Fleet News

Guest opinion: It’s never too late to learn for fleets

AFTER chairing about 100 meetings of the London West region of the Association of Car Fleet Operators, and also working as a fleet consultant, one might expect to learn nothing new.

In reality, I have learned at least one important aspect of fleet management at every ACFO meeting I have attended.

Increasing demands on fleet operators have produced a more sophisticated and professional approach to the role.

It is no longer acceptable for operators to simply attend every vehicle launch and be able to recite vehicle specifications and performance figures.

Fleet managers must nowadays be knowledgeable in areas as diverse as directors’ duty of care as well as drivers’ personal taxation.

They also require sensitive HR skills as well as financial and health and safety expertise. We actively encourage debate on the current fleet ‘hot’ topics and organise presentations on specific topics utilising both members and independent presenters with the relevant expertise.

Members managing large and small fleets recently presented their fleet profiles to fellow members, demonstrating that while many core activities are common, there is nevertheless a need to manage fleets on a bespoke basis dependent on the culture of the organisation.

Meetings are run in a relaxed and informal manner, with a touch of humour. My objective is to encourage the newer or shier members to feel free to raise and discuss any hot topic which they seek advice upon.

The chairman’s role is relatively easy in that it simply requires the orchestration of questioners and respondents discussing topics in a focused manner.

Time and again, we are surprised by the in-depth discussions that can ensue following discussion on simple topics.

One such recent example was duty of care in relation to handing over a new vehicle to a company car driver.

Recognising that an employer has a duty of care to ensure drivers are safe on the road, appropriate information, training and supervision must be provided for vehicles driven on company business.

This means that every time a driver is provided with a change of vehicle, the appropriate instruction and knowledge must be provided when the keys are handed to the driver.

As keys can be handed over by contract drivers, company security personnel as well as fleet managers, this caused members to raise eyebrows and suddenly recognise how involved their role had become.

Many meetings attract guests because there is a focus on a specific industry issue, combined with the opportunity for networking.

Although fleet operators are our core members by definition, membership is drawn from a wide industry spectrum.

London West encourages suppliers to fully participate in meetings, as experience shows that debate and recommendations are more balanced and practical when all interested parties are involved in discussions. Suppliers are discouraged from actively seeking business from fellow members, although many working friendships have developed over the years to the mutual benefit of both suppliers and fleet operators.

Fleet operators vary considerably, from those operating a handful of vehicles to managers of multinational fleets running more than 1,000 units.

Members need to have considerable expertise in a number of disciplines to effectively manage their fleets, and the cross-fertilization of knowledge and working practices at meetings enables anyone seeking advice on a topic to obtain professional support from fellows during members discussion items.

London West is fortunate in having a vibrant and dynamic membership, which has grown steadily over the past decade.

As long as we continue to provide meetings which are interesting, informative and with a touch of humour, at which members can participate and take away a new beneficial technique each time, London West will continue to thrive as an enjoyable and professional forum for the regions’ fleet decision-makers.

David Dippie
ACFO London West

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