5 ways installers can cut costs while in the van

With so much time spent on the roads, it’s vital that installers are cutting costs wherever possible. A few changes can make all the difference, according to Stuart Thomas – Head of Fleet
Services at The AA.

The UK’s installer community spends a phenomenal amount of time behind the wheel. Whether it’s commuting to the job, getting stuck in a traffic jam or driving around the block for the fifth time trying to find that all elusive non-permit parking space, managing motoring can be a significant drain on both time and money.
Factor in the inevitable parking fine or congestion charge that crops up at least once a month and it could be enough to make any business owner or driver tear out their hair.
Indeed, time is money and turning up late to an appointment is rarely acceptable – especially when arrival could mean the difference between a customer freezing their socks off or stuck with no hot water. For businesses looking to get a handle on their hidden motoring costs, there are a few key areas to start.
1 – Plan the direction of travel
There are numerous route-planning tools on the market – from the simple postcode maps to sophisticated time management software. However, they really pay dividends when it comes to plotting the best route from A to B. It’s not always possible to know how long a job is going to take, but taking a strategic approach to plotting appointments means mileage can be kept to a minimum, time spent on the road reduced and more of the working day focused on fee-earning work.
The latest in-vehicle navigation systems all feature live traffic information, so blackspots can be avoided, while job updates can be sent straight to drivers on the road so they don’t have to keep returning to base between every appointment. With the latest fleet management and telematics technologies, it’s possible to keep an eye on all vehicles and make sure that the closest installer is sent to each job.
2 – Drive responsibly
We all know the temptation of a heavy foot when running late for an appointment but, speeding tickets aside, there are a number of penalties for driving irresponsibly. As well as the increased risk of an accident and putting yourselves on the police radar, an erratic driving style can reduce fuel economy and increase wear and tear on gears, brakes and tyres. Department for Transport figures state up to 9% more fuel driving at 70mph than at 60mph, and up to 15% more fuel than driving at 50mph.
To keep motoring costs down, it’s important to maintain a steady speed, accelerate and brake slowly, exploit stop/start technology to reduce idling time and switch off the engine when stuck in traffic. Many business vehicles come fitted with monitoring technology that provides real-time driver feedback so performance can be checked against fuel consumption targets and smooth driving objectives.
The secret to achieving a high mpg figure is driving at the lowest speed possible, safely, in the highest possible gear.
3 – Ensure regular vehicle maintenance
Regular servicing might seem like a hassle, especially when the aim is just to get on to the next job, but taking the time to make sure a vehicle is in top condition really pays off when it comes to preventing unnecessary downtime. Keeping tyres fully inflated and removing roof racks, ladders or heavy tools when they are not needed can both help save fuel, while checking the engine and fluid levels are key to avoiding breakdowns.
Interior and exterior cleaning should also be considered, with brake dust on alloy wheels causing corrosion if not cleaned off regularly. Keeping a vehicle clean and tidy will mean it’s worth more when the time comes to sell or trade in, as well as inspiring more confidence from customers due to the professional image being presented. Remembering to change out of dirty overalls, remove soiled shoes and wash hands before getting behind the wheel can all pay dividends.
4 – Be covered
Of course, no matter how much care is taken, there is always the chance of a breakdown – usually at the most inconvenient moment. This unplanned downtime could mean jobs are missed, the chance to earn is lost and customers are dissatisfied.
Not to mention that drivers are left hanging around at the side of the road.
Communication is key and it is important that everyone taking a business vehicle out on the road understands what to do if anything goes wrong. It makes sense to review a breakdown provider and ensure the right level of business cover for any eventuality. Depending on how the vehicles are used will determine the policy needed and a quick call to the breakdown provider should be able to help.
Just one breakdown on the motorway could cost a business more than £250 – not including loss of earnings – whereas ongoing business breakdown cover would see repairs and parts covered on the spot.
5 – Take charge of motoring costs
For installers keen to get on with the job at hand, unexpected motoring costs can prove to be a real distraction. Alongside the expected fuel and servicing costs, unplanned downtime and repair bills can have a significant impact on an installer’s business – whether that’s a fleet of hundreds or a single vehicle failing to make it to the appointment.
A few key actions – route planning, driving style, regular maintenance and breakdown cover – can make all the difference when it comes to taking charge of motoring costs.