Do clean fuel vehicles powered by liquefied petroleum gas have a future?
And what steps should employers be taking to meet their health and safety responsibilities towards at-work drivers?
The answers to these questions will determine fleet strategy for the next decade and beyond, and fleet executives will have the opportunity to hear the answers from the heart of Government at the Fleet News industry conference, Facing the Future, on November 6.
Transport Minister John Spellar (replacing David Jamieson) will lay out the Government's transport policy, how the Government hopes to work with fleets to combat gridlock and pollution, and the actions that Government would like to see employers undertake to ensure cleaner, safer roads.
Facing the Future conference delegates will also have the chance to put questions to the Minister, to clarify their understanding of official policy and to have their own opinions heard by one of the key influencers in the Labour administration.
They will also hear a radical vision for the future of transport in the UK from Professor David Begg, chair of the Commission for Integrated Transport, one of the most respected and influential transport professionals in the UK, and a speaker guaranteed not to pull his punches.
There is no doubt the problems, difficulties and inefficiencies facing travellers in the UK seem to be intensifying.
Many major routes are severely congested for hours every day, affecting commuters, employees driving to clients, and businesses trying to make deliveries. The alternatives, however, are no less appealing with strikes stalling the London Underground, and high cost and uncertain reliability undermining the appeal of the railways.
Facing the Future is an ideal opportunity for fleet executives to get face-to-face with a Government minister, hear first hand official Government policy and timescales, and then to factor this information into future corporate strategies.
THERE'S a quiet revolution about to take place in the way leasing companies and fleets buy and service their cars.
The issue is being driven by changes to the European competition rules that govern the way the motor industry operates. Under the heading of block exemption, the EC wants to see greater competition in the new car market and in the service, maintenance and repair market, and its new rules aim to strengthen the hand of car dealers and independent garages in their negotiations with car manufacturers.
The immediate corollary of this has been the termination of franchise agreements by manufacturers who are now reformating their contracts to comply with the new EC rules.
However, the way will also be open for new players to enter the market, with supermarket chains and internet operators tipped to start selling new cars.
So how will manufacturers react, how will dealer groups respond, and how will this affect fleets? The answers to these questions will be addressed at the conference by political and industry expert Malcolm Harbour MEP. Moreover, Rick Yarrow, managing director of Eurocarprice, will present new data that spells out the impact of the single currency for new and used cars on the continent, drawing conclusions for what is likely to happen in the UK should this country join the Euro.
ACCURATE residual value forecasting is the lifeblood of the leasing industry, dictating both the commercial success or failure of contracts and the profitability of contract hire firms.
Yet forecasting has become far more complex in recent years as model cycles have shortened, new niches appeared, and consumer demand for once popular cars completely vanished. Add into the mix two years of record new car sales, burgeoning double-digit growth for sales of diesel cars, and the new registration plate system, and the outlook for used car values has never looked so uncertain or precarious. But what will the impact of these be on used car prices next year, the year after and the year after that? What do the professional forecasters and industry market influencers think will happen to used car values? The conference will address the residual value debate head-on, identifying the model sectors more likely to prove popular to used car buyers in 2005 and 2006, and therefore more likely to retain their value. Experts will also highlight areas of higher risk, the red zones for depreciation, and the safe havens for predictable used car prices.
Ramesh Notra, chief economist at CAP, and Adrian Rushmore, managing editor of Glass's Information Services, will present their own companies' views of the future used car market, while John Lewis, director-general of the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association will represent the industry's views on how best to maximise future residual values.
SOMEWHERE on the horizon there's a hydrogen economy waiting to happen where everyone will drive around in zero emission cars producing nothing but water from their exhaust pipes. But in the meantime green-focused employers still need their staff to be mobile and their goods to be delivered in a viable and cost effective fashion that minimises pollution and environmental damage.
The new company car tax system has driven fleet demand for diesel-powered cars because of their lower emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the principal greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
But diesel cars also emit particulates that are blamed for damaging air quality and causing respiratory diseases, particularly in urban areas. The 'green' alternative to diesel is liquefied petroleum gas which produces lower and cleaner tailpipe emissions, but which also emits higher levels of CO2 than diesel.
So what fuel policies should environmentally-conscious fleets adopt? And will these policies satisfy the operational, human resource and budgetary requirements of fleets in the real world?
To debate this future fuel issue, two of the most influential figures in the UK motor industry, Robin Woolcock, managing director of Volkswagen Group UK, and Martyn Pring, head of marketing for TransportEnergy (which oversees the PowerShift programme designed to encourage the uptake of alternatively-fuelled vehicles) will present at the conference.
Book your place
Facing the Future, the Fleet News industry conference sponsored by Manheim Auctions and Kwik-Fit Fleet, takes place on November 6 at the Hilton London Metropole, Edgware Road, London, from 10am until 4.30pm.
Tickets cost £195 +VAT.
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