Keeping company employees on-side can help a fleet policy run smoothly, but sometimes managers have to ensure that drivers toe the line or risk ending up being backed into a corner from which they cannot escape. If one driver is given leeway on car choice it can open the floodgates for others to demand more.
Remaining diplomatic but firm is a necessity in fleet management, according to Jack Pryde, Fleet News’ Fleet Manager of the Year: Sub-100 vehicles, sponsored by Northgate.
Pryde has been in charge of the 66-strong fleet at Dunfermline Building Society for the past 10 years as supplier relationship manager.
He said: ‘There is a limit to flexibility with choice lists, and drivers will try to bully fleet managers. We have to be polite but robust. Bullying does happen in subtle ways as people always want more but they must look towards the car policy.’
Managing the fleet not only requires flexibility and diplomacy but also the ability to adapt to external changes. This has thrown up some challenges for all fleet managers during the past decade, according to Pryde.
He said: ‘The car industry has changed over the past 10 years. On our fleet the main change is better vehicle choice. It is more restricted in terms of badge, but we have better quality vehicles.
‘There is much more involvement with the drivers, and fleet managers have to get involved. Having an in-house fleet manager means we know every car and every driver.
Introducing new policies and alterations to choice lists could be a little simpler following his Fleet News win, says Pryde, who believes the accolade has gained him respect from drivers.
He said: ‘The award raises the profile of the fleet manager and shows the benefits of having an in-house fleet manager. Drivers respect me more and realise that it is something I do and is not just part of another job.’
As part of the job, Pryde has instigated a couple of major changes recently: a switch from petrol to a 100% diesel fleet alongside the introduction of a fuel card payment system.
He explained: ‘We used to run petrol cars but with the tax change a few years ago and the low emission benefits to diesel, we changed. Even when the 3% surcharge comes in it will still be a good deal.
‘Drivers used to claim fuel costs back on expenses but for the ease of drivers we introduced fuel cards earlier this year. We have not analysed the savings yet but I can now see where drivers fill up and can advise where to go for best prices.’
The group has no alternatively-fuelled cars and Pryde has no plans to introduce any. ‘I have never seen liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as a real alternative,’ he said.
The building society’s fleet is made up of mainly Volkswagen followed by Honda and Ford. All the vehicles are outright purchased and although disposal is usually through local and national auctions, Pryde does keep some of the vehicles on the fleet for a much longer cycle.
He explained: ‘Some are kept on to work on other projects. This includes major IT projects where the vehicles have limited use on the road and are just used for travelling between branches.’
The judges of the Fleet News Awards praised Pryde for pushing the safety agenda forward and this is set to be his focus for the coming year.
He is planning to rewrite the company’s risk management and duty of care policy which will be produced into a ‘driver-friendly document.’
‘I am hoping to finish the document by the third quarter and it will cover issues such as maintenance, driving, vehicle choice and insurance. This year I want to ensure that the fleet is safe and well driven for both the driver and the company.’
Pryde is also working in conjunction with local police in a bid to reduce the number of speeding tickets issued to drivers. Mobile speed camera locations will be issued to drivers each week to raise awareness of speeding and encourage them to slow down. He said: ‘If a mobile driver got disqualified it would be a major problem for the fleet.’
Jack Pryde: biography
What the judges said
WITH more than a decade in charge of the 60-vehicle fleet, he showed clear authority in managing the fleet and has gained respect from drivers. From balancing inspirational vehicle choice with good cost control, to keeping a tight rein on vehicle condition and fighting the fleet corner at a senior level, Pryde makes a real impact.
With strong managerial support, he has pushed forward the safety agenda and now has his sights set on a complete reworking of the company car policy.
Pryde’s fleet tips