Fleet News

Career development: Juggling training and careers, the fleet way

MANAGING a fleet on a daily basis can be a hard enough job, let alone if you want extra out-of-hours training to progress your career.

This can be difficult to juggle alongside mandatory workloads and often requires dedication, patience and a high stress threshold.

One fleet manager who has successfully combined work and training has also been named as the Institute of Car Fleet Management’s (ICFM) latest Trainee of the Year. Sara Cook, a fleet manager responsible for a 400-strong fleet at broadcasting conglomerate BSkyB was awarded the accolade at the industry body’s 2004 conference.

Cook has been in charge of the fleet at BSkyB for almost four years now with core responsibilities including looking after the supplier base, developing the fleet policy with human resources and overseeing the daily running of the fleet which includes dealing with issues such as risk management, taxation and P11ds.

However, for the past year this has coincided with her studies for the ICFM’s intermediate course in fleet management.

Cook explained her decision to opt for training: ‘I was looking for training to get a qualification for fleet management. Outside of the two main providers, ICFM and the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO), there isn’t much else available.

‘The intermediate course covers people management, acquisition and disposal, law and finance. It is all done off- site and takes five days to complete over the year.’

Cook is lucky as BSkyB funded her studies but she sees training as an integral part of her career progression.

She said: ‘The training has been very beneficial. It is also a great networking opportunity as you get the chance to meet other professionals in the same industry.’

Following the intermediate course, Cook has now progressed on to the ICFM diploma course, which is the next step up.

She explained: ‘The diploma covers subjects such as interpersonal skills, but it is basically advanced level modules and project based. It takes about a year to finish with a dissertation at the end.’

Cook says the advantages of gaining the diploma benefit both her own personal development and also her employer.

She said: ‘Once I have gained the diploma, it will give me peace of mind knowing I am fully qualified to do the job. It also stands me in good stead if I want to branch out into other areas of work in the future.

‘The actual qualification is part of a business management course in essence, so I will be able to transfer the skills into other roles. But working in fleet already means dealing with other areas such as procurement, travel and human resources.’

Career history: Sara Cook

  • Started working at Sky four and a half years ago as a PA to the group head of purchasing.
  • Purchasing renamed procurement department and Cook became fleet administrator. She had no former fleet experience but had excellent organisational experience and a logical approach.
  • She found the need to know the technical aspects of vehicles was not essential for the role she was filling at that time, though that has come with time.
  • Cook enrolled on the ICFM’s fast-track foundation programme as a method of validating some of the policy/processes the business had implemented and also to further her fleet management experience.
  • Suppliers were put in place and services agreed. That made the fleet more manageable and allowed her to develop the role, focusing on the business and driver needs.
  • With this natural progression, the fleet operation moved into human resources (HR delivery), where the focus is very much service-driven to meet and exceed employee expectations.
  • Sky operates an active risk management programme, including driver training and is also investigating the option of post-accident interviews, with the objective of reducing risk for drivers.
  • Cook has now enrolled in the ICFM Diploma course after completing the foundation module, with the aim of applying some of the applications learned across the fleet operation.


    COOK looks after BSkyB’s car fleet with the help of just one assistant (the group’s van fleet is operated from a depot based in Scotland).

    The company cars, principally Ford and BMWs, are contract hired through an agreement with Arval and all user-chooser vehicles are outright purchased.

    The vehicles, a mix of petrol and diesel, run on a three-year/60,000-miles replacement cycle and at the end of the contract, leased vehicles are returned to Arval with the user-chooser vehicles sent to auction.

    Cook is currently investigating hybrids with a view to including alternatively-fuelled vehicles on the fleet which has seen a change in fuel mix in recent years.

    She said: ‘We have switched from a majority of petrol to diesel. There is a wider vehicle choice and now a standard fleet policy for all company car drivers.’

    ICFM, the fleet training body

    THE ICFM was founded in 1992 to train and educate car fleet managers and to establish recognition for fleet managers within the industry and commerce in general. Training aims to lead to an academic qualification recognised and accepted by the car fleet industry as the requisite for the profession.

    The ‘core’ training and education scheme is three-tier, leading to awards at introductory certificate, certificate and diploma levels.

    The introductory module caters for new entrants to car fleets and comprises one distance-learning module coupled to a job-based assignment.

    The intermediate (certificate) module caters for members with operational, rather than strategic responsibility in all aspects of car fleet management.

    It is available in supported distance-learning format (five modules) or residential tutor-based format.

    The advanced (diploma) module covers advanced techniques, skills and knowledge required for strategic management of the entire fleet operation or support services.

    It is delivered through four residential modules at Loughborough University Business School.

    Assessment is via job-based assignment at introductory level, assignment reports and examinations at certificate level and projects and dissertation at diploma level.

  • For further information on training, contact the ICFM on 01462 744914 or visit www.icfmonline.co.uk.
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