Fleet News

Guest opinion: Why we Scots do things differently

SCOTLAND is different. This is the view you will get from both sides of the border, but probably for different reasons.

Running a fleet here has many similarities with the rest of Britain – the same motoring laws and tax legislation, for a start. But there are some factors which make the job more difficult, or interesting, depending on your outlook.

With a smaller population than England, mostly in the central belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow and up the eastern side to Aberdeen, there are large tracts of the country which have few people and consequently fewer roads.

Travel is therefore concentrated on a limited number of routes with no alternatives. Even some A-roads in the north are single track with passing places, which may be quaint for the tourists but frustrating for those trying to go about their daily business.

Fuel costs are of a particular concern in Scotland, again more so in the north and especially in the Hebrides and Orkneys and Shetlands. The latter is a 12-hour ferry trip from Aberdeen and fuel gets there by tanker and ship – believe me, it is not pumped straight out of the North Sea.

The £1 a litre for petrol has been breached for some time in more remote areas of the mainland and the islands and fuel stations are becoming few and far between. And this is an area of Britain where public transport is very restricted and private travel is the only option.

In terms of costs fleet managers in Scotland have to add in the extra cost of fuel over the lease term as well as depreciation and SMR costs when considering vehicle choice and selection. They also need to exercise tight control over fuel management and encourage drivers to take advantage of refuelling in urban areas where prices are more competitive.

The issue of charging for road usage is a concern in Scotland, even though it is currently restricted to England. Proposals for a scheme similar to London’s were rejected by referendum for Edinburgh.

The reasons were possibly more to do with the form of the proposals than the principle and, while the topic will not return in the same form, there will be those arguing strongly for some approach to limit traffic in the congested centres in the main cities.

The Scots have a reputation for being careful with money and this may be the reason that ‘cash for cars’ has never taken off here. It has never been encouraged by those running fleets but it may also be that the drivers themselves recognise the benefits of having a vehicle supplied rather than providing their own.

Servicing was becoming a major problem with a limited dealer spread, particularly in the outlying areas. But the Block Exemption changes have started to solve this. Prior to the new regulation, providing particular models in areas where there were no franchised dealer servicing facilities within a practical distance was a nightmare.

Because of the relatively small population the number of dedicated Scottish fleets is limited. This may not be a disadvantage as the vehicle manufacturers make great efforts to look after the fleets which are here.

Also the motor business is a tight-knit community, whether fleet manager, dealer or supplier and that offers major advantages in that it is in no-one’s interests to attempt to gain unfair financial advantage. Everyone else would soon know about it.

One of the conduits of such information is the local branch of the Asociation of Car Fleet Operators. This is the smallest ACFO unit in the UK, but it has the largest geographical area and it represents not only local businesses but also national and multi-national companies through their area representatives.

This avoids any risk of any of us based here from becoming too insular – even if that is what some may want.

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