Fleet News

Training cash call divides industry

A HARD-hitting call for the Government to create a funding programme to pay for formal training for fleet decision-makers has polarised the fleet industry.

The call for Whitehall cash was made to fleets from throughout the country that had gathered for a high-profile conference on fleet safety and finance.

Delegates at the Fleet News Spring Conference: Safety in Numbers, sponsored by Nissan and Lloyds TSB autolease, were told that central funding would help employers invest in training which could improve safety among Britain's millions of company car and van drivers.

Norwich Union's motor risk manager Brian Lee said: 'A lot of people in the role, particularly within smaller fleets, wear more than one hat. They don't have a lot of time to look after the fleet and they are certainly not looking after drivers.

'There should be training available which is funded by the Government – that would start to improve safety on the road.'

Although some companies invest in formal training for employees in charge of company cars, hundreds more decide not to because they do not understand the potential benefits available from the investment, instead just concentrating on the cost and loss of staff time.

But although the idea found some support in the industry, there was concern that any offer of funding should be handled carefully.

Stewart Whyte, director at the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) believes there is already adequate training for fleet managers who require it.

He said: 'Government funding for fleet manager training should not be compulsory, why should the Government train fleet managers any more than typists?

'We already address training issues and there are training programmes out there. Training is needed and training is provided.' He added that high-profile campaigns designed to offer training to fleets had failed to encourage a response from fleet managers.

Tom Madden, chairman of the Institute of Car Fleet Management, said: 'We believe that it would be inappropriate for training in the fleet industry to rely on Government funding. It is incumbent on those companies working and operating within fleet to ensure their staff are trained to handle the very specific demands of the industry and that funding is in place to pay for this training.

'Inward investment in the potential of staff working within the fleet environment will bring its own rewards for companies. 'It is worth remembering that if the Government funding tap can be turned on, it can also be turned off and that would leave fleet management training high and dry.'

A spokesman at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) welcomed the idea of Government funding but added that fleet managers had a responsibility to protect drivers with or without training.

Currently no Government funding exists specifically for fleet manager training. In the 2000 budget, the Chancellor announced £100 million would go towards funding the road haulage industry for schemes it deemed 'worthy', which included training programmes.

A Department for Transport spokesman said there were no plans to introduce funding for fleet manager training, although research has proved that trained fleet managers are more competent in their role.

When Fleet News ran its Get Trained Campaign last June, fleets operating more than 15,000 vehicles signed up for help to find the right training. The campaign is due to be relaunched next month.

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