Fleet News

Seismic changes reinvent fleet role

GROWING numbers of businesses are scrapping their traditional approach to company cars and fleet management, creating a tough challenge for every employee in the industry.

The role of the fleet manager is being outsourced or merged with other, often more senior, jobs while the traditional definition of a company car is also changing.

The number of companies using the services of a full or part-time fleet manager has declined, with a 38% growth in the number of firms saying they do not employ someone with that job title.

Overall, just 17% of firms employ a full-time fleet manager, mainly in larger fleets of more than 250 vehicles, while 12% employ a part-time fleet manager and 71% have no-one in that role.

However, most companies still have employees in charge of company vehicles, but either in a wider 'mobility manager' role, or through another job description, such as human resources, company secretary, manager or even director.

At the same time, tax-efficient schemes for providing the equivalent of a company car mean car ownership schemes, cash-for-car schemes and mileage allowance payments are taking a growing share of the fleet car parc.

According to HSBC Vehicle Finance, which revealed the results in its fifth annual Business Car Expectations survey, the changes have created a string of challenges for any employee with responsibility for company vehicles.

The survey, covering 422 organisations which between them run 76,564 units, also revealed that the changes are leading to 'de-skilling' among some of those responsible for company vehicles, as they are unaware of vital issues they need to address in their everyday role.

The changes in the nature of company vehicle provision identified in the survey reflect the recent revelations that 250,000 company car drivers have 'disappeared' according to Inland Revenue figures (Fleet NewsNet, May 6).

Experts at the Inland Revenue suggested it may be down to a large increase in drivers opting for a cash for car schemes to avoid paying benefit-in-kind tax.

The HSBC survey said: 'The fleet industry has been through a period of rapid change for several years and there is no sign of those changes slowing down.

'Indeed, there is barely time to consolidate one set of demands, than the next onslaught begins.'

But it added: 'It is a buoyant industry well able to deal with the changes and new demands being thrust upon it.'

The survey revealed a string of key issues facing fleets, which report author Professor Peter Cooke, of the Centre for Automotive Industries Management at Nottingham Business School, collated into a 24-point action plan.

Among key areas for fleet decision-makers or mobility managers to focus on are: board reporting regarding fleet risk management, driver appraisals, employee-provided choice restriction, nominated management responsibility and driver awareness of duties.

The survey also revealed that companies running smaller fleets were lagging behind larger companies in a wide number of areas, including the vital area of health and safety, with just 10% addressing health, safety and driver training issues.

  • For copies of the HSBC Business Car Expectations Survey 2004 call HSBC Vehicle Finance on 08456 090608

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