Fleet News

News review 2003

A LOOK back at some of the biggest fleet stories of the year.

January

Fleet decision-makers named driver safety and meeting their duty of care to employees on the road as top priorities for 2003. The findings were revealed in an exclusive Fleet News survey carried out with Lex Vehicle Leasing. Other concerns were increases in National Insurance Contributions, cash-for-car schemes and congestion charging.

  • British-based manufacturers stole the limelight at the Detroit Motor Show with the new Rolls Royce Phantom and Aston Martin AMV8 grabbing the attention.
  • Industry leaders held head-to-head talks with the Government on proposals to impose tough new limits on the number of hours van drivers can work.
  • Half of Britain's companies were warned they faced fines of up to £5,000 because they missed the deadline to get their fleet details registered on the Motor Insurance Database.

    February

    LONDON'S controversial congestion charging scheme was introduced. Motorists were charged £5 per day to enter the capital and fears that drivers would face two months of road chaos proved unfounded.

  • A new system for ranking company cars by their emissions was hailed as a potential blueprint for a new Europe-wide taxation system.
  • New legislation was introduced making a valid V5 registration document a necessity to tax any vehicle as part of a Government initiative to combat crime.
  • Lex Defence was awarded a £100 million contract to supply specialist vehicles to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in what was one of the largest fleet deals in history.

    March

    BRITAIN'S best in fleet were recognised at the 15th Fleet News Awards, held at Le Meridien Grosvenor House Hotel in London in front of 1,300 people. Barry Illing, road fleet manager at EWS Railway was the biggest winner of the night, taking away the Mazda-sponsored UK Fleet of the Year trophy.

  • Employers were warned they should introduce a ban on the use of all private cars for business purposes in a bid to take control of staff health and safety on the road.
  • The Geneva Motor Show illustrated the motor industry's push to maximise new niche sectors. Vehicles shown for the first time were Renault's new Scenic mini-MPV, the production version of the Vauxhall Signum and Audi's new A3.
  • Up to one in six company car drivers' tax codes were reported to be incorrect as 17.5% of company car coding notices issued by the Inland Revenue were wrong, following the previous year's changes to the company car tax system.

    April

    CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced his Budget 2003. Among measures affecting the fleet industry were the announcement of a new fuel scale charge to tax the benefit of free fuel and a tougher lower limit to qualify for the minimum benefit-in-kind tax band for company cars to be introduced in 2005/06. He also increased the cost of taxing vehicles by £5. These measures and more were covered at a Fleet News Budget Briefing, sponsored by Arval PHH and AllStar.

  • Fleet News celebrated its 25th anniversary with a special commemorative edition.
  • Britain's workers gave the company car a vote of confidence, rating it higher than a generous holiday allowance or flexi-time working, in a Godfrey Davis Contract Hire study.
  • Research from Transport- Energy suggested that fleets using green fuels were set to save £3 million this year as a result of avoiding paying London's congestion charge. Alternative-fuelled vehicles, such as dual-fuel cars and vans receive a 100% discount on the £5-a-day charge.

    May

    THE fleet industry entered the corridors of power following a summit meeting with then Transport Minister John Spellar. A five-strong delegation from the Association of Car Fleet Operators visited Westminster with a packed agenda.

  • Experts warned that untrained fleet managers could be costing their employers hundreds of thousands of pounds every year because they do not have the right skills to acquire and run company vehicles efficiently.
  • Fleet decision-makers came under renewed pressure to impose strict checks on business drivers' health amid warnings that the labelling of over-the-counter medicines is inconsistent, inaccurate and could be dangerous.
  • The Government was criticised for leaving fleets in the dark over proposals for legislation on corporate killing, which had been the subject of discussion for the previous two years.

    June

    FLEET News launched its successful 'Get Trained' campaign that called on employers to help support fleet decision-makers by giving them the training they need to do their jobs. The launch of the campaign followed the terrific response to the story in May about untrained fleet managers.

  • Fleets were warned to be on their guard against fuel fraud after an investigation at one of Britain's largest insurers uncovered a £150,000 fuel card scam.
  • A Government-backed investigation into accident rates among company vehicles has created a best practice blueprint for reporting crashes that could be rolled out throughout the country. If adopted, it would mean employers are required to create an in-depth record of every serious accident.
  • The liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry attempted to allay fears that the price of the fuel could soar under a Government fuel duty review and leave them with crumbling residual values.

    July

    FLEETS were warned they could be walking into a sex discrimination minefield when creating car allocation policies for employees. It followed an employment tribunal that awarded three female former area sales managers more than £26,000 in compensation after they won their sex discrimination and unfair dismissal claims. Part of their claim included the fact that a male colleague was given a better company car than they were.

  • Road safety campaigners issued a call for fleet executives to crack down on the hidden drink-drive culture of 'morning after' motoring. The RAC Report on Motoring revealed that fleet drivers were putting themselves and others at risk.
  • A Health and Safety Executive report revealed that 82% of firms interviewed had a board-level person responsible for health and safety, demonstrating the importance attached to the issue.
  • A new report found that Britain's company car drivers spend nearly six million working hours a week stuck in traffic, costing business tens of millions of pounds in the process.

    August

    A HIGH-profile story in the national media about the collapse of the second-hand car market provoked an angry response from the fleet industry, which claimed prices were still sound and that the 'misleading' figures could destroy confidence and push values down.

  • Telecommunications giant BT put health and safety at the top of its agenda by announcing plans to put 5,000 of its line managers who have responsibility for company car drivers through a series of safety workshops.
  • It was revealed that a growing number of fleet executives who introduced 'quick-fix' cash-for-car schemes were calling in outside help because their strategies risked falling foul of health and safety laws.
  • Research company TRL issued findings that showed only 63% of van drivers wore a seatbelt. It came as the Government said it was looking at closing a loophole in the law that allows van drivers to take off their seatbelts when doing 'local rounds of deliveries and collections'.

    September

    HEALTH and Safety Executive officials revealed new guidance on work-related road safety, naming fleet managers as the key to changing the way employers and suppliers treat risk. Industry experts predicted that the guidance would spark a revolution in safety standards among Britain's fleets and their suppliers.

  • The European Commission announced a proposal on drivers' hours across the EU which, if adopted, would see the introduction of tachographs in small vans. The move would throw the industry into chaos as tachograph legislation only affects vehicles above 3.5-tonnes gross vehicle weight.
  • The Frankfurt Motor Show boasted a host of new launches – including the new Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf.
  • A senior Ford executive said UK fleets could be running hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars within the next five years. Philip D Chizek, manager, marketing and sales research and advanced engineering, said his telephone was 'constantly ringing' as firms contacted him to find out more about the technology.

    October

    JAPANESE manufacturers hammered home their reputation for reliability in an exclusive survey of Britain's fleet cars. The FN50 survey of the UK's biggest contract hire and leasing companies revealed that Toyota, Honda and Lexus took top honours in both the most reliable manufacturer and the most reliable models sectors.

  • The price of a litre of fuel increased by 1.28 pence per litre, pushing the price of petrol up to almost 80ppl.
  • The Institute for Public Policy Research suggested that congestion charges should be introduced nationally by 2010 and added on top of fuel taxes to help reduce traffic and pollution.
  • A senior police officer called on fleets to turn to their local police forces for help in creating safe driving policies to protect them from the threat of prosecution. Chief superintendent Les Owen, head of traffic operational command unit at the Metropolitan Police, was speaking at the Fleet News Hit for Six conference.

    November

    THE future viability of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as a fleet fuel took two hammer blows with news that grants to help fleets buy LPG-powered vehicles ran out with five months of the financial year left and that Ford is considering pulling out of the market for LPG-fuelled cars.

  • General Motors and Avis made fleet history by agreeing the biggest-ever supply deal worth £4 billion. The five-year pan-European deal will see General Motors supply Avis with 350,000 vehicles from its Opel/Vauxhall, Saab and Daewoo brands.
  • Transport Minister David Jamieson and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke were among those who spoke at the Fleet News Industry Conference 2003.
  • More than 100,000 drivers a year are putting the wrong fuel in cars, costing businesses millions of pounds in call-outs and lost working time, Green Flag revealed.
  • FLEET News launched its PhoneSafe campaign as a call to action for fleets to prepare for the Government ban on the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving, which came into force on December 1. Throughout November, Fleet News ran a series of best practice articles, interviews, guest opinions and case studies to raise awareness of the new law and its consequences and the action that should be taken by companies to protect themselves and their employees.

    December

    A NEW law was introduced banning the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. A week before the legislation was introduced, the Fleet News Fleet Panel asked more than 160 fleet decision-makers whether they had a written policy banning their use. An overwhelming 96% said they had, while just 4% said they had still to take action to tackle the issue.

  • The Government stressed its corporate manslaughter law was not on the 'back burner' as some national media had suggested, despite it not being included in the Queen's Speech.
  • Audi and Mazda were singled out in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash tests for not meeting the requirements of the organisation's seatbelt reminder protocol, an omission that is denying them the maximum five-star rating.
  • New research suggests fleet drivers are costing the industry hundreds of millions of pounds extra every year by using motorway service stations to fill up with fuel instead of other forecourts positioned just a few miles away on local roads.

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