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Experts implore institutions to not miss the minibus


By Lisa O'Shea

A number of our contacts on CPC's Sustainable Fleet Solutions framework have outlined the importance of allowing for long leasing lead times in procuring minibus transport for your school, academy, college or university institution.

Lengthier leasing lead times for the procurement of minibuses, as commonly relied on by institutions the length and breadth of the UK, has become a flashpoint issue of late, with one contact in the industry commenting how their leasing situation was “in a bad place” at present and, concerningly, “with no end in sight”.

Minibuses are a consistently popular offering on our Sustainable Fleet Solutions framework, but the demand for new and replacement vehicles has seen lead times stretched to over 12 months. As a result, CPC members are strongly encouraged to plan far in advance of their leasing expiring, allowing for exceptional lead times to avoid disappointment and inconvenience. In contrast, approaching suppliers on a last-minute basis is unlikely to lead to a satisfactory outcome.

A second expert highlighted the struggles experienced by customers in acquiring 17-seat minibuses, revealing a current 18-month wait from order date, which could reduce to a year, within the next year. Attempting to facilitate a suitable solution, this particular supplier has increased their offering of ‘nearly new’ minibuses; vehicles that are typically less than three years old on arrival with the customer, but with a brand-new, 17-seat bus conversion. Regrettably, even these make-dos have taken longer to surface than one might hope, but the supplier was confident of getting these vehicles to the institutions inside five months or so, from the order date (with the hope of accelerating this process to 16 weeks). As things stand though, and in spite of any efforts to deliver appropriate alternatives on a temporary basis, there has been understandable frustration among institutions, as the lead time issues persist. In summary, demand is outstripping supply and looks set to continue to do so; in the words of our second supplier, it's “a bleak picture” for institutions wishing to secure minibuses.

Our third and final contact conveyed a similar message, lamenting how the market had not improved significantly since the height of COVID-19, with 9-12 month lead times described as “not uncommon”. They added that while some OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) had promised lead times of around six months, various unforeseen delays would add months to their expected date of delivery. A result is a need to communicate the situation well and appropriately manage member expectations, including price expectations, as the industry faces wholesale changes. It is observed the lack/delay of supply has pushed retail pricing up and OEM support down. Rental minibus availability might be especially low on the dates of school/university sporting fixtures (often on Wednesdays), with back-to-back bookings at these times accentuating a marked overall decrease in the number of providers of minibus vehicles in the marketplace.

With all this considered, CPC’s advice echoes that of our partners on the Sustainable Fleet Solutions framework, with members implored to start the process of minibus procurement as early as they can. For more on CPC’s Sustainable Fleet Solutions framework and its component lots comprising the provision of vehicle hire, leasing and more, click here or contact the agreement's Contract Manager, Lisa O' Shea, via [email protected]

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