Fleet News

ACFO annual meeting: How poor service could lead drivers into trouble with the law

POOR service isn’t just about hassle, it could land drivers and fleets in court, the ACFO annual meeting heard.

One leasing supplier set up a system where it undertook to notify drivers of upcoming MoTs due, book the cars in for the test, and the garages would send the new MoT certificates directly to the contract hirer’s head office. A driver at DTZ Debenham Tie Leung booked into a garage for a service and MoT and the car was returned.

Three months later she had a non-fault accident and had to produce her documents, but the contract hire company revealed there wasn’t an MoT certificate.

The driver was summoned to appear in court for failing to have an MoT.

An investigation revealed the garage had carried out the MoT and failed the car. They were supposed to order a part to rectify it.

They were also supposed to tell the driver and the contract hire company but they ‘forgot’.

The contract hire company had received an invoice for a service, but no MOT, but they didn’t notice and their taxation department didn’t pick up the fact that the MOT certificate on file was out of date and that the new one hadn’t been received.

Hollands said: ‘We resolved this by insisting that the garage wrote to the police, holding their hands up to their error, and our driver was exonerated.

‘But what if our car was involved in an accident as a result of failure to renew a part; or if another party had been injured?

‘The supplier had the vision for the initial idea, but failed to operate the system efficiently.’

Fleet managers’ roles will change beyond recognition

SHIFTING demands on fleet operators and the growing use of outsourcing are set to change the roles of many fleet managers beyond recognition.

Although a decision to outsource much of the day-to-day operation of a fleet can seem like a precursor to a P45 for many fleet decision-makers, it can actually make their role more important, Lynne Bundle, fleet manager of Pfizer told the conference.

The Pfizer fleet department, in charge of the 2,200 vehicles, has undergone a radical reworking as part of the outsourcing, but the role of the in-house fleet manager is still essential, she told the event.

She said: ‘Outsourcing is not some magic wand that you wave and walk away. There are still aspects of administration that must be done internally.

‘Procedures and processes have to be updated and you must monitor and measure performance. You have to retain control and ownership, because outsourcing needs to be managed.’

At first glance, outsourcing may seem like an opportunity to hand over all responsibility to a supplier, but the question is, how do they know what your company wants done with the fleet?

This is where the bulk of the work is needed on her outright purchase fleet, Bundle said.

She said: ‘The fleet is strategically managed, so with our partnerships we need a whole new way of managing the fleet.’

Internal responsibilities are varied, covering contract management, service level agreements, operational policy, process, maintaining cost effectiveness, customer service, complaint management and running the escalation process.

Bundle said: ‘Processes must be followed from start to finish and the supplier must know how your processes work. Suppliers need high-calibre staff on the helpdesk, so they think on an operational basis of the problems caused if they don’t follow A and B with C.

‘A nice phone manner is all very well, but if call centre staff simply ignore problems and hope they will go away, it doesn’t help.’

Written policies should leave no room for confusion, she said, because if responsibility is unclear, then a job can fall into a black hole and not get done.

Setting targets is vital, as is setting penalties to discourage any failures, but suppliers sometimes need coaching to be realistic about what they can achieve, or their ambitious promises will set them up to fail.

Bundle added: ‘Successful outsourcing is all down to how we measure and monitor our suppliers’ performance. Identify areas of improvement and regularly update procedures.’

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