Managing Your Fleet

SAF Cleaning: How a well-maintained vehicle can be part of your brand identity

5 min read

17 July 2018

Former special projects journalist

Simon Freer’s cleaning company operates a fleet of five vans transporting cleaning equipment around Surrey. Here, he tells us more about the role they play within the business.

SAF Professional Cleaning Services, based in Kingston, does what it says on the tin – it provides professional 24/7 cleaning services to domestic and commercial clients.

The business typically operates throughout Surrey, and its teams use the latest equipment and chemicals to provide a range of cleaning services, from the everyday window and carpet cleaning to end of tenancy services. SAF owns and operates five vans, which it uses as company vehicles and for working on site with customers.

Real Business caught up with Simon Freer, founder and managing director of SAF, to find out more about the business’ fleet operation. 

What type of vehicles are in your fleet and how did you choose them?

We use vans and have chosen them because they are the right sized vehicles for the work we undertake – transporting cleaning equipment – to and from jobs all across Surrey and South London.

How do you fund your fleet?

We own two vehicles outright and have the others on a lease to purchase contract because that’s the most cost and tax efficient way to run a fleet. This model works for us because we get a full warranty for four years, after which time we have the option to get a new van plus the cost is 100% tax deductible. We bought 2 new vans like this at the start of the year and secured a very good deal through Wilsons Van Centre in Surrey and the others were bought online via a company based in Bristol. It’s important to shop around for the best prices. 

Does your carbon footprint matter to you? What do you do to keep emissions and fuel costs down?

Yes, it’s really important and we try to be as environmentally efficient as possible – that’s another reason why we prefer to leave the vans and have the option to switch out the fleet regularly. We are well aware of the forthcoming legislation that’s going to restrict driving inside London and want to stay as emissions friendly as possible.

How have you future-proofed your fleet? What changes will your business look to make as it scales up?

By leasing the vans and switching them every four years. Vans are a necessity for us to deliver our service and it’s really down to the manufacturer to make sure they are economical and environmentally friendly.

Would you use a fleet management provider or do you prefer to keep your fleet in-house? Why?

We have quite a small fleet still so manage everything in-house. If we were running a fleet of 20 or 30 things would be different and we would outsource. We use a mechanic to handle all the vehicle management and they send us reminders whenever anything needs attending to.

What have you found to be the biggest challenge with fleet management?

We don’t have any problems generally because the vans are under warranty and whenever there is a problem it’s straightforward to have them fixed. Some of our fleet has been modified for window cleaning and if those vehicles go down it’s more disruptive, but we have fleet insurance and to date have never had to cancel jobs due to fleet problems.

How do you brand your vehicles? How much do you think your reputation as a business is affected by the appearance of the vehicles in your fleet?

Branding is very important and customers expect us to look professional and operate a well-maintained fleet – it’s especially important given that we are a cleaning company. How can we expect customers to trust us to deliver excellence if the appearance of our fleet is letting us down? Corporates are especially sensitive to this. We have invested in very smart signage for all the vans and it’s very much part of our brand identity – we’re clearly recognisable when the vehicles are out and about and that’s very visual marketing.

What would be your dream car?

I am not really a big car person but I do like Range Rovers so would probably go for one of those.

If you could go on a road trip anywhere, where would you go?

I’d go back to the USA, to California and drive down from San Francisco to San Diego.