Home to countless different languages and varying legislative systems, the thought of implementing a consolidated fleet policy across Europe that works for every country is like trying to finish a jigsaw with pieces from dozens of different sets.
Problems which most UK fleet managers deem serious, such as changing drivers’ attitudes, obtaining extra funds from the board and negotiating deals with suppliers, are like a drop in the ocean to those operating on a pan-European basis.
One fleet manager who knows first hand about the complexities of operating a fleet throughout the Continent is Fleet News Award winner Di Miller, who was named pan-European Fleet Manager of the Year for the second year running in March.
Miller is responsible for almost 2,700 vehicles in 15 European countries at communications firm NextiraOne and introducing a centralised fleet operation has been one of her biggest challenges to date.
However, it has not been an easy task and persuading countries that modifying their current system will be advantageous to them has been arduous.
Miller explained: ‘Problems with the approaches in different countries make it difficult to deal with change and it is frustrating trying to convince countries that what you are doing is for their best intentions.
‘Some countries do not like change so we have to work closely with them as their thinking is totally different to that in the UK. Most of Europe is not like the UK. It operates differently and just because they have company cars doesn’t means they run them like in the UK.’
Obstacles Miller has come across include varying management systems, different insurance polices and limited fuel card outlets – all adding to the complexities of a European fleet manager.
Miller said: ‘We completed a new fleet policy six months ago. This includes a health and safety best practice manual and a mileage capture facility. European countries have to translate the policy into their own language and although we haven’t had any feedback from the policy yet we will look into it once a new software system has been introduced.’
NextiraOne is a business communications specialist, employing more than 9,500 people across the world. It was formed in 2002 after parent company Platinum Equity integrated several of its brands under one umbrella company.
Following moves to centralise the fleet policy at the company, Miller is now introducing a central fleet management software system to be used in all NextiraOne’s European offices.
The FleetPlus system provided by cfc solutions will bring together data from all of the company’s European offices.
Miller explained: ‘I want to eventually bring all information into one consolidated Excel spreadsheet so that I can manage the fleet properly. The system will allow us to look at choice lists and what cars are costing the business money, enabling us to see if there is room for improvement.’
However, introducing a universal system brings a new set of hurdles. Some of the software systems already in place in Europe are not capable of providing the material Miller requires. It seems a small problem but factor in language, distance and different working practices and it becomes a much bigger issue.
By the end of July, Miller hopes the UK, Germany and France will be fully implemented on the new system.
She said: ‘By using the data gained from the system, I will be able to see exactly how much each fleet costs. I will then be able to present the data to the chief executives in Europe.
‘This will show information such as fuel costs and any ad-hoc charges such as valeting and early termination charges.
‘This will enable us to measure countries against each other but it all comes down to cost at the end of the day. As a fleet manager, I know how we should operate but it is difficult to convince European countries. I can see how much money they are wasting but tact and diplomacy are required.’
What the judges said
SINCE winning last year’s European Fleet of the Year Award, Miller has not rested on her laurels. In fact, in the months following her prestigious win, Miller is experiencing one of her busiest periods as she continues to roll out its new fleet policy across 15 NextiraOne companies throughout Europe.
Anyone involved in the pan-European fleet industry knows that sort of harmony does not just happen by chance – it is the result of a well executed policy that is properly communicated to all parties involved.
The pace of development at NextiraOne shows no sign of slowing and Miller is currently negotiating with other suppliers, such as those for insurance and accident management, for a pan-European solution. Di Miller: profile