In a major survey of 415 fleet decision-makers, responsible for fleets of between 20 and more than 1,000 vehicles, hundreds of respondents gave a vote of no-confidence to Government strategies designed both to meet global commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to reduce sharply the millions of hours fleet drivers waste in traffic jams every week.
The Avis ECO Reader Survey 2002, conducted by daily rental giant Avis in association with Fleet News, found that 70.6% of respondents think attempts to introduce workplace parking charges will have no effect on congestion or car dependency.
'With a high proportion of staff travelling to work by car, and many parking off-site, the effectiveness of car parking charges is called into question,' said the report. The report also established that almost half (47.7%) the fleet executives thought that congestion charges would be an effective measure, although 37.7% disagreed.
'It is assumed congestion charging will reduce the number of non-essential journeys where public transport is a viable alternative', said the report.
Fleets do support direct action to reduce traffic levels where it will help their essential users reach appointments and jobs more quickly.
While only 33.2% of those questioned agree with controlling access to city centres for all journeys, 72.7% back clamping down on non-essential journeys. This raises a key problem for policy-makers, as setting out a clearly-defined assessment of an 'essential journey' is almost impossible in today's varied business world.
Industry experts claim that within years, only the cleanest vehicles will gain access to city centres under tough new powers handed to local authorities.
But the survey found that 63.3% of fleet executives believe carbon dioxide-based taxes, the basis for company car tax, Vehicle Excise Duty and Fuel Scale Charge taxation systems, are ineffective in reducing congestion. The CO2-focused regimes may, however, persuade fleets and their drivers to select 'greener' cars, and 61% of those interviewed thought the CO2 emissions-based regime was fair.
However, winning the support of employees for alternatively-fuelled vehicles is proving more difficult, with the Avis survey revealing that 85% of firms believe none of their staff would be interested in clean fuel vehicles. A further 11% of firms said between a fifth and half of their staff might show an interest.
But staff enthusiasm may be affected by the lack of awareness among managers, with more than half respondents running fleets of less than 400 vehicles admitting they did not know the location of the nearest alternative fuel filling station.
Larger fleets were little better, with over 30% admitting they had no idea, while nearly 50% could only suggest 'miles away'. Of those who knew, 98% said it was within a 10-mile radius. In the majority of cases, fewer than 20% have actively encouraged staff to consider alternatively fuelled vehicles, falling below 10% for firms of more than 400 vehicles.
One message was clear from the research, however. 85% of the survey said they still felt there was a future for the company car. Only 8% said there was no future and of those 68% had fleets of less than 50 vehicles.
Car sharing fails to find favour
CAR sharing and city car clubs have yet to make in-roads into UK fleet policy, despite pressure on employers to maximise real estate values by building on office parking spaces and the imminent prospect of workplace parking charges.
The Avis ECO Reader Survey 2002 asked companies about their support both for car clubs - sharing a vehicle provided by a rental firm between companies and booking its use by the hour - and for car sharing.
Only 18% of the 415 fleet respondents said they support the car club concept, although a further 36.8% were undecided, while 45.2% dismissed the idea outright. 'Education about the business benefits and how a car club operation can be set-up and managed effectively is key to growth in this area,' said the report.
It also revealed that 56% of firms think their staff would revolt if asked to share their car travel to work.
When asked to list specifically which alternative travel plans they were considering or encouraging, of the 415 decision-makers running thousands of fleet vehicles, 25% said homeworking, 31% said environmentally-friendly vehicles, 12% said improved facilities for cyclists and 4% said more use of daily rental. Only 14% said they were not investigating any alternative travel programme.
Would you support the introduction of controls for vehicle entering busy city centres?
Type of Journey - Yes No Don't Know
For All journeys - 33.2% 45.3% 21.5%
For non-essential journeys - 72.7% 18.5% 8.9%
Would you consider the following charging programmes effective in reducing congestion?
Type of Charge Response - Yes No Not Sure
Increase in fuel duty - 8.4% 86.8% 4.8%
Workplace parking charges - 20% 70.6% 9.4%
Congestion charging - 47.7% 37.7% 14.7%
Carbon tax - 19.7% 63.3% 17.0%
A combination of the above - 39.3% 36.5% 24.1%.