Fleet News

Guest opinion

A COMMON theme emerging in the industry is the disappearance of dedicated fleet managers. It has always been accepted that companies running smaller fleets would typically merge fleet management with another function, such as purchasing, finance or human resources.

But we are now seeing large companies dispense fully with the services of a fleet manager in favour of outsourcing or a committee within the organisation, for example. Both options come with their own problems. If you outsource, you’ll have to keep someone within the company to oversee operations and control. If you run by committee, each person may well be an expert in their own field but where does the fleet experience come from?

Time is also an issue when trying to arrange meetings for a large group. Who will meet with suppliers to negotiate discounts, service levels and so on without any knowledge of the fleet industry?

For most firms, the company fleet or offer of cash in lieu of a car is the second biggest expense after the payroll – and is the most emotive subject.

The person running the department therefore needs to be ‘qualified’ in a number of different areas, such as people management, finance, negotiation skills, human resources, taxation and insurance.

In addition, they need to be up to speed on legislation surrounding company cars and use of privately owned vehicles for business.

The impact of not being aware of some of these issues could be catastrophic.

One of the main topics of conversation this year is, in my opinion, going to be health and safety and there are many areas for companies to consider. We’ve already seen new legislation on use of mobile phones in the car and that’s just the start.

New rules on corporate manslaughter and corporate killing are surely just around the corner. It is disturbing that recent figures show more than 50% of firms with staff driving their own cars on company business do not check the vehicles are fit for the purpose.

Is this because they don’t have anyone in-house who recognises the need for this? What other areas need to be covered?

All of these subjects and many more need to be captured and written into watertight policies. Then they must be properly implemented and controlled to protect both employer and employees. It is a daunting task but there is help available. Organisations including the Association of Car Fleet Operators and Institute of Car Fleet Management have long been campaigning for companies large and small to formally recognise the role of the fleet manager.

ACFO was founded more than 30 years ago and is split into nine regions throughout the country. It holds regional meetings covering a variety of subjects and offers a great networking opportunity with other people in the same situation.

ICFM was set up by a group of fleet managers more than 10 years ago and offers formal training courses with a recognised qualification at the end.

So why does it seem that so little importance is attached to the role of fleet manager and what can fleet managers do to ensure they are recognised?

Cost must surely be a factor and it is vital that anyone currently in this role gives value for money and proves to be indispensible. Be aware of changes, think about how they will affect your organisation and fleet and be proactive. Read magazines, go to meetings and conferences and network with other people. Remember, you are not alone.

Companies must think carefully about the person given this responsibility – if they’ve given it to anyone.

If nobody has responsibility, think on. What would a company say in court if one of its drivers was involved in a fatal road accident and it transpired he or she had no valid driving licence? Directors are the people ultimately facing punishment.

If a company does have someone responsible for the fleet, that role needs to be fully supported by the company.

Ensuring this is the situation in your organisation should provide peace of mind, so employers know they have an experienced, trained person to protect the company from the minefield of rules and regulations surrounding its fleet.

Julie Jenner,
Association of Car Fleet Operators

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