COVID-19 pandemic bad for shared mobility, good for ICEs
How is the coronavirus outbreak affecting the European fleet and mobility industry? As testimonials from Italy and elsewhere indicate, the immediate losses are enormous. But crises are also opportunities for innovation.
Italy is the European epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic. It was first affected: the virus was officially detected on 29 January. And it has been hit the hardest, with around 35,000 confirmed cases and 3,000 deaths (as of 19 March).
After Italy, the virus spread rapidly to every corner of Europe, but the real impact and the countermeasures vary from country to country. At the moment, there are two main types of response.
• Countries like Italy, Spain, France and Belgium are taking severe measures, virtually going into ‘lockdown’ to control the spread of the virus, in order to ‘flatten the curve’: preventing a peak of critical cases that would overwhelm the capacities of each country’s health service.
• Countries like the UK and the Netherlands have (as yet) imposed less strict measures, which seem designed to both control the spread of the virus, but also to bet on the fact that enough people get infected and cured to generate so-called ‘herd immunity’, which would be a great asset in case of a second flare-up of the virus.
Two major takeaways: Europe is, once again, not speaking with a single voice. And the perfect instrument for that single voice – the European Union – remains deafeningly silent.
“The lack of one clear European voice is a pity,” say fleet experts Vincenzo Conte and Luc Pissens. Both point out that the international dimension of the coronavirus pandemic is crucial, so it would make sense to have a uniform policy at international level – if not globally then at least per continent.
Aniasa (the Italian association for leasing companies) estimates that activities in car rental, car sharing and airport mobility in the country have dropped by about 90%. Mr Conte (pictured), Chief Editor of Italy’s premier fleet magazine Auto Aziendali magazine, expects that devastating impact to be replicated for the country’s operational leasing business: “Most businesses are closed, dealerships and plants are closed, the order and delivery activities of leasing companies are closed. There is no movement of people and cars. So the leasing industry will be temporarily not needed, and not operational.”
But life must go on somehow, and e-commerce and home delivery are booming as a result. Italy has – by necessity – become a testing ground for all kinds of innovations in delivery solutions. “Businesses need to survive, so they look for ways to do business when and where possible. Food delivery in particular is one area where we can expect Italy to produce some innovative ideas.”
And what of the longer-term impact? “Corporates will postpone investments and renewals, which means less company cars. And I expect the shared mobility concept will be kicked back into the long grass. Smart, long-distance working may be the solution now, but I’m not sure how popular it will remain afterwards. Many employees may demand one or two days a week as a standard, but are employers going to follow?”
Mr Conte’s advice to people and fleets in other European countries:
• “Don’t underestimate this crisis. Italy has been hit extremely hard.”
• “We are regretting that we did not move faster to contain the crisis.”
• “Stay in your homes. And listen to the authorities.”
• “As for the economic impact: work so you’re prepared to recuperate what was lost when all this stops. We’re not there yet: we’re still living the crisis day by day, hoping it will get better soon.”
Mr Pissens (pictured), both Fleet & Mobility manager at Bank Degroof Petercam and president of the Belgian Fleet Managers Association (BFFMM), echoes Mr Conte – severe measures are needed. “It’s better to suffer a short shock than to undergo a longer period of hurt.”
Belgium had its first coronavirus case on 4 February and went into lockdown on 18 March. “The measures now taken will hopefully help us limit the outbreak in time and in casualties. But this is on the condition that we as a community respect those measures.”
“It’s as yet too early to measure the impact of the pandemic on the Belgian fleet and mobility industry, says Mr Pissens. “I haven’t yet received a lot of feedback from Association members, or from peers. This is a completely new situation, so I can imagine all executives and managers in the industry are still figuring out as they go along what has to be done and how to organise work for their employees.” Some facts are already clear, though: “The automotive industry has stopped. Dealerships are closed, which means no maintenance, no new-vehicle deliveries and no orders are being processed.”
As in Italy, Mr Pissens is witnessing an enormous boom in home working: “Our offices usually have about 700 people in, now it’s only about 50. The rest are working from home. Other companies are experiencing similar situations. Based on this experience, I think more companies will accept the concept of home working for certain employee clusters, perhaps not completely but let’s say one or two days a week.”
Due to the measures taken against the spread of the virus, using public transport and shared mobility have been discouraged and have taken a hit. “In the current climate, with the virus still expanding in Belgium and throughout Europe, you can imagine that promoting shared mobility is not the smartest thing to do – even though I know that the providers are taking all measures necessary in terms of disinfection,” Mr Pissens says.
One mid-term consequence of the coronavirus outbreak for mobility could be the revival of the one-car-one-driver principle, and of combustion engines, Mr Pissens concludes: “The coronavirus will lead to an economic downturn and this means companies will go for cost efficiency and cost neutrality even more than before. Coupled with decreasing oil prices, it looks like diesel and petrol cars will have the upper hand over EVs for a little while longer.”
Authored by: Steven Schoefs
COVID-19: more people are home to receive their parcels
The coronavirus may have brought public life to a halt in many European countries, it’s still business as usual for some industries. Postal companies and other delivery companies continue serving the public, though many have adapted their procedures.
David Abney, CEO, UPS, said: “The WHO and CDC have stated that the likelihood of catching the COVID-19 virus by touching cardboard or other another shipping container is low.” Except where limited by government restrictions, UPS is indeed maintaining delivery services.
UPS has provided its staff with strict guidelines to avoid spreading the infection. At the same time, the company has agreed to pay a 10-day paid-leave policy that covers around 300,000 employees if they should become directly impacted by the coronavirus.
the Belgian mail carrier Bpost has announced it continues its postal service within the country, though international mail is being affected. A spokesperson said: “The cancellation of many flights by airlines companies has prompted many postal companies in recent days to announce the suspension or delays in the sending and distribution of letters and parcels to non-European countries. This is among others the case for Denmark, Romania, Spain, Slovenia, Norway and Sweden.”
Bpost will also suspend sending letters and parcels to destinations outside of Europe. For that reason, clients in Belgium have been invited not to post letters and parcels for destinations outside of Europe.
Food delivery service Deliveroo has set in place contactless deliveries. “There is no contact between the customer and the rider or between the restaurant and the rider,” said Rodolphe Van Nuffel, the spokesman for Deliveroo Belgium. “We have sent information to restaurants to help them organise everything internally and our riders have received a video showing them how the handover should be done.”
In Belgium, as in a number of other countries, all restaurants and bars have been ordered to close but takeaway and deliveries are still allowed. “Some restaurants have decided to close completely but at the same time we have also been approached by a lot of restaurants that want to join us now. Fortunately, we can add new restaurants quite fast,” said Mr Van Nuffel.
So far no Deliveroo riders have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Nevertheless, Deliveroo created a rider fund in case that would happen. All riders are self-employed but Deliveroo has set aside this fund so drivers that are required to go into quarantine or drivers that are diagnosed with COVID-19 can still receive a fixed fee.
The Dutch mail carrier PostNL has also implemented changes to its procedures. Upon receiving a delivery, customers will no longer be asked to sign the deliverer’s hand-held scanner. Instead, the deliverer will take down the last three digits of the customer’s passport or driving licence card and sign for them.
Dagna Hoogkamer, a spokesperson for PostNL, points to a suprising silver lining to the current situation. “It’s convenient for our deliverers that so many people are working from home now, so more parcels can be delivered to the customer than usually.”
To date, it is not yet possible to comment on an increase or a decrease of particular mail volumes. “Our organisation is flexible enough to deal with peak demand at times like these, just like we also do each year at Christmas time,” said Ms Hoogkamer.
Image copyright: PostNL
Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck
COVID-19: Precautions to take when sharing mobility
Sometimes travel is impossible to avoid so if you find yourself having to use shared mobility, ride-hailing services or hotel rooms, here are the precautions you need to take to avoid exposure to or spreading COVID-19.
Firstly, if you think you may be infected – DON’T TRAVEL!
Where Coronavirus is concerned, there are no precautions effective enough to warrant anyone travelling when sick. How will you know when testing kits are scarce and the advice is against going to your doctor’s surgery? The simple advice is that if you feel at all unwell (cough, headache, fever symptoms), self-isolate.
Assuming you’re not unwell, what can you do to keep yourself and others safe?
As a shared mobility customer
1. The advice is not to car share with people you don’t live with. But if you use a car, bike or scooter that is also used by other people, here’s what to do:
2. Wash your hands immediately before and after.
3. Carry a hand sanitiser with you that is at least 60% alcohol and use it regularly throughout your journey.
4. As it is possible to disinfect and kill the virus on external surfaces, carry a pack of antibacterial surface wipes with you.
5. Put luggage in the boot of cars, rather than on the seats.
6. Use disposable gloves when cleaning and sanitising vehicles and dispose of them in a proper refuse bin as soon as you’re finished.
7. In cars, clean the door handles, gear shifter, key fob, steering wheel, external touchpoints and – most importantly – the dashboard. As air is constantly being sucked over and circulated inside the car, the dashboard can harbour bacteria and viruses. Also clean door buttons, seat belts and touchscreens. You should do this every time you use the vehicle.
8. Wear disposable gloves when filling up and using fuel pumps and keypads.
9. Rather than harsh disinfectants, use a mild soap solution combined with leather conditioner on leather surfaces.
As a ride-hailing customer
1. Alongside 1-4 above, keep your hands to yourself and use contactless or electronic payment options rather than cash when possible.
2. Don’t lean into the cab to tell the driver where you want to go – keep a distance of at least two meters between yourself and them at all times.
3. Keep the front passenger seat free, sit in the back.
4. Take more than one cab if there are too many people in your party to keep the front seat free.
Using hotel rooms safely
Most hotels have a high standard of hygiene and it’s natural to expect that at times such as these they will be applying extra precautions but here are additional steps you can and should take:
1. Wipe down surfaces with disinfecting wipes and increase your hand hygiene.
2. Consider bringing your own pillowcase (which you should pack up in a separate plastic bag and launder immediately when you get home).
3. Disinfect light switches, alarm clocks, landline phones and remote controls, cabinets, drawer handles, doorknobs, door locks, desk surfaces, information booklets and brochures.
4. Take your own water bottle and don’t drink from hotel room glasses or ceramic mugs.
5. Don’t touch your face or mouth with your hands.
6. Avoid using the gym – exercise in your room instead or outside the hotel.
7. Don’t unpack toiletries on to the bathroom shelf.
8. Exercise caution when eating in hotel restaurants, particularly self-service breakfast areas.
Authored by: Alison Pittaway