Fleet News

Fleets give minister industry action plan

THE fleet industry has opened the door to the corridors of power following a summit meeting with Transport Minister John Spellar, in which the burning issues concerning business travel were discussed.

A five-strong delegation from the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) visited Westminster with a packed agenda including the importance of work-related travel, the state of the road network, the increasing criminalisation of the motorist, poor handling of legislation, the future of alternative fuels and liability for fixed penalty notices.

Last year, Spellar urged the industry to play a more direct role in influencing future debate on Britain's traffic problems. Issuing the call at the Fleet News 'Facing the Future' conference, held in November, Spellar said fleets had to engage in the 'wider transport debate' because of their leading role in introducing the newest and cleanest vehicles to Britain's roads.

Now, following six months of lobbying, ACFO representatives have finally met with the Transport Minister and believe he gave them 'a good and fair hearing' and that a platform for a continuing dialogue between Government and fleet decision-makers has been opened.

Issues discussed included the importance of Government recognising that the overwhelming majority of business-related journeys by car and light van cannot be taken by any form of public transport. The road network and calls by ACFO for an acceleration of road building, development and repairs were highlighted.

The increasing criminalisation of motorists and fleet drivers were examined amid ACFO concerns that motorists and fleet drivers particularly are being targeted unfairly and treated as 'cash cows' within the overall legislative framework.

The poor drafting and short notice of legislation also came under the spotlight. Finally, the consistency in the transfer of liability for most fixed penalty notices from 'registered keeper' to driver was put on the agenda. It follows problems caused by Transport for London over bus lane misuse and congestion charging which saw this 'understood principle' effectively withdrawn.

ACFO director Stewart Whyte, who led the delegation, said: 'The minister gave a fairly robust defence of the Government's record, but he did acknowledge that there were continuing concerns over the differing treatments and interpretations of fleet issues across the country. This is particularly true in relation to the transfer of fixed penalty notices from 'registered keeper' to driver. The minister confirmed recognition of this matter and said a new national standard would be introduced later this year.'

However, he added: 'It remains to be seen whether the new standard will apply retrospectively, thereby offering some employers relief for prosecutions already made in relation to these types of offences.'

Whyte said that while this was the only 'result' of the meeting, the delegation felt progress had been made in many areas during the summit and that it was now vital that Government ministers consult regularly on key fleet issues with ACFO.

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