Fleet News

Award winner’s profile: Sally Weeks, Maxxium UK

AFTER speaking to Fleet News Award winner Sally Weeks for just a couple of minutes, it is clear to see where her priorities lie.

As procurement and facilities manager at Maxxium UK, a wines and spirits brand sales distributor, she is responsible for more than £3 million-worth of products and services, including a 145-strong fleet.

But, despite managing the fleet and a team of three employees, her focus is undoubtedly on her drivers.

Weeks, who in March was named Fleet News Fleet Manager of the Year 101-400 vehicles, an award sponsored by BMW Corporate Sales, said: ‘Cost savings are becoming more important and I am required to manage drivers, so my role is always a busy one. But keeping drivers motivated is important and we are keen to have a happy workforce.’

Maxxium increased its workforce last year with several new employees taken on for the promotional side of the business.

Eager to ensure that the new staff were equipped to do their job properly, Weeks immediately began allocating appropriate vehicles.

She said: ‘A number of new promotional staff were taken on, who required a different type of car.

‘Standard field staff have the Volkswagen Passat but the new staff are aged 25 or younger and don’t necessarily want a large car.’

Weeks keeps the drivers on her side by ensuring they are adequately informed about impending changes which affect them or the fleet.

She constantly takes advantage of free resources for fleet managers such as information from the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) and from the media.

‘With upcoming legislation I try to read as much as possible before it is introduced. I then inform drivers so that they are aware of any legislative changes,’ she said.

Drivers are also expected to read the company’s 30-page fleet policy, which has recently been re-written.

Weeks explained: ‘We have just re-launched the car policy. We have revamped it and it has been given to all drivers, who must sign a declaration saying they have read it.

‘New starters are not allowed to drive a company car until we have seen their licences and signed the declaration.

‘We have also switched to a three-year replacement policy from four years. This was because of the damage we were seeing to vehicles and general wear and tear. Having a three-year cycle also motivates staff more.’

As part of the policy all staff, including occasional business drivers, are encouraged to use a company car or one of the company’s pool vehicles.

Weeks said: ‘Fleet managers need to have a tight policy and educate drivers. And don’t rely on drivers to read the policy – you need to explain why you are introducing something and the benefits to them.

‘I could easily change the fleet policy every day with just little things as the industry is constantly changing but I have to stop myself.’

One aspect of the evolving fleet policy means all staff have to complete an online driver training test.

Weeks said: ‘The online driver assessments enable us to see who needs further training. We predict about 10-15% of new drivers will need additional training.

‘All our existing staff are doing the online assessment too – and it’s not just company car drivers, as everyone who works for the company is involved. We don’t want to differentiate between occasional and regular company car use.

‘As for budgets, everything has to be forward planned. The online training was paid for in the last financial year so if we need to do on-road training it can come from this year’s budget.’

A stringent focus on risk management has already reaped rewards for Weeks, who has seen a reduction in accident-related costs.

She has helped save more than £20,000 despite increasing the number of company car drivers employed at Maxxium. Now she is assessing accident records and trends to see if there is a correlation between any of the figures.

‘We would like to see if there is a pattern with accidents such as a high number of ‘hit while parked’,’ she said.

In addition to driver training, Weeks believes training for fleet managers is important and says it is imperative to have somebody in control of the fleet who understands what the job involves.

She said: ‘You have to have someone who knows what they are doing running the fleet. Anyone starting a career in fleet management now can’t hit the ground running.

‘Training for fleet managers is important but sometimes it is very difficult to find the time to do it.’

However, the role of the fleet manager will continue to be fundamental for companies across the globe, according to Weeks.

She added: ‘There is no way that the fleet manager will disappear. We will continue to be important and I hope we are recognised accordingly. Sometimes fleet managers are undervalued.

‘The fleet manager protects drivers, looks out for their best interests and the company can’t afford not to have this.’

What the judges said

‘SALLY Weeks has an increased sales force to keep mobile at the drinks distribution company and a fleet of vehicles which needs constantly monitoring. She has strict policies on opting out and insists drivers cover business mileage in company cars. ‘On a strict budget, she has kept cost low through initiatives including a cut in accident costs despite a growing fleet. She has power to ‘do what needs doing’ with a good approach to duty of care and control of suppliers.’

Career profile

  • January 2000 – present: procurement and facilities manager, Maxxium UK
  • May 1999 – January 2000: project manager, Maxxium UK
  • March 1997 – May 1999: procurement manager, Rémy UK
  • June 1993 – March 1997: procurement manager - tobacco, Nurdin & Peacock
  • February 1995 – May 1996: buyer, Own Label Retail Grocery
  • June 1993 – February 1995: marketing department co-coordinator
  • June 1990 – June 1993: office manager, Prestige Personnel
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