Even with travel bans, business closures, and a patchwork of states on shelter-in-place orders due to the Coronavirus pandemic, fleets still need to facilitate services and get people and goods to where they need to go.
For Motorlease Corp., a Farmington, Conn.,-based fleet management company that operates in 50 states, that means meeting internal and external demands under extreme circumstances.
“In terms of client activity, it varies greatly,” says Joe Pelehach, vice president, adding that his company “is set up to work 100% remotely right now.”
While sales calls have virtually ground to a halt, he says many service fleets are going full steam, such as one client that provides parts for medical instruments. As such, Motorlease is adjusting to a disrupted process of getting vehicles to fleet clients and servicing them.
“We’re digging into every vehicle that's on order to check its status, where it is in that pipeline, and whether it’s at a port or in actual transportation,” says Jeff Perkins, vice president of operations.
At the dealership level, Motorlease is asking drivers to be mindful of new procedures. “We’re making sure that the vehicles are ready to go prior to the driver being notified,” says Perkins. “Some dealerships are open and some are not, so we're working around each of these issues as they come up.”
That entails contacting the grounding dealerships before they arrive and taking safety precautions such as meeting dealership staff outside and exercising social distancing. Motorlease is sending license plates directly to drivers and asking them to bring their own tools to put them on.
Servicing vehicles is another challenge, as dealerships and repair facilities adjust hours or close completely depending on government directives.
Motorlease has national accounts with the major service chains, but also allows drivers to use local facilities if it’s more convenient or if a national provider is closed. Motorlease will work out payments directly with the local shop or reimburse drivers directly for a credit card charge.
Pelehach and Perkins understand that the time may come when their clients will be financially impacted as a result of the business standstill, though this hasn’t hit just yet. Pelehach says the company’s longstanding policy of contracting almost exclusively with clients with excellent credit will mitigate the need for drastic measures.
If any abnormal de-fleeting needs to happen, Pelehach says Motorlease will analyze the fleet to see which older units might offer a less expensive exit, or if the unit can be transferred to a new rep.
“We have always tried to work in alignment with our clients to figure out ways that we can help, wherever we can bridge the gap,” Pelehach says. “We hope that this is a short-run phenomenon. The economy was really strong coming into this, and as we come out on the other side, everything will start to fall back into place.”
Back to Life
Motorlease is also looking to when the pandemic ends and business roars back to life.
Perkins says that most fleet clients have their 2020 orders in, though protracted shutdowns at the manufacturers will cause delays. Vehicle titling could be delayed due to DMV shutdowns, and when they do open there could be severe backlogs. “Deliveries may be slowed right at the point when the expectation is to have the vehicle on time,” Perkins says.
Similar issues will resurface when it’s time to de-fleet. Dealerships may have lots already overflowing with used vehicles and not be able to buy more. “There will be a multiplier effect with all of this,” Pelehach says.
However, whether during a global pandemic or an anomaly in the life of a business, the best practice is to have the flexibility to come up with solutions that reduce the impact of the problem. Says Pelehach: “We will always work with our customers in any way that we can.”