It has been an uphill battle for Jacob Telemacque. Leaving school with no qualifications at the age of 15 does not usually bode well for job prospects, let alone building a career.
But, speaking to the 22-year-old, it’s easy to understand how he has proved any doubters wrong and carved himself a career in the fleet industry.
Telemacque is now responsible for a fleet of 331 cars and vans for Kings Security Systems, a national operation with its headquarters in Bradford.
His attention to detail and analysis of the fleet has already saved the business tens of thousands of pounds and is improving driver safety. But, seven years ago, fleet management was not something that he had heard of, let alone considered a career in.
On first leaving school, work was a Saturday job in a kitchen and bathroom showroom.
His employer would later offer him a full-time position, but when the business went into liquidation in October 2012, Telemacque turned to City Training Services, a Bradford-based organisation which helps get people into apprenticeship programmes.
He was offered an apprenticeship at Kings as a fleet assistant, dealing with fines and penalty charge notices, speed alerts and general administration duties.
Learning on the job, Telemacque was also back in the classroom and within 18 months had passed an NVQ Level 2 in business administration.
His hard work did not go unnoticed at the security firm because when the-then fleet manager left her role in July 2014, Telemacque was appointed fleet coordinator and given the opportunity to manage the fleet.
The promotion to fleet manager however, was on the condition he took and passed an Institute of Car Fleet Management (ICFM) qualification. He didn’t need asking twice.
Telemacque admits it was hard studying for the five modules in car fleet management, the majority of which was done through distance learning, while simultaneously rewriting the company’s fleet handbook. But it was worthwhile. “It’s been amazing,” he says. “The whole experience not only broadened my knowledge of the fleet industry, it changed me as a person too.”
The course took Telemacque 18 months to complete, taking his last exam on Christmas Eve, before learning he had passed on January 4. “It was a great way to start the New Year,” he says.
His promotion was confirmed, becoming the fleet manager at Kings four years after joining the company and just seven years after leaving school.
Despite achieving so much in such a short space of time, Telemacque has no intention of resting on his laurels. “I intend to start diploma next year,” he says.
For now, however, he is clear what his number one priority is. “My main focus is to get maximum benefit out of the fleet operation for the minimum spend,” he says.
The past year has involved extensive analysis of vehicle hire spend, maintenance recharges and vehicle off-road time.
“My objective is to reduce these,” says Telemacque. “I’ve got all the analysis done so I can now start benchmarking the performance of the fleet against previous years to find out where we’re going wrong and what we can do to improve it.”
Good progress has already been made, with savings achieved, emissions cut and interventions introduced to improve driver and vehicle safety.
The Kings fleet consists of 331 job-need vehicles; 142 cars and 189 vans. All vehicles are funded via contract hire with full maintenance on a three-year term, with an average mileage of 40,000 miles per annum.
Currently, TCH Leasing is supplying 315 of the vehicles on the Kings fleet, with the remaining cars and vans supplied by Lookers and Lex Autolease.
“We have an agreement in place with TCH Leasing to pool our mileage, which saves us money on excess charges,” says Telemacque.
“Since I’ve taken over, I haven’t seen an invoice for excess mileage, but if it’s coming up to the end of the three-year contract term and a vehicle has done only 80-90,000 miles, we’ll extend the contract for a further 12 months, which will also bring the lease costs down.”
The van fleet is predominantly made up of Ford and Vauxhall vehicles, with a handful of Renault and Mercedes-Benz models.
Telemacque, with the help of TCH Leasing, decided to start switching his vans from Vauxhall to Ford at the beginning of 2014.
“The Courier was coming in at £45 per month cheaper than the Combo on the same contract, same terms and same mileage,” he says. “That’s a saving of £1,890 per month across the 42 Couriers we run, which equates to just over £90,000 over a four-year term.”
Telemacque says the help he has received from TCH Leasing has been invaluable, especially when he was first starting out in the role.
The average CO2 for the car fleet is 106g/km and for vans it is 154g/km, while more than one-third (36%) of the total fleet is now below 100g/km.
Telemacque is keen to reduce that further, particularly as the fleet covers 13.2 million miles per year.
Outlay on fuel has already fallen dramatically, with Kings now spending £20,000 per week on diesel, a 17% year-on-year reduction. “We have seen a £4,000 per week fall,” he says. “That has been achieved by new, more fuel efficient vehicles coming on to the fleet and the fall in fuel prices.”
Further savings have been realised through Telemacque’s perseverance with his fuel card provider.
He explains: “AllStar implemented a network service fee of £1.42 a transaction.
“We were doing, on average, 1,500 transactions a month which was costing Kings around £25,000 in transaction fees.
“I managed to get this waived on the basis that we paid £2 per card per month which saved Kings around £18,000.”
Meanwhile, to help cut collisions, the security firm turned to its insurer for advice and decided to employ both inward and outward facing in-cab cameras to 90 of its vehicles.
The system cost £16,000 to implement, with the insurer covering almost half through a £7,500 contribution.
Telemacque believes this will enable the company to counter fraudulent claims.
“I was starting to see examples of incidents where a driver had gone into the back of the vehicle in front and the next thing you know there are four injury claims coming through when there was only one person in the vehicle,” he says. “It’s an excellent tool.”
Telemacque started deploying the cameras six months ago, fitting them in cars and vans used by trainees, before fitting them to vehicles employed by its service engineers.
“Our focus has been on the younger and higher-mileage drivers,” he says.
He has yet to make a decision on the wider roll-out of the technology, but early indications suggest the cameras are proving successful.
“Some drivers weren’t happy about the internal camera,” says Telemacque. “But, with the footage stored on an SD card rather than providing a live feed, they were happier when they understood it would be reviewed only in the event of an accident or a complaint from the member of the public.”
Good driving behaviours have been incentivised by telematics (see panel, left) and a not inconsiderable excess fee of £1,000 if a driver is involved in an at-fault accident.
He says: “The cameras ensure there’s no problem in proving liability.”
Telemacque also recognises the importance of employing a rigorous licence-checking regime.
Choosing to outsource the service, drivers with zero points on their licence are checked every 12 months; one to five points every six months; six to nine every four months; and 10 or more every three months.
Telemacque says that potential new recruits have their licences checked before they are hired, and since he took over the company has not hired any driver with more than three points.
Driver training is next on his agenda, with a scheme currently being introduced for the firm’s drivers. All new recruits will be expected to undergo both on-the-road and classroom-based training.
“I want to really focus on the apprentices that have been here for four years and may have passed their test only two or three months before passing their apprenticeship and being given a company vehicle for the first time,” says Telemacque.
Training will be paid for by Kings, but any driver who has two accidents in a 12-month rolling period will be expected to undergo training and cover the cost. “If the money’s coming out of their own pocket, hopefully it will instil some discipline,” he says.
Telemacque’s hard work is already starting to pay dividends for the fleet, but his success in forging a career in the face of such adversity cannot be ignored.
“I really enjoy running the fleet,” says Telemacque. “I never thought I would be in this position and I’m glad I got the opportunity so early in my career.
“By the time I’m 30 , who knows, I could be fleet director at Kings with a fleet of more than 500 vehicles.”
£1.5M telematics investment paying dividends
A web-based planning and tracking system that went live in January at a cost of £1.5 million over three years is already paying dividends.
The Aeromark telematics system has been fitted to the Kings service fleet to improve scheduling and record driver behaviours such as speeding and idling.
When a job comes into the company, the technology seeks out the nearest available driver who has the right skill set to carry out the work.
Jacob Telemacque says: “Since the implementation of the Aeromark system, our customer response time has improved enormously, from 75% to 95%, increasing the number of calls we can do by 1.5 per day, per engineer.”
The system is also helping Kings ensure vehicle inspections are routinely carried out.
“Every Monday, before a driver can log on for his first job, they have to check their vehicle and confirm it through the system,” says Telemacque.
“It means I can then be notified of any defects straight away.”