Fleet News

Fleet focus: What matters in fleet?

This month two issues appear to dominate – the forthcoming English smoking ban and the battle to reduce fleets’ impact on the environment.

The smoking ban

When, on July 1, England bans smoking in public places and workplaces – including company vehicles – it will mark the fourth and final nail in the coffin for smoking at work in the UK.

While fans of clean air will rejoice, fleets are facing headaches galore as they struggle to adjust in time.

According to Tony Leigh, company secretary for fleet operators’ association ACFO, there is still considerable confusion.

He said: “Should smoking be banned in employees’ own cars when they are on work trip?

“There still seems to be a fog around it, we still don’t know. The big sticking point in the legislation is where it says ‘primarily used for business purposes’ – what does primarily actually mean?”

Fleet News award winner Nick Purkis, fleet risk manager for removal firm Pickfords, says: “The smoking ban is the biggest issue facing fleets at the moment – mainly how we’re going to police it. It’s been a problem in Scotland and it will be in England too.

“Once drivers go off site they are on their own.

“The only thing we can do is check for ash but if they smoke out of the window it’s going to be difficult. It’s been company policy not to smoke anyway, but we really have to step up a gear now, we don’t want to get caught.”

Another Fleet News award-winner, Michelle Hallam of Fisher Scientific, says the smoking ban is her main problem.

“We already have a no-smoking policy but I don’t know if people will be very happy about having no-smoking stickers in their cars,” she says.

“We’re trying to work out where to position them. The vehicles are used for personal use so I’m a bit apprehensive about how it’s going to go down. The rules say it should be in every passenger compartment so that would in the back as well as the front.”

Helen Bolton, fleet manager for Ceuta Healthcare, is finding it all very confusing. “I’m putting a policy together at the moment and that’s my main priority,” she says.

“Some of our drivers only have a passenger with them once every six months but even then it has to be no smoking at any time. It’s a major concern of mine at the moment what I’m going to put in the policy and how to tell the drivers of both the company car and employee-owned cars.”

Telling the drivers is also the big worry for Alison Harding, BBT Thermotechnology’s fleet administrator.

“Communicating the smoking ban out to the drivers hasn’t been simple,” she says.

“We have a lot of service engineers that won’t go near email or electronic communications and we’ve had a few people that have been a bit grumpy about it.

“Mostly it’s been the non-smokers that aren’t happy about ‘defacing’ their vans with no-smoking stickers and the senior management don’t like the idea of putting a sticker in their company cars.”

    Sales director, Avis Rent a Car

    The most pressing issue facing the car rental industry is that of rising prices. Manufacturers are reducing supply into the rental market and therefore costs are rising. Fuel, vehicle repair costs and insurance premiums are also on the increase.

    To reduce this impact, we believe that companies should be streamlining their rental strategy to keep costs under control. We would advise corporates to adopt a rental policy that ensures any restrictions, such as choice of car group and level of insurance, are clearly documented and implemented.

    managing director, Leaseplan UK

    The Court of Appeal ruling in the Michael Eyres case (Fleet News, May 3, 2007) leaps to mind as a major issue, bringing the industry’s focus squarely back on to duty of care.

    A little-covered issue concerns minibuses. Those used for commercial reasons that seat 10 or more and are under 3.5 tonnes now need a tachograph to measure drivers’ hours.

    Biofuels have taken centre stage recently, with the government proposing that by 2010/2011, 5% of all fuel sold in the UK must be biofuel. The debate is picking up pace, and such ideas from central government show that practical steps are beginning to be taken.

    UK fleet risk manager, Pickfords

    EU driving licences are a problem – there are 180 different types in 27 countries. We get people apply from different EU countries that are perfectly entitled to work here but we don’t know if they have points or if they are entitled to drive in the UK. We’re trying to come up with a workable system to check.

    chief executive, FMG Support

    The big issues – environment, safety and taxation – will continue to dominate headlines, but customer service is where the focus must be.

    As fleet continues to be become more of a boardroom issue, the pressure is on clearly demonstrating the tangible link between fleet performance and business performance improvement. There has been a lot of talk on the value of fleet, but customers now need to see the evidence.

    Service standards have to improve across the industry. Central to delivering this is continuing to develop and implement regulation such as the Kitemark initiative that promotes best practice, improves standards and customer service.

    The reputation of the fleet industry depends on it.

    managing director, Masterlease

    Today’s fleet operators and managers to be alert to ever-changing social and legislative demands. Managing occupational road risk remains high on the agenda, but as part of a wider awareness of corporate responsibility.

    With road transport accounting for more than 20% of emissions this is bringing the environment to the forefront. Whether that means reacting to driver concerns, carbon reduction programmes or dealing with legislative change – such as the London Low Emission Zone or congestion charging and road pricing schemes – it is down to organisations such as ourselves to provide the right support, advice and guidance to its customers.

    managing director, Car Benefit Solutions

    Since the 2007 budget speech about the future of Employee Car Ownership Schemes in March, prospective clients have been confused as to the future of ECOS.

    However, the commitment to ECOS from those businesses already running such schemes has undoubtedly risen.

    Immediately after the budget we were asked by several clients to design policies creating a green ECOS as part of greener employee benefits packages.

    Clearly, companies are becoming more focused on their environmental responsibilities. It is encouraging to see so many taking a holistic approach to green fleet management, and not just simply creating their policies based on lower CO2 emissions.

    fleet manager, Hampshire Police

    We are currently reviewing the way we carry equipment in our armed response vehicles.

    With modern cars we’re finding the payloads don’t seem realistic. When we put in our specialist equipment and four officers we’re coming very close to the payload limits. There’s more demand in policing to carry more equipment including firearms, ballistic vests, shields and helmets as well as stun grenades and tasers.

    As well as armed response stuff there’s all the technology that goes in to policing these days.

    A lot of new cars are using run-flat tyre technology. That poses an issue in ensuring there are adequate outlets nearby where the stock and the relevant tooling is available.I’m led to believe it’s quite an investment.

    We’ve had to work hard to set up bespoke providers.

    commercial director at Alphabet

    Compliance costs are a looming issue for the whole industry. We have seen a slew of new regulations adding to the underlying cost of running a fleet over the past five or six years. The demands these regulations make on fleets make it hard for them to operate efficiently.

    Regulation is coming from more directions. Issues on managers’ desks at the moment include the Working Time Directive (EU); smoking ban (NHS); road charging expansion (DfT); at-work road safety guidelines (HSE) and the current AMAPs review (HMRC).

    Suppliers such as ourselves can help by providing more strategic support in addition to helping to mitigate the day-to-day impact through research and consulting.

    fleet administrator, BBT Thermotechnology

    I’ve had my hands full lately with speeding and parking fines. It’s not easy to say why. But we’re a growing fleet and we have commercial vehicle drivers that tend not to read a lot of the communications that go out. These include advice on the correct speed limits for their type of vehicle.

  • The environment

    The environmental agenda is gathering pace, according to Tony Leigh of ACFO.

    “There’s increasing talk around CO2 and how it will affect things like parking, road tolls and so on,” he says.

    “People are beginning to get more aware that it’s not just the CO2 coming out of the vehicle but the whole CO2 footprint, meaning hybrids might not be so great as first thought because of the disposal issues surrounding their batteries.”

    David Brennan, MD of Leaseplan UK, agrees, referring to the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation – the government’s plan to comply with EU biofuels targets. He says: “Biofuels have taken centre stage in recent weeks, with the government proposing that by 2010/2011, 5% of all fuel sold in the UK must be biofuel.

    “The debate is clearly picking up pace, and such ideas from central government show that practical steps are beginning to be taken.”

    Michelle Hallam of Fisher Scientific has decided to seek outside help to ensure her fleet is as green as it can be.

    “I’m meeting with the Energy Saving Trust to review our whole policy,” she says.

    “We’re very conscious of environmental issues right now and this review is great because it’s free.

    “I don’t think we’re going to be too far off the mark but it’s good to have an independent review of the fleet.”

    Meanwhile John Bradley, fleet manager of Hampshire Police, is looking to two wheels to help reduce the force’s environmental impact.

    “We’ve had quite a reasonable investment in Euro 4 vehicles and we’re also talking to Vectrix about a pilot scheme with electric motorbikes,” he says.

  • Leave a comment for your chance to win £20 of John Lewis vouchers.

    Every issue of Fleet News the editor picks his favourite comment from the past two weeks – get involved for your chance to appear in print and win!

    Login to comment


    No comments have been made yet.

    Compare costs of your company cars

    Looking to acquire new vehicles? Check how much they'll cost to run with our Car Running Cost calculator.

    What is your BIK car tax liability?

    The Fleet News car tax calculator lets you work out tax costs for both employer and employee