In recognition of the scale of the task of judging industry best practice in such a competitive market, Fleet News brought together an expert line-up of 12 industry professionals over a two-week period at Fleet News' headquarters in Peterborough.
Together, they are responsible for managing about 400,000 vehicles or play key roles as industry opinion formers.
The panel includes leading fleet managers who have expert knowledge of all areas of fleet, from the best way to run a vehicle department to what attributes service companies need to show to offer winning products. They also have expert knowledge of vehicles and what makes a winning business car or van.
This year, we have had a record entry for all categories of the awards, with hundreds of nominations and nearly 100 companies and vehicles in the overall shortlist, meaning the judges had a harder task than ever in picking winners.
The judges considering the fleet decision-makers' entries were: John Maslen, editor of Fleet News and overall chairman of the judging panels; Steve Moody, deputy editor of Fleet News; Alan Miles, of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, and Stewart Whyte, director of fleet consultancy Fleet Audits, who is also a director of the Association of Car Fleet Operators.
The panel was then expanded to eight to judge the service company awards. Whyte, Miles, Maslen and Moody were joined by Mary Blackwell, contract/cost manager for Yorkshire Building Society (Fleet Manager of the Year 101-250 vehicles in 2002), Graham Hine, facilities manager for the Adult Learning Inspectorate (Fleet Manager of the Year 101-400 vehicles 2003), Caroline Sandall, fleet and travel manager for Orange PCS, and Stan Ayling OBE, commercial operations director, Inland Revenue (Fleet Manager of the Year, Large Fleets 1998; Fleet Manager of the Year, Large Fleets 1996).
Finally, for the car category, the judging panel was expanded to 12, with Martin Ward, national research manager for CAP, Steve Jones, pricing manager for Lex Vehicle Leasing, Peter Hollinshead, head of purchasing and vehicle management for HSBC Vehicle Finance and Simon Harris, road test editor for Fleet News, joining the judging panel.
How the Fleet News Awards 2004 were judged
Fleet News goes to considerable lengths to ensure the judging process is completely fair and objective, ensuring awards are only given to companies deserving of a trophy in the face of stiff competition.
In the past six months, fleet decision-makers were invited to enter themselves for an award and also nominate service companies and manufacturers who they thought deserved to receive recognition.
We received hundreds of nominations, which where then made into a shortlist to be put before the judges.
The panel received all entries before the judging, allowing them ample time to give each manager, company, car or van full consideration. The judges then convened at the Fleet News offices at Media House, Peterborough, to go through the entries together, putting forward their individual observations and sharing their expertise with the rest of the panel.
Firstly, fleet decision-makers were judged, followed by manufacturers and finally service companies.
The judges focused on all areas of a company's or fleet decision-maker's operations. Short-listed fleet decision-makers were invited for interview to enable the judging panel to decide on a winner.
Service companies received a detailed questionnaire and when all entries had been received, the judges were able to make a detailed and fair comparison of every entry in each category.
The judging process is very intensive and lasted for a two-week period to ensure that each entry was given ample scrutiny.
Top entertainers get set to make it a night to remember
The St Patrick's Night audience at London's Grosvenor Hotel will be entertained by Irish comedian Ed Byrne, one of the UK's top live comedy acts and a big success at venues throughout the world.
Alpha Connection, whose previous audiences have included the Queen and Prince Charles, will provide live music to end the evening. The band is sponsored by National Car Rental. A pre-dinner drinks reception is sponsored by the Fleet Auction Group and Shell Fuel Cards is providing cameras.
The awards in full
Car awards sponsored by Europcar UK
Van awards sponsored by TLS Vehicle Rental
Supplier Company Awards
Fleet Manager Awards