These are challenging times for Scottish fleets. There are many traditional issues that fleet managers have to cope with, ranging from fuel prices, accident rates and running costs to duty of care and policy issues.
But in addition, Scottish firms are also finding they have a set of unique problems as new laws are set down by the Scottish Parliament and separate policies are pursued by organisations including the police. Examples range from the effect of the smoking ban on fleet operations to an anti-speed campaign targeting company directors.
For Sally Weeks, who recently took over as chairman of the Scottish region of fleet operators’ association Acfo, these challenges emphasise the importance of networking and sharing ideas to ensure that companies know the future issues they will face, and how they can tackle them.
Weeks, who is procurement and facilities manager for Maxxium, a wines and spirits brand sales distributor, where she runs 145 cars, said: ‘There are a lot of good things about Acfo, particularly the information that is available, the educational aspect to the meetings and the networking opportunities.
‘It is a valuable working tool for any fleet manager and at the same time, it is also extremely friendly.’
She has replaced Douglas Sutherland, partner – special projects, at DM Hall & Son, in Edinburgh, who spent the previous five years as chairman, before stepping down last year.
The role of an Acfo regional chairman is a demanding one and Weeks had to secure the support of senior managers before putting her name forward.
She said: ‘From a professional development viewpoint it is important. I had to speak to my directors about this because of the time it will involve. I am not taking on the role lightly and am really grateful to all the people who voted for me.
‘I am keen to get more members. I think the other thing we have here in Scotland is a large area from Inverness to Aberdeen and Glasgow, so we need to look at how to make sure we attract members from all areas of the country.’
The new role for Weeks is the latest development in a lifelong association with cars.
As a child, she used to help her father running classic cars, taking part in the London to Brighton rally. Models that have passed through family ownership include two Bugattis and a rare three-wheeled Morgan. She said: ‘I spent my childhood around oil, engines and motors and I learned a lot just from helping my father.’
This helped her with her understanding of fleet when she took over her present role nine years ago, which expanded from purchasing into the fleet arena. In the past few years, her work has brought a series of radical changes to the fleet, including changing replacement cycles from four to three years, introduction of risk management schemes and a shift away from outright purchase.
Weeks said: ‘When I joined, the head office looked at the company and said that the biggest asset the firm had was the Maxxium fleet and realised it needed to look at it closely.’
Although the role of Acfo regional chairman brings its own challenges, Weeks will continue to concentrate on the future of her own fleet.
Weeks is now looking closely at what new technology could do for the company’s running costs. She said: ‘We are now looking at hybrids. We are just pure diesel at the moment, but I am quite keen on the hybrid route as well and I would like to get one on the fleet.
‘We are also looking at the role of satellite navigation and parking sensors.
‘It is an area I was cynical about until recently, but sitting back and looking at some of the drivers, it is not such a bad idea.’
Like many other fleet managers, she is also keeping a close watch on the impact of legislation on the fleet, including the recent smoking ban which affects vans, but not company cars.
Weeks said: ‘The aim is to make staff more efficient and effective in their jobs and being part Acfo will help with my personal and professional development. It is fantastic news to be given the role of chairman and I am really looking forward to it.’
National Acfo network spreads fleet benefits
ACFO is a not-for-profit members organisation dedicated to mutual help among fleet operators. The organisation has more than 700 members and is designed for fleet operators, no matter what type of fleet they run.
As well as networking opportunities at regular regional meetings, the organisation also campaigns on behalf of fleet operators and gets their views heard among manufacturers, suppliers and at a government level.
Members are also able to share their problems and ask for help with finding solutions, while suppliers also provide in-depth knowledge.
There is also advice on legislation, regular news updates and online information, available at www.acfo.org/home. The Scottish region of Acfo has more than its fair share of award-winning fleet decision-makers. The annual Fleet News Awards regularly feature managers based in Scotland, including Sally Weeks, who in 2005 took home the award for Fleet Manager of the Year 101-400 vehicles.
Her Acfo colleague Jack Pryde, who runs the fleet of Dunfermline Building Society, was named Fleet Manager of the Year Sub-100 vehicles at the same time.
This year they were both shortlisted along with Ron Dickson, of Strathclyde Police, who also took home this year’s Platinum Award for his work on last year’s G8 Summit, which involved creating a fleet of 3,000 vehicles and then dismantling it in just a few months.
In 2003, Richard Flint took home another award for Strathclyde Police, as Fleet Manager of the Year 401-plus vehicles.
Weeks said: ‘Winning a Fleet News Award has already helped because I think it maximises recognition in companies that the fleet operator’s role is an important job in its own right.’