricity network. To accelerate the delivery of ESO, the Government has contributed £10 million to the project via UKRI’s Prospering from the Energy Revolution programme.

Fleet Summit: Join us in-person or virtually this summer

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Did you know that as a fleet professional you can attend our upcoming Fleet Summit entirely for free?

You can also personalise your attendance options to suite your schedule by joining us either virtually or in person at the live event.

Your free place includes a personalised itinerary designed entirely for you based on your selections and those that match your business requirements.

Also included (when attending the LIVE event) –

– Overnight accommodation
– All meals / refreshments throughout
– Networking throughout with other fleet professionals
– Invite to our exclusive evening dinner

PLUS, you can also enjoy access to a series of live seminar sessions about Electric Vehicles and future challenges within the industry.

7th & 8th July – Whittlebury Park, Northamptonshire

All you need to do is confirm your attendance options here via our online booking form (flexible options include full event, or either day).

Don’t miss out on building essential business connections with innovative solution providers that can support all aspects of your fleet responsibilities.

If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact us here –