February 29, 2024

Stay grounded

David McNeill, AVP Global Corporate Sales EMEA at Enterprise, outlines why travel managers must continue to be more engaged with ground transportation post pandemic

The ‘rental attachment’ has only been a priority for a handful of travel bookings in Europe. Here, the focus has been more typically on matching hotels and flights. Ground transportation choices are generally at the traveller’s discretion, and in fact, this ‘user-chooser’ approach is often seen as empowering employees.

Travel managers became much more engaged in ground transportation with the suspension of air travel during Covid, as businesses still needed to arrange business trips. This made ground transportation a much more mainstream option and this continues now that air-based business travel returns.

While one option is to resume the previous ‘user-chooser’ model where employees make their own decisions, this can lead to a number of inefficiencies and mask some real environmental impacts when travellers choose their own transport modes.

More than ever, creating travel policies that prioritise efficient, sustainable and rigorous ground transportation options will drive the right employee behaviours and bring long-term business benefits.

Why ground transport matters

Vehicle availability is a very real consideration, and as with flights and hotel rooms, businesses cannot now assume that an employee will be able to pick up a vehicle whenever they want to.

Yesterday’s commuter may also be today’s business traveller. A sharp change in working patterns with the growth of remote and hybrid working means ground transport is an integral factor in how businesses adapt. If the primary workplace is now home, a trip to the office by car for a meeting is a business trip and not a commute and therefore needs to be managed.

Our experience is that employees often default to using their own vehicles for work. This results in what becomes effectively an unmanaged ‘grey fleet’ of business vehicles which are typically older and less well-maintained. This leads to a range of hidden issues that are the responsibility of the business, including mileage reimbursement costs, duty of care liability and emissions.

The shift to solutions

The provision of ground transportation is increasingly a data- and solution-led exercise. It often begins with data capture as businesses realise they know very little about how their employees travel once they get off that plane.

Forward planning, underpinned by a flexible travel policy, means businesses can take advantage of an increasingly rich shared transport ecosystem that includes new modes such as e-bikes and scooters alongside car hire as options for business travel.

Designing a ground transportation RFP carefully to look beyond daily rental rates is critical. Focus on the provider’s current and future plans for extending their fleet and network; for introducing technologies that facilitate data capture; for locating vehicles at transport hubs as well as communities and neighbourhoods; and for integrating with other modes of travel to make it easier for employees to pick up the right transport type as and when they need it.

The right journey planning and travel policies can also help ensure organisations meet their Net Zero targets and ESG objectives. That extends beyond electric vehicles – although EVs are an area that needs to be considered carefully.

Again, these are questions that can be addressed before the RFP comes around. How does rental fit into a broader move towards active and shared travel? Are EVs right for our future journey profiles? What business trips are actually justifiable in the first place?

There is also scope for buyers to be open to broader solutions. Many businesses are enrolling employees into a car club or car sharing, to access an on-street network as well as hosting dedicated vehicles at their offices.

The employee focus on selecting a convenient and accessible mode of transport is an important factor, but this often leads to choices that are not aligned with corporate goals. It’s vital that travel managers continue their focus on ground transport to ensure they build solutions that meet every business need.