Fleet manager Dug Brown has introduced low emission cars at all grades so staff can make the most of next April's carbon dioxide-based tax changes, and has also given them the choice of taking a Peugeot 206 HDi Eco.
The 206 has CO2 emissions of 120g/km, making it one of the cleanest cars on the market, and it is 10per cent more fuel efficient than its sister 206 HDi.
Employees that take the car, which is in the lowest tax band of 18per cent (15 per cent plus the 3 per cent diesel penalty), will more often than not be better off, especially as Somerfield is giving them a salary supplement for taking it.
Brown has also looked at an LPG option, and reviews it regularly. He said: 'Our decisions on which vehicles to list are based on wholelife costs, safety and suitability. LPG vehicles do not yet meet our criteria.'
Somerfield runs an all-diesel fleet of 1,300 cars and 400 light commercial vehicles in five bands: essential users, managers, executives, and two for directors. The firm has been offering cash alternatives for several years, although the option has not been available to high mileage (more than 18,000 business mile) users, but with the changes next year hitting that grade in particular, Somerfield has offered those drivers the opportunity to opt out.
Conscious of a duty of care to its staff, the firm has implemented a fleet policy which covers all staff doing business miles, in private or company cars, and includes checking insurance, maintenance and licences.
Since half the fleet covers more than 18,000 business miles a year, getting across the impact of the tax change is vital. Brown said: 'With the options described, and the recent rapid advances in diesel technology, the great majority of our drivers have the option of being financially better off.'
Since April 1999, Brown has been at pains to ensure his drivers know about the changes. He said: 'We have a three-year change cycle and drivers choosing cars after that date might be affected. Car choice lists have included emissions figures since it has been available. Most drivers have had enough notice to accept the change, but we still have detailed consultations on actual costs.'
Although Brown believes his fleet is well prepared, some drivers will always remain oblivious. 'I expect to be explaining the new rules well into 2003,' he said.