The shelves and walls surrounding Val South’s desk are adorned with congratulatory cards, messages and flowers following her Fleet News Awards win.
Xerox’s fleet manager of the year has built up a sizeable network of contacts during her 43 years at the company, the past 32 in fleet.
It’s a tribute to South’s geniality, hard graft and professionalism that so many of them were eager to toast her success.
During her time in fleet, much has changed. Back when she started, everything was done in-house via a department of 15 people.
Cars were bought outright; the names of drivers were stored on cardboard. Now the department numbers two.
Administration is outsourced, the workshops have been closed and cars are leased or offered on an employee car ownership scheme.
Duty of care is now a priority. “We never used to even ask for driving licences,” South says with a sense of incredulity.
Now, risk is one of the major issues for the business, not least because of the tougher penalties facing companies who fail to meet their responsibilities.
Mixed in with safety is the focus on cost. The Xerox fleet has historically been heavily influenced by human resources – South reports into HR. Now the pendulum has swung more towards finance.
“We’re not so touchy-feely” says South.
“Fleet has more focus at a senior level because it is one of our highest cost areas. It’s always on the agenda in board discussions.”
Fleet News: Xerox offers a blended car scheme with a combination of ECO and contract hire. Why does that work best for you?
Val South: We introduced ECO in 2005 on the back of an employee survey which showed people wanted more choice and some had issues over tax. ECO was a solution – staff don’t pay benefit-in-kind but they make a contribution to Xerox.
Over three years this has saved the company £1 million. However, it doesn’t work for everyone because you have an engrossment on the benefit to pay the taxman because insurance is paid for the employee by Xerox.
HMRC doesn’t get BIK, but we have to pay an amount to them.
For some employees, we have to pay a lot of engrossment, especially those who are not doing a lot of business mileage.
All job-need drivers go into the ECO scheme; for others we have a calculator which works out the best way to finance each based on the car, tax and contribution.
If it’s contract hire, the employee is slightly worse off so we make a cost neutrality payment.
Although 60% of the fleet is job-need, we have 900 on ECO and a couple of hundred on contract hire.
FN: In addition to your company car scheme, Xerox started offering cash allowance in 1999. Are you intending to bring people back into the car scheme?
VS: We have changed the way we calculate the cash allowance. It never used to be linked to the price of actually buying a car – now it is.
We have served notice to our 800 cash takers that the scheme will change in September and then reviewed annually to ensure we are in tune with the marketplace.
This has encouraged people to look back at the car scheme because there are no addition costs and it is hassle-free.
With cash there are unknowns with unexpected repair bills.