Employees ranging from fleet managers, transport managers, purchasing executives, administrators, sales and marketing teams, senior management and finance teams, human resources staff and even chairman claim life will get more difficult this year compared to 2003.
More than 80% of executives with responsibility for fleet, all members of the Fleet News' panel of more than 160 fleet decision-makers, said they expected challenges to increase.
Their prediction comes despite the immense challenges of 2003 when fleets faced some of the toughest times in recent years.
For example, in January there were warnings that half of Britain's companies could face fines of £5,000 because they missed the deadline to get their fleet details registered on the Motor Insurance Database.
February brought the launch of new legislation that meant a valid V5 was a necessity to tax any vehicle, which had a dramatic impact on the disposals market. London also launched its new congestion charge, sparking predictions that similar schemes would appear through the country in the next few years.
In March, one in six drivers' tax codes were reported to be incorrect because of errors in the Inland Revenue's system for dealing with the new company car benefit-in-kind tax.
By September, fleets had already contended with new health and safety demands and moves to limit drivers' hours, while December brought further moves towards corporate manslaughter laws.
But this year is already promising a series of huge challenges. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget is announced in March or April, he will reveal a new van taxation system, changes to company car tax, new fuel scale charges, new LPG duty rates, as well as changes to Vehicle Excise Duty rates and fuel duty.
The market is also expected to feel the impact of changes to Block Exemption, while this year will see launch activity reach near-record levels.
Decision-makers cite legislation as their biggest challenge, as the Government and European ministers introduce new laws designed to protect the environment and improve safety.
Do you believe 2004 will be a more challenging year than 2003?
'Yes. 2004 will be more challenging because every year I've been in this job it has been the case, thanks either to the general economic climate or the Government.'
'I feel last year's challenge was concerned with congestion and the EU Fourth Motor Insurance Directive and this year I feel will be the the year for corporate killing legislation. This will be a 'biggy' and one that no-one can ignore.'
Fleet manager, Kaba Doors
'Is any year less challenging than the last? We still have to face the same problems and opportunities in running a car fleet each and every year. But more and more responsibilities are being heaped upon the head of the fleet manager. Risk management has to be the number one priority. Regardless of any possible legislation on corporate manslaughter, the issuing of Health and Safety Executive guidelines on road risk can only lead fleets to examine their duty of care to drivers, both those using company cars and, perhaps more importantly, those driving their own cars on company business.'
Chairman, Association of Car Fleet Operators
'There are lots of 'I's to dot and 'T's to cross to make sure we are fully compliant with all health and safety.'
'With the pace of change within our business increasing year-on-year – in 2004 for example we move into Europe from a fleet perspective – there is no opportunity to relax as the challenges come thick and fast. Add to that the effects of more legislation and the ever-present focus on driving maximum value and I'm certain 2004 will continue to test my resourcefulness and imagination.'
'Until we have a major test case I think the biggest challenge will be for fleet managers to convince the decision-makers of the importance of managing occupational road risk.'
Phillippa T Caine
Company secretary, CORGI
'Every year brings fresh challenges and 2004 will be no different. The issues such as driving at work and mobile phone legislation will start to bite with a vengeance, as will the proposed increase in congestion charging. The continued migration of employees to car ownership and car ownership schemes will also add to the fleet manager's task list as they try to meet all the legal requirements The issue of van taxation will also present its own challenges. So that's January's task list set – what are we going to do for the rest of the year?'
Group fleet manager, Bowmer & Kirkland
'Can anyone remember a year that was not more challenging than the previous? What would it be like to get a period for resting on one's laurels and completing all outstanding tasks at the end of each day?
Somehow, I think anyone wanting a life like that would have left this business years ago.'
'There will be new legislation to deal with and fuel decisions to make. The increased responsibility of the fleet manager never ceases to amaze me. Since I took over this role seven years ago the workload has almost doubled. One thing I am glad of is that I decided to have further training through the Institute of Car Fleet Management back in 1998.'
Fleet manager, King UK
'Three key issues include health and safety, minimising the effects of Government and the authorities' endeavours to obtain further revenue from the motorist, particularly company car drivers. There is also pressure from drivers to minimise their tax liabilities.'
Company secretary, Seco Tools (UK)
'2004 will be more onerous. With the growth of speed cameras and health and safety and the Working Time Directive roll-out, the pressure will increase. Traffic calming measures are now reported in some quarters as contributing to poor air quality so there may be greater emphasis on reducing traffic volumes in those areas.'
Assistant head, Transport Services, City Hall, Lincoln