Providing access to accessible vehicles: Scania Financial Services' flexible approach to PSVAR funding
28 March 2022
The landscape for coach operators has changed dramatically over the past two years with new regulations, the drive for inclusivity and the coronavirus pandemic all playing a part.
The final provisions of the PSVAR 2000 regulations, which cover public service vehicles with a carrying capacity of more than 22 passengers, have now been in force since January 2020. While the aim of the legislation is to provide greater levels of inclusivity for those with mobility issues, implementing PSVAR has proved especially challenging for coach operators due to vehicle supply problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic which has gripped the world since the legislation came into effect.
Today, those supply problems continue. As a consequence, Buses Minister Baroness Vere wrote to coach and rail operators and local authorities last December stating the government's intention to extend existing extensions for home-to-school and rail replacement services until the end of the 2021-22 academic year. Additionally, the government will offer qualified medium-term exemptions to operators whose existing exemptions are scheduled to expire this summer in order to maintain essential services. It is important to note, however, that the exemptions will not run indefinitely; ultimately, PSVAR-equipped public service vehicles, be they buses or coaches, will become the norm.
In parallel to supply issues, the massive downturn in coach travel caused by the pandemic led many operators to re-evaluate their business models and seek new opportunities in order to survive. For many, tendering for home-to-school or rail replacement contracts was an appealing option, but to do so PSVAR vehicles were required.
The industry thus faced, and continues to face, a conundrum; how to balance increased demand for PSVAR vehicles with a shortage of supply. One innovative solution providing an instant answer was implemented by Scania. This sees coaches from its used vehicle stock being retrofitted with PSVAR equipment. Initially, this work was carried out in conjunction with Scania's long-term bodybuilding partner, Irizar, with used coaches returned to Irizar's base in Spain for retrofitting. The first operator to avail itself of this service was Hitchin, Hertfordshire-based Britannia Coaches, which was looking to quickly source two PSVAR-equipped coaches for use on rail replacement services.
Today, however, as the world begins to hopefully emerge from the pandemic, that option has gone as Irizar has returned to focussing on the production of new vehicles. Nonetheless, Scania can still provide a PSVAR retrofit solution using local sources of supply.
The current situation is that operators effectively have three PSVAR options to choose from:
- Order a new coach built to PSVAR specification – the longest lead time.
- Order a new coach and have PSVAR equipment retrofitted after delivery – a practical option which allows use of the vehicle until a PSVAR build slot becomes available.
- Purchase a used coach and have it converted to PSVAR specification as soon as a build slot becomes available – a course of action which provides instant vehicle availability with PSVAR compliance in the longer term.
Scania Financial Services (SFS) can offer a financial solution for each of these scenarios.
"The funding of new vehicles is very much a bread-and-butter operation for SFS," says Internal Account Manager, Greg Randall. "That's what we do, and have done since we began in business 30 years ago.
"For those wishing to order a new vehicle and have it retrofitted with PSVAR equipment, we can provide a finance package that initially covers the acquisition of the vehicle only. Then, when the PSVAR retrofit takes place, we can reschedule the agreement to take into account the cost of the additional equipment. In this way, the operator only pays for the PSVAR element of his purchase once it has been fitted. What's more, to give the operator complete peace of mind, all of this is set out in advance in our original proposal.
"The same holds true for used vehicles. Here, SFS offers a service that may be difficult to obtain from a High Street lender as our industry experience gives us the confidence to lend on a coach which is, say, five or six years old, in the knowledge that it has a further ten years or so service life ahead of it.
"As an organisation itself committed to inclusivity, Scania Financial Services is very much in the business of helping operators meet the demands and requirements of PSVAR in the best and most convenient way possible. As such, I would urge anyone wishing to know more about the solutions we can offer to contact our team of bus and coach industry specialists, who will be delighted to assist."
If you would like to find out more about how we can help with PSVAR, contact us here.