Fleet News

Fleet news round table: Fleets gather for the great debate

Fleet managers spoke out about some of the most important issues they are facing and how they plan to tackle them during a Fleet News Round Table discussion, organised in association with National Car Rental. John Maslen reports on a day of wide-ranging opinions.

What is the biggest issue you will face next year?

  • Richard Rose: Residual values will be the most difficult thing to manage for us. We purchase vehicles outright and take the residual value risk at disposal but the book value can be adrift by quite a lot.
  • Liz Hollands: We have started driver training and graduates will be doing online profiling.
  • Caroline Sandall: Our issue is duty of care issues and risk management and our ability to monitor and measure what we do. There are lots of things in place, but our ability to track things by driver, not just vehicle is a problem. I want to build a system or process to look at differing data sources to enable us to do this.
  • Neil McCrossan: The biggest issue we face is the manufacturers’ changing behaviour towards the rental sector and restricting their volume.
  • Phil Redman: We need to look at our systems strategy because the bespoke system we built in the 1990s was in a language that will shortly not be supported.
  • David Nicholls: We are looking at the way we finance our vehicles in the UK and moving everything to contract hire in the future. We have also gone from 20 suppliers down to four and that is a new process we need to get to grips with and make sure it works.
  • Liz Hollands: Fuel reimbursement and managing fuel costs is a challenge. Another challenge is to go to the Inland Revenue with some facts and figures and try to convince them that their approved rates are wrong.

    What is the biggest problem you have with fleet suppliers?

  • Caroline Sandall: Consistency of contact with suppliers. One supplier rang to arrange a meeting and they didn’t even know who my corporate account manager was.
  • Liz Hollands: I tend to find it happens more with manufacturers. When you get a new account manager, you tend to get a new team behind them too so unless you go to meet them on day one you never get such a good service.
  • David Rose: You are almost going back to square one, where the question is ‘how big is your fleet?’.
  • Phil Redman: Some manufacturers have quality handover, but others just give you a phone call. This is more critical in the leasing sector because they are running your business day-to-day if you have outsourced. Ownership of issues can be an irritation. An experienced person will handle it and manage it, but a less experienced person leaves us to sort out. Invoicing can still be a challenge for us with dozens of ad-hoc invoices. When you have more than 5,000 cars and it takes three months to resolve one issue, then you are juggling hundreds of invoices in query.
  • Richard Rose: My biggest bugbear is the lack of IT use. When I audit suppliers I discover that manual processes are at the top of their activity and automatic processes, which are more secure, are at the bottom. IT is available but just hasn’t been switched on.
  • Neil McCrossan: IT is a critical issue. If you scratch the service, the degree of IT employment is not as great as it could be, mainly because of legacy systems which hold a massive amount of data. So you do get a lot of people carrying out a lot of manual processes, particularly with accident management companies. It leads to millions of pounds of cost write-offs for the rental industry.
  • Liz Hollands: Scrimping on servicing is a problem – not all of them and not all of the time, but it is an issue.

    Should there be compulsory driver training for anyone driving on business?

  • Caroline Sandall: How would you ever implement something like that in our lifetimes? Training doesn’t describe what we are trying to achieve. It is more about awareness and acceptance of the different types of risks that you take when driving on business. Driver awareness programmes and education programmes have an impact. Sticking someone behind the wheel for driver training doesn’t guarantee success.
  • Liz Hollands: I wouldn’t like to see compulsory training, but I would like to see Government-funded advertising on television.
  • Phil Redman: There is an opportunity for state involvement here. The basic driving test is still inadequate for dealing with motorways or severe congestion. There should be training after passing the test to teach some advanced skills, but also some hard facts about what is happening on the roads in real life.
  • Richard Rose: It is driver awareness that is important.

    What issues do you face with duty of care?

  • Richard Rose: You can’t cover everything and the individual has to take responsibility. The challenge is to pass that responsibility down the chain to make the driver feel they have to take responsibility for their own actions
  • Neil McCrossan: There is a desperate need for clarification of duty-of-care issues.
  • Liz Hollands: I am fairly clear, but I would prefer to see all this duty-of-care stuff targeted at board-level people.
  • David Nicholls: The key thing is getting the message through to the people that can do something about it. We need more guidelines. We have had to work out responsibility for opt-out drivers without clear official guidelines.
  • Debbie Floyde: I ran a couple of seminars and got board-level people involved. That made them realise how big an issue it was.
  • Caroline Sandall: You need more acceptance of the risk from drivers. The closer you get to self-control, the more successful you are. If employees realise a risk and choose not to take it, that is how you stop accidents.

    Are fines and penalties causing you problems?

  • Neil McCrossan: For our rental fleet, speeding fines have gone up 102% and overall fines are up 63%. We have nine people employed full-time to deal with the paperwork.
  • Caroline Sandall: Congestion charging is the largest portion of fines, but fines for bus lane contraventions are a growing problem. Drivers also forget or don’t know they are in the congestion charging zone.
  • Liz Hollands: Forgetfulness is a big issue for congestion charging and also giving the wrong registration number but I would say congestion charging fines are going down, while speeding fines are growing.
  • Richard Rose: It is down to the driver to uphold the law. The problem I have is that Transport for London has put in a process where congestion charging and bus lane fines have to be paid by the registered address of the owner. The admin involved to recover that money is quite phenomenal. We need to be able to refer these fines back so it then is an issue between the driver and TFL.
  • Debbie Floyde: To recover the cost, you end up as a credit controller. We now take it straight out of salary.
  • Phil Redman: Our problem is fines for using bus lanes and traffic lights infringements. Drivers are not conditioned to the fact that they will get photographed and fined.

    What impact will the scrapping of the discount for Euro IV diesels have on your fleet?

  • Liz Hollands: Quite a few people are coming back into company cars from cash. We normally have 15 cars on order at any one time, but we have 31 now and 25 of them are diesels. We are already saying to people we can’t guarantee delivery before the deadline.
  • David Nicholls: Where people are due a replacement car, they are rushing it through but we would not do anything else for drivers who aren’t due for replacement.
  • Phil Redman: We are not changing our policy but on the fleet website we have put notification to drivers specifically for people whose cars are due for replacement.
  • Caroline Sandall: We are moving out of employee car ownership into a traditional company car scheme and people have not quite got their heads around company car tax, so we are telling them what it means.

    Can green policies work in a modern fleet?

  • Caroline Sandall: We have two hybrids on order at the moment.
  • Liz Hollands: We have one hybrid.
  • Debbie Floyde: We have one but can’t get anyone to take it.
  • Liz Hollands: Acceptance is very low.
  • Phil Redman: We have six Toyota Prius that drivers have chosen of their own free will. We also have half a dozen LPG vehicles.

    Does vehicle tracking have a future on your fleet?

  • Phil Redman: What are you going to do with all the data? You may find a way of condensing it but, with 5,800 cars moving each day, you have not got any resource to deal with it. In specific applications, where you have engineers on call, it can work. There are specific applications but for everyday fleet use I don’t see it as valuable. Caroline Sandall: Recording that sort of information about people’s driving behaviour is a very sensitive issue. However, it would help as a mechanism to record mileage better.
  • Liz Hollands: If a system could record business mileage, had sat-nav and a tracker if the car was stolen, could pay automatically at road tolls and was affordable, that would be useful.
  • Neil McCrossan: Telematics has a lot of potential, especially for issues like pool car allocation.

    Thoughts came from:

    Liz Hollands, fleet manager, DTZ Debenham Tie Leung. Responsibility for 400 cars, 500 drivers.

    David Nicholls, head of property and site services, Bayer UK. Responsibility for 300 cars, 650 drivers

    Phil Redman, fleet manager, IBM UK and Ireland. Responsibility for 6,000 cars, 12,800 drivers

    Caroline Sandall, fleet manager, Barclays Responsibility for 4,200 cars, 8,400 drivers

    Richard Rose, operations manager Astra Zeneca. Responsibility for 2,700 cars, 3,100 drivers

    Debbie Floyde, fleet manager, Emap Consumer Media/Radio. Responsibility for 450 cars, 650 drivers

    Neil McCrossan, vice president, commercial development, National Car Rental. Responsibility for 45,000 vehicles.

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