Fleet News

Hit for Six: record audience soaks up industry insight

A RECORD audience attended the annual Hit for Six conference, this year held in northern and southern venues.

FLEET News has been hitting the road over the past couple of weeks to deliver top-quality business information to a record number of fleet managers at two Hit for Six conferences.

This year’s expanded programme attracted a record 300 people at two venues in the north and south: The Quadrangle Conference Centre, Oxford, and Craiglands Hotel, Ilkley.

Chaired by TV journalist and Sky News anchorwoman Vivien Creegor in Oxford and BBC financial presenter Declan Curry in Ilkley, the conference featured 15 expert speakers from throughout the fleet industry.

Events director Chris Lester said: ‘The decision to hold Hit for Six at two venues this year was based on extensive feedback from fleet operators. As a result, our overall attendance leapt by nearly 100% and meant all the benefits of the speakers’ best practice advice reached a much wider audience. The feedback from both events has been excellent and justifies our investment.’

The event was sponsored by Honda, the van session by Eagle Eye and exhibitors included Safed, ACFO, insuremyfleet.com, Drive Diagnostics, Eagle Eye and Honda.

Next steps in health and safety – the Corporate Manslaughter bill and beyond

DESPITE a 40% increase in traffic volume the number of people killed on British roads has fallen by more than 40% since the early 1980s. Serious injuries have fallen by 60%.

But Roger Bibbings, occupational health and safety advisor at Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) sees no reason for celebration or complacency.

‘The 3,000 deaths and 30,000 serious injuries each year create an enormous amount of misery and in addition to the awful human cost there is a huge financial cost,’ Bibbings told the Hit For Six conference.

He called for the government to accept that work-related road safety was a major issue and asked for an increase in Health & Safety Executive resources to combat the problem.

‘The government must also be seen to be taking the lead as an exemplary employer.’

Losses = 235m chocolate bars

CONFECTIONERY giant Nestle would have to sell 235 million Kit-Kats to cover its uninsured losses, according to Andy Price, of Zurich Risk Services.

‘For every £1 recovered through insurance, there are between £8 and £53-worth of uninsured losses,’ said Price. ‘These include absenteeism, brand damage and high staff turnover.’

Price told the Hit For Six conference about a case study featuring a company that invested £209k in a risk management programme. With uninsured losses taken into account, the incident reduction as a result of risk management gave that £209k investment a net present value to the company of £883k. This is a compelling argument to take to any finance manager.

In a dramatic piece of audience participation, Price also showed the conference delegates how drivers travel much further before reacting to an emergency if using a mobile phone than they would if they were drunk.

The cost of fleet – tax and wholelife costs

THREE major issues that could affect company car drivers were covered by Eliazabeth Ward, of HM Revenue and Customs.

Firstly, the changes to taxation of company vans.

At the moment, if van drivers have ‘insignificant’ personal use of their vans, they do not incur a benefit-in-kind tax charge. It is currently based on £500, on which the employee pays tax at their basic rate.

From April 6 next year, the tax charge will increase to £3,000, meaning anyone incurring a tax charge could be paying more than if they had a company car.

Delegates raised concerns that the term ‘insignificant’ makes it difficult to define whether an employee will be taxed on not.

Elizabeth Ward also revealed that following a lengthy consultation about the future of employee car ownership schemes, the results were being passed to Ministers.

Finally, she updated fleets on a major review of the treatment of capital allowances for company cars, which will review the tax treatment of vehicles.

The results of both consultations on tax policy could be unveiled as early as November, when Chancellor Gordon Brown makes his pre-Budget report to Parliament.

‘Keeping appropriate records is essential for ECO scheme compliance.’

There are simple tactics for minimising your losses from depreciation, according to CAP business services manager Mark Norman.

They include choosing vehicles that are recently launched, buying and selling cars in March, doing less miles and avoiding expensive options that are worth little at defleeting time are simple tactics for minimising your losses from depreciation.

Satellite navigation which cost £1,000 new is worth only £150 on the used market, while £1,000 leather seats attract a £100 premium.

And a Mondeo hatchback that has done 30,000 miles will be worth £1,000 more than one that has done 60,000 miles.

If you are buying a car that will still be on the fleet when a new model comes out, be prepared for a steep residual value drop.

He said: ‘Lifecycle is critical to residuals. Almost always the old-shape model drops dramatically when a new version is launched.’

Fleet management – expert strategies for fleets operating LCVs

RUNNING a successful van fleet requires an understanding of the under-lying costs such as the cost of vehicle down-time, residuals and servicing, said Janet Entwistle, managing director of BT Fleet.

Because vans are often highly important to the core function of the business, you need to be have even more in-depth analysis of that state of the fleet than with cars.

You need to investigate model mix to maximise residuals, work out the types of journeys being made to ensure vans are fit-for-purpose, look at security and keep a close eye on maintenance costs.

But often there is less information readily available, which led Entwistle to wonder if it was time for a change.

She said: ‘Is it about time there was a stand-alone Association of Van Fleet Operators, rather than van fleet managers being tagged on to other associations?’

Telematics pay off

CUTTING costs and risk by reducing speeding and tracing stolen vehicles are just two of the benefits of introducing telematics, delegates heard.

Damian James, head of transport provision at Bracknell Forest Borough Council, said the technology would increasingly become a common feature in running a fleet, but he also highlighted problems associated with their use.

He said an open honest approach with employees was vital, as ‘big brother’ concerns were still an issue.

James said: ‘Operate an open honest approach, have a specific marketing plan and explain to drivers what is happening and why.’

Fleet management best practice – blasts of innovation

A NUMBER of fleets attending the Hit for Six conferences have volunteered to take part in a project to evaluate the effectiveness of a new work related road safety CD-Rom.

Compiled by TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) at the request of the Department for Transport (DfT), the disc includes a series of case studies showing measures put in place by fleets to reduce risk to their drivers among many other useful features.

The presentation was delivered by senior researcher Britta Lang in Oxford and by head of investigations and risk manager Saul Jeavons in Ilkley.

Both Lang and Jeavons appealed for volunteers to assess the CD-Rom and left the venues clutching a number of fleet manager business cards.

Gather allies around you to boost standing of fleet

James Langley, director of Fleet Intellect, spoke about best practice in fleet management and the need to secure personal credibility within your business, which then leads to management support for your plans.

In securing management support, Langley said you need to identify potential allies and align yourself with them. Then, when presenting ideas to the board, make sure you use the business’s language: there’s no point speaking in terms and language they won’t understand. Also focus on costs and opportunities – the bottom line – to get the attention of management.

‘Competent fleet managers always convert the benefits of any initiative into pound note values.’

Vehicle funding options – company car versus cash-for-car/ECO schemes

COMPANIES seeking to launch employee car ownership schemes should be aware that they will not suit all employees, conference-goers were told.

Alison Chapman who is a partner at professional services firm Deloitte, presented a case study of one company with 300 drivers which showed how a move to an employee car ownership scheme would affect them.

Chapman told delegates: ‘An employee car ownership scheme is not always the simple answer you thought it would be. We advise companies not to go one way for everyone.’

Much of the savings achieved by ECOs are the removal of free fuel, she said.

Chapman also spoke about the HM Revenue & Custom’s review of ECO schemes but said that she had no idea yet what the outcome of the review would be.

Share knowledge of funding methods

Choosing the right funding method for your fleet is a process that requires starting at the very bottom and reviewing everything – even basic elements, if only to confirm what you already know, said Nigel Trotman, business relationship manager at Whitbread.

You should also include departments such as HR, finance, the board and health and safety to ensure the review is as wide ranging as possible.

And don’t feel a fleet review is a merely a threat to your job, Trotman added. During a funda-mental review of Whitbread’s funding policy, Trotman found it was a great opportunity to get across your own ideas, influence the outcome and do your business, and your career, some good.

He said: ‘There are many ways of providing a company car. Just ensure that your way is the best for you and your organisation and don’t assume there isn’t a better way.’

Chaos turns to calm with ECO scheme

COMMUNICATION is key to the successful implementation of a cash for car scheme, businesses were told. Drawing on his company’s experience, David Weeks, head of communications at building materials supplier Hanson, said the company was now running a successful scheme, but only after a period of ‘chaos’.

Among lessons learned, Weeks said: ‘Never underestimate the value of a company car to an employee. If you are considering an alternative scheme, put communication at the top of the agenda.’

The company runs a fleet of 1,200 vehicles and quickly realised that personal circumstances meant such a scheme affected drivers in different ways.

Fleet management and the environment – future choices for fleets

FURTHER evidence of global warming, including carbon levels in Shrewsbury and Antarctica, backed up calls by Chris Endacott, of Gfleet Services, for tighter controls on fleet emissions.

He suggested that alternatives to travel should be explored. ‘We need to find ways to make the zero travel alternatives easy to use,’ he said. ‘There should be more audio and video conferencing and home-based or flexible-hours working.’

Endacott also warned of the environmental cost of cars owned by staff but operated on behalf of their employers. He calls this the ‘forgotten fleet’ and believes it is made up of older cars that require closer management and often cost more than the company car alternative.

‘Sustainable transport is cleaner, safer and cheaper. Companies will save money.’

Alternative fuels - ensure your vehicles are fit for purpose

MAKING sure vehicles fit the task was one of the key learning points from a two-year trial of alternative fuels carried out by Norfolk County Council.

The trial revealed unexpected issues to deal with. ‘When one council employee drove his electric truck past a school, the children all sang the Postman Pat theme song,’ said project leader Stuart Hutchinson. ‘Things like that need to be handled sensitively.’

The trials were conducted to provide the council with data taken from a relevant test environment. It has led to a policy on alternative fuels and initiatives such as LPG bunkering and recycling vegetable oil from canteens.

A copy of the report can be bought online for £35 at www.altfuel.norfolk.gov.uk.

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