Fleet News

Review of the year 2007

We look back at the year's major issues which affected the fleet industry.

January

The new year saw the Government start its search for industry champions that could help spread best practice around the fleet industry.

Funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) and organised by charity RoadSafe, the plan was to seek out fleet executives and company directors as luminaries for good management and safety.

Fleets were also urged to team up, creating buying consortiums to make developing green vehicle technologies cheaper.

Cenex, a Government-funded organisation aimed at promoting the take-up of low carbon technologies, said such working was vital to stimulate the market.

February February arrived with a stark warning that the forthcoming smoking ban was mired in chaos.

Fleet News was inundated with calls from fleet managers unsure as to how the ban would affect them and what they should tell their drivers.

The legislation was variously referred to by fleets as “ludicrous”, “confusing” and “a recipe for disaster”.

There was also concern over new advisory fuel tax rates, criticised for leaving drivers out of pocket.

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) agreed to meet with fleet operators’ association ACFO to clarify how the new figures were determined.

The Department for Transport came under fire for missing five of seven public service agreement targets on transport.

The Commons Transport Committee said progress on improving air quality, public transport, climate change and congestion was too slow.

March

Calls for a standardisation of vehicle recall procedures were made to the Government after Vehicle Operators Services Agency figures showed that in 2005, 160,000 vehicle faults were not fixed.

The DfT proposed allowing the police to formally inspect companies whose drivers and vehicles come to their attention on the road.

Conservative leader David Cameron had a pop at Labour’s green fleet policy, claiming fleets were burdened and confused by bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, the Government was missing targets for reducing its own road transport emissions – just six of 21 departments made their planned CO2 cuts.

April

The Government asked fleets for feedback on draft plans for biofuels in the UK.

The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), which sets targets for the amount of biofuel sold in the UK in the future, was out for consultation.

The then transport minister Stephen Ladyman said he wanted to hear fleets’ views on biofuel incentives which were not included in the RTFO.

Also, fleets expressed concern that efforts to go green were being hindered by a lack of clear advice from the Government. Many managers told Fleet News that they were unclear on the options available.

There were calls for van manufacturers to publish fuel economy figures.

From January 2008, all vans under 3.5 tonnes will have to be officially tested.

The new rules do not compel manufacturers to make the information known, but fleets said doing so would help the industry.

May

The case of van driver Michael Eyres, paralysed in a crash after falling asleep at the wheel, was heralded as a wake-up call to all fleets.

Mr Eyres’ employer, Atkinsons Kitchens and Bedrooms, was found to be liable for the accident because of its culture of long hours.

HMRC used Fleet News’ Risk in Fleet Conference as an opportunity to get feedback on proposed changes to employee car ownership schemes (ECOS) and approved mileage allowance payments (AMAPs).

It was revealed that rising congestion trapped company car drivers in their vehicles for 70 days of the year, despite annual mileage dropping by more than 10%.

This cost UK businesses millions of pounds in wasted productivity.

The prospect of road charging schemes across the UK took a step closer to reality, as the draft Local Transport Bill unveiled the Government’s plans to give councils their own powers to introduce schemes.

June

Delays in vehicle delivery times led to warnings that fleets should plan their orders well in advance.

With more specification combinations than ever before, many manufacturers now build to order rather than stockpile for delivery, which means longer waits for customers.

Company car drivers called on the Government to introduce harsher penalties for bad driving.

The RAC Report on Motoring 2007 found that most drivers want the drink-drive limit reduced.

The Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency pulled the plug on an initiative that would have allowed large fleets to relicense vehicles en masse digitally, which would have saved huge amounts of time and expense each year.

July

The Energy Saving Trust announced it was planning to increase the number of consultants it employs, after a surge in interest for its free green fleet reviews.

Unions dismissed claims that they were hindering fleets from improving safety by telling employees not to hand over personal information for risk assessment.

ING Car Lease had said it had faced data protection protests from unions on behalf of employees unwilling to give up information.

Corporate analysts Market and Business Development suggested company cars were here to stay as more firms move away from cash alternatives. But it also predicted that fleet management would be increasingly outsourced.

At the end of the month, fleet managers accused suppliers of scaremongering in their attempts to sell risk management products.

Many managers told Fleet News that firms warned of court action or prison if their drivers had an accident.

August

The Corporate Manslaughter Bill received Royal Assent and will become law from April 2008.

Legal expert David Faithful told Fleet News the law would lead to more prosecutions of firms not fulfilling their legal obligations.

The Government was accused of hypocrisy by the Liberal Democrats over its green message, as ministerial car usage increased.

Ken Livingstone was criticised over plans to increase the rate paid by high-polluting cars entering the London congestion charge zone.

July’s case of Michael Eyres was having little impact on small fleets – 88% of fleet brokers had no enquiries from clients about reducing driver tiredness.

September

A quarter of HR and finance directors said congestion was harming the UK’s competitiveness, showed a LeasePlan survey.

The Office of Government Commerce agreed a £270 million leasing deal which gave thousands of public sector fleet managers cheap leasing rates.

Important changes in company car taxation will offer savings worth millions for both companies and drivers, according to experts speaking at Fleet News’ Hit for Six conference.

The new 10% benefit-in-kind tax band comes into force in April – a 35% reduction on the current lowest band – and a company’s Class 1A National Insurance Contributions charge on the benefit will fall by £132.

October

Fuel prices started to nudge £1 a litre, which prompted warnings to managers to use every weapon in their armoury to keep a lid on rising costs.

The cost increase was caused in part by a fuel tax rise of 2p a litre, the first of three annual increases announced in the Budget.

Corporate safety advisory firm Transafe said the latest police Road Death Investigation Manual – due for publication in November – was missing vital instructional data.

A failure to give a comprehensive procedure for officers to follow when investigating a road death involving a fleet vehicle means fleet managers are unable to fully prepare for an investigation, the firm said.

A damning report found major failings in grey fleet policies, with widespread lack of understanding of the risks associated with employees driving their own vehicles on company business.

The Arval report found more than half of firms fail to check whether employees have business insurance.

November

The House of Commons transport committee warned the Government that it was risking being accused of blackmailing local authorities in its attempt to introduce road pricing.

Government statistics showed that the cost of cars fell over the past decade, but efficiency has not improved.

Concerns were raised that the number of road accidents involving at-work drivers was being under-reported.

The Driving Standards Agency and HMRC decided to change the way advisory fuel rates are reviewed – it will now give one month’s notice and review twice a year.

Rates will also be changed should fuel prices fluctuate by 5%.

December

Unison, the UK’s biggest union, said it was considering strike action over a Government delay in publishing changes to AMAP rates, claiming it was unfair that staff should be left out of pocket for running their own cars on business.

The growing number of crashes involving foreign-registered vehicles was becoming more of problem for fleet managers, with several reporting that trying to get any money out of foreign insurers for damage caused was proving to be a real problem.

The Royal Mail confirmed it is to stop its employees from using their own vehicles for work.

Currently, more than 8,000 of its 120,000 staff use their own vehicles, but they will be required to end the practice within the next two to three years.

Cost management was the main concern of fleet managers in the National Car Rental/Fleet News survey – 32% put it as their top priority

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