A new survey produced by HSBC Vehicle Finance suggests the key reason for this change is the increasingly proactive vehicle management function required to meet the demands of a modern fleet.
HSBC's Business Car Expectations 2003 Survey found that all businesses with fleets in excess of 1,000 vehicles employed a full-time fleet manager, up from 86% the previous year.
A total of 87% of companies with fleets of between 500 and 999 vehicles now employ a full-time fleet manager, up from 53% last year.
The survey found the main issues facing today's fleet executives include insurance, legal, environmental and financial questions but that the key concern was health and safety and the associated duty of care responsibilities.
Tim Holmes, head of HSBC Vehicle Finance, said: 'What we're seeing here is new legislation impacting on business. Fleet managers are required to undertake a more strategic role in order to care for a company's reputation in what is a highly visible role – out on the road. The consequence of a safety lapse on an employee, employer or the public is too great not to give the issue high priority.
He added: 'Large companies are clearly reacting to their new responsibilities by employing more fleet managers to ensure full compliance with health and safety legislation. Instead of being 'keepers of the cars', the modern fleet manager is now a reputation manager – a keeper of a company's good name.'
The findings come soon after a major report revealed the important role the fleet executive plays as a growing number of company boardrooms put health and safety at the top of their agenda because of growing concern about corporate responsibility.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report, called 'Health and safety responsibilities of company directors and management board members', said fears about the effect of any future corporate killing legislation had sparked a dramatic increase in the number of boards putting pressure on fleet executives to cut accidents among business car and van drivers (Fleet NewsNet July 24).