Thousands of company car drivers have given their unanimous backing to retaining the role of fleet manager in a survey by vehicle management company Total Motion, which found standards dropped when HR took over the fleet.
In its Vehicle Monitor survey of 2,018 company car and authorised drivers, 84% of drivers rated the service and support they received from their fleet manager at eight out of 10 or above.
However, where the fleet was run by the HR department, only 21% of drivers rated the service and support at eight or above.
Total Motion managing director Simon Hill said: ‘Many companies with small fleets have got rid of the fleet manager completely in an effort to cut costs, but it can be a false economy. The fleet manager was an easy target in the cost-cutting process and many HR departments were left holding the baby when they neither wanted or knew how to deal with it.’
Hill believes that when the job of fleet management is taken on by HR, it becomes just one of many administrative tasks.
He said: ‘HR departments haven’t got the time or the motivation to be proactive, to keep up with the changing fleet market and to communicate with their drivers.
‘A dedicated fleet manager ensures greater focus, knowledge and control. They proactively manage the fleet to minimise costs, improve services and reduce risks – particularly when there is an accident or unexpected incident. With a better understanding of the market, they can use and combine fleet management services to create a more effective solution for the company.
‘Fleet managers are also more likely to assist and communicate with their drivers on a regular basis – hence the higher rating in our survey.’
Hill reckoned that companies must have a dedicated person – either full or part-time – with the right internal and external support and the right knowledge to perform a fleet manager role. He added: ‘For a company with 100 vehicles, a dedicated manager may actually need to allocate less than one day a week to the fleet if they have the right support.’
A spokesman for Acfo, the fleet operators’ association, said: ‘We generally agree with the main thrust of this report. We have long campaigned for organisations which use cars and vans in any part of their business to have direct and immediate access to someone who knows about fleet management in its widest sense.
‘The trend to fleet outsourcing all too often leads to the erroneous view that the business no longer needs a fleet manager or administrator.
‘We would, however, take issue with the criticism of HR departments as the villains of the piece.
Our experience is that failure to recognise the importance of good fleet management is uniform across all corporate disciplines – this is an attitude problem from some senior managers, irrespective of their corporate role. Given the costs and the emotion normally associated with any vehicle fleet, it is always a concern that some managements simply feel that no internal expertise is required.’