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LETTERS to Fleet News’ editor John Maslen.

Budget speech gives a chance to review those vehicle options

Sir – I believe the recent pre-Budget report made by Chancellor Gordon Brown held mixed news for fleet managers in the UK.
Currently, employees who drive a diesel company car that meets the Euro IV emission standard get an incentive to do so, equating to a 3% tax break on the benefit.
However, from January 2006 this incentive will be abolished. Coupled with this is the sky-high oil price. Without much of a prospect for a return to lower levels, the outlook is bleak.
However, now is the time to look to alternative fuels. The average price of LPG is 39p per litre compared to 84p per litre for unleaded petrol and 85p per litre for diesel. To give further support to vehicles running on ‘green’ fuels, the Chancellor announced his intention to simplify the alternative fuel discounts for company car tax at Budget 2005.
This highlights the fact that, although similar cars may have the same upfront cost, fuel costs can massively affect running costs in this economic climate.
In response, fleet managers need to ensure they have the reporting systems in place to monitor this, as well as the flexibility in their fleet management arrangements to take advantage of such changes in the economy.
Fleet managers should implement structured personal contract hire/purchase schemes that are designed to provide drivers with choice as well as protection against such changes in legislation. Corporate managers should expect such a service offering in today’s volatile world.

Stuart Donnelly
Head of Fleet Management, Inspire Fleet Solutions

Choices are many for provision of company cars

SIR – While we agree that there has been a distinct shift away from cash-for-car schemes (‘Cash-for-car under threat by UK fleets’, Fleet News December 9) we disagree that they are all returning to traditional company car schemes.
We are increasingly being asked to assist companies in converting their existing cash-for-car scheme into an employee car ownership (ECO) scheme. As your article suggested, this is mainly being driven by a need to address health and safety issues.
However, companies have also realised that cash-for-car schemes are highly tax inefficient and inequitable, with an imbalance between groups of drivers either cashing in on the scheme or being left with insufficient funds to afford a suitable car for business use. The shift towards ECO is not just down to the need to control costs or the fear of ‘corporate manslaughter’ legislation. With a competitive employment market, employers are becoming more sophisticated in their approach to benefits in general and car benefit in particular. Companies are becoming wise to the fact that there is a wide range of options available to them, including ECO and a mix of ECO with traditional company cars.
Through careful planning and consultation, employers can maximise their tax efficiency and increase employees’ options, while maintaining control over the type of vehicles being used for work.
Employers have no choice but to maintain their duty of care over employees, but they do have a choice over how their car fleets are structured and financed.

Nick Sutton
Chairman, Provecta Car Plan

No excuse for failure to check tyre pressures

SIR - Your feature on tyre safety (Fleet News, December 9) appears to suggest that everybody else is responsible for correct tyre pressures except, of course, the driver.
That any fleet driver, or for that matter any other driver, does not check their tyre pressures at least once a week displays a serious lack of thought for their own safety and quite frankly is nothing short of laziness.
For less than a tenner, I have purchased a tyre pressure gauge and a separate tyre inflator run off the cigarette lighter, which I use at least once a week to check tyre pressures when the tyres are cold. By using the same gauge, I hopefully get consistent results.
Tyres cost too much today to ignore excessive wear and tear – and my life I prize more than anything else.
The time taken to check five tyres a week – less than three minutes. No, there is no excuse for any driver not to check tyre pressures.

Philip O’Mahoney
Swansea, West Glamorgan

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