Database technicians worked round the clock to clean up the July 2000-vehicle database download after Stewart Whyte, managing director of consultancy Fleet Audits and a director of the Association of Car Fleet Operators, saw a pre-launch version and labelled the service 'a shambles'.
VCA staff had to reformat figures after Whyte had been asked his opinion of the Government's latest attempt to produce and deliver in a clear and workable format the pre-V5 certification emissions data exclusive to the agency which forms the foundation of the new Vehicle Excise Duty system from March, 2001, and the new company car tax regime from April, 2002.
'I couldn't believe what I was seeing,' Whyte said. 'The data just didn't make any sense. I simply had no idea what I was supposed to be looking at. From a fleet point of view it was useless. It was a shambles.'
The VCA's previous two print guides, issued six months apart, had been condemned persistently by the fleet industry as inaccurate and confusing, and the Government had acknowledged concerns about the lack of user-friendliness of tables, highlighting a potential administrative nightmare.
The debacle led to the launch of sister publication Fleet News' 'CO2 Confusion: Clear Up Clean Up' campaign in May last year. ACFO contacted the VCA on a number of occasions to offer guidance and Whyte himself had written to the agency giving a full technical explanation of what was required by fleets. He conceded that the VCA's new fuel and emissions website section worked for one-off information grabs through the fully searchable database - it allows users to search and compare individual models' fuel performance and carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrocarbons (HC), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), particles and noise emissions as well as which Euro Standards are met.
A spokesman for the VCA said it had been addressing issues raised by the fleet industry 'on an ongoing basis' and admitted the agency had had to draft in technical staff after Whyte highlighted the site's problems one working day before the official launch date.
'Mr Whyte made some very valid points and we've addressed the majority of those and are working on others,' he said. 'We're doing the best we can.'