Fleet News

Award winner’s profile: Small fleet is a big responsibility

PRODUCING ‘Marg’s Fleet Tips’ to keep drivers abreast of latest developments and slashing insurance premiums by 50% were just two of the achievements that won Margaret Welsh a top fleet honour.

As reception supervisor at technology services and consultancy firm Croft, Welsh also manages the company’s fleet. She juggles this with other responsibilities such as administering quality systems and handling thousands of telephone calls a month.

In March, she was awarded the Avis Rent-A-Car-sponsored Fleet Manager of the Year Sub-100 Vehicles trophy in the Fleet News Awards. She received her award from Sir Trevor McDonald at a gala dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

Making their decision, the award judges said: ‘For many fleet decision-makers, the pressure of other parts of their job might distract them from the important aspects of running the company fleet, but Welsh has shown a passion for multi-tasking by creating a fleet filled with best practice ideas, while also expertly juggling her other roles.’

On winning the award, Welsh said: ‘I couldn’t believe it – what an honour – and it was a wonderful night. It was so pleasing to get such recognition for the job I do and enjoy.’

Welsh said she fell into the role of fleet manager when she started with the company as a reception supervisor 14 years ago. ‘The managing director asked me to also look after the company’s cars. I think the only reason was because I had previously sold car insurance!’

Until recently Welsh spent about 40% of her time managing the fleet but this has now increased to about 80%.

The company runs a fleet of 56 vehicles, 13 of which are vans. Volkswagen and Toyota supply the cars and Ford and Vauxhall the commercial vehicles.

The vehicles are leased on three-year, 105,000-mile contract hire arrangements with Lex Vehicle Leasing and LeasePlan.

Those eligible for a car include managers and company engineers, who use the vehicles to travel to premises to maintain equipment, such as printers.

She said: ‘It was a role I thoroughly enjoyed and still enjoy and it has grown recently as our staff numbers have increased.

‘I’m much more polished at running the fleet than I was in the early days, although I have had no formal training. I’m not sure it is something I would benefit from as I have worked on the company’s fleet for so long. But I will always ask for advice when I need it.

‘It’s a busy time at the moment because we have got 17 cars changing over this month, so it’s very difficult co-ordinating this sort of movement.

‘It also involves installing new phone car kits so there’s plenty to do to ensure the vehicles are ready on time.’

Her fleet responsibilities ensure Welsh regularly meets with contract hire companies and windscreen and tyre firms. She also performs an annual survey of daily rental prices to ensure the company has a competitive offering.

Drivers regularly receive ‘Marg’s Fleet Tips’, a series of articles she collates to keep them informed of developments in areas such as car crime and health and safety and Welsh was also instrumental in the launch of a new road safety policy handbook for company motorists in April. Welsh’s other achievements include reducing the company’s insurance premiums by thousands of pounds annually, introducing spot checks on cars that form part of an employee’s appraisal and inviting drivers to take part in an advanced driver training course.

She said: ‘We have implemented various changes over the years to help reduce our insurance premiums.

‘Firstly, all our drivers were issued with security locks for their cars, which we hoped would act as a deterrent against car crime, and it worked. Drivers now use them without thinking about it. Our claims history was horrendous and we introduced a ruling that if any driver had more than one own-fault accident in a rolling 12-month period, he would be charged the policy excess, which at the time was £1,000.

‘The money would be deducted from salaries in monthly instalments, £50 being the minimum payment. It certainly made a dramatic difference to our claims history.’

Introducing driver training also meant the company received a bonus from its insurance company for every driver who completed the programme.

The publication of its driver handbook has also helped reduce the number of accidents involving company drivers. The book features useful telephone numbers to help in the event of a breakdown and covers areas such as vehicle care, maintenance, parking fines, speed cameras and driving abroad.

Welsh said: ‘The book covers a wide range of issues such as our policy on the use of mobile phones, what to do in the event of an accident, breakdown, vehicle care and maintenance plus a lot more. Our existing insurance company is well impressed with the handbook and even told one of its clients about it and asked would I mind sending him a copy.’

The company also launched a mobile phone policy in response to last year’s ban on hand-held phones for drivers on the move.

Staff are permitted to use their phone using a hands-free kit but are banned from using a hand-held set while driving. If anyone is caught doing this then they face the threat of disciplinary action.

MD realises the true value of a faithful fleet chief

Senior management within the company has paid tribute to Welsh’s achievements, showing good fleet managers can be recognised at the highest level.

Her managing director Phil Renton said of her: ‘I think the initiatives and controls she has demonstrated, taking into account the size of the fleet and her other responsibilities, are amazing.’

Croft was founded in 1980. It has its head office in Newcastle upon Tyne and a satellite office in Henlow in Bedfordshire.

The company’s vision is to be ‘the preferred and most trusted provider of computer-based solutions and support services’. Its principle activity is to design, implement and support a customer’s business networking needs.

It was subject to a management buy-out in 1992 with its current board of directors established a year later.

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