Fleet News

Fleet News' round table: spotlight on key issues

  • Listen to the podcasts of the Fleet News' round table.

    Bring together fleet managers over breakfast and you’ll get a conversation filled with sound advice, concern for the future and plenty of humour.

    This is the thinking behind the Fleet News Round Table meetings in association with National Car Rental.

    Fleet News editor Martyn Moore invited four fleet managers and a representative from National Car Rental to a breakfast meeting at the Marriott Hollins Hall Hotel in Shipley, West Yorkshire.

    There was a script, of sorts –well, a list of questions really and we almost stuck to them.

    The meeting forms a series of podcasts published on our website (in the Podcast section), starting today and continuing over the next few weeks.

  • The delegates

    Andrew Goldsworthy, purchasing manager, Univar Ltd

    Howard Hughes, fleet manager, Yorkshire Water Services Ltd

    Ronnie Wilson, head of leasing, NG Bailey

    Dawn Burke, fleet manager, Ace Elevators Ltd

    Kevin O’Keeffe, head of national sales (north), National Car Rental

  • The Q&A

    What weapons does the fleet manager need to have in his or her armoury to be successful in 2007?

    Howard Hughes: You need to have a vision for the future. When we acquire vehicles it’s usually for several years and so you have to be able to look at least that far ahead. Ronnie Wilson: I believe it’s diversity. Since I became a fleet manager, I’ve had to become an HR person, a salesperson, a lawyer. Now I write policies.

    Howard Hughes: Technical knowledge puts you at an advantage.

    Dawn Burke: Suppliers are less likely to try it on if you have some technical knowledge. And some don’t expect it of a woman.

    Ronnie Wilson: Professionalism. You need to be focusing on the issues that affect the running of a fleet. We’re professional people.

    How are you dealing with anti-smoking legislation for cars that move between UK countries?

    Andrew Goldsworthy: There’s a lot of confusion because there wasn’t the consultation. I deal a lot with dangerous goods legislation and the regulators talk to us. It didn’t happen with smoking.

    Howard Hughes: Every one of our vehicles has a “no smoking” symbol on the tax disc holder and I’ve banned all our blokes from Scotland!

    Ronnie Wilson: I think you should do whatever they do in Scotland. The Scottish rules regarding stickers and the information they carry are stringent so I think if you’ve got it right for Scotland, you’ll be safe everywhere.

    Dawn Burke: I have a driver who seems to have a problem with his car. We can’t find anything. What would you advise?

    Ronnie Wilson: Swap the car. Get him out of it.

    Howard Hughes: He’s right but first of all one of the fleet team would drive it for a while; try to get it to happen to us.

    Ronnie Wilson: Reassure yourself that there is nothing wrong with the car and then give it to somebody else. Don’t give him the car back because he has the history with it.

    Howard Hughes: Whatever else happened, he’d blame the car.

    Dawn Burke: He’s lost confidence in this vehicle.

    Howard Hughes: You should be able to get support from your leasing company and if you have more than one vehicle from that manufacturer, get on to the technical people from that manufacturer. But you need to find out if the problem is with the car or the driver because some drivers might have an agenda.

    Ronnie Wilson: It’s a bit like when people have had an accident in a car. It can be a mental thing and I understand that. If a car has been involved in a serious accident we just sell it, get it out of the business.

    How do you get buy-in from the top?

    Howard Hughes: I fitted speed limiters to some of our vehicles and got the managing director to agree, after explaining the risks and the benefits. Then if anybody had a problem I could just say, go and speak to the MD, because he doesn’t have a problem with it.

    Dawn Burke: What about if you have a senior director who won’t put a “no smoking” sticker in his car?

    Howard Hughes: I would just drop him an email reminding him that you asked him and he said “no” and then say “could you just drop me an email saying that is your decision”. That way you’re covered.

    Dawn Burke: And I’ll get my P45!

    Ronnie Wilson: The best way to convince people is to remind them that they are the controlling mind. If you have a policy in place and have taken reasonable steps to enforce it, it won’t be you who gets fined, it will be him. They are role models, and they set the example.

    What is one thing you could change, or invent, to make your jobs easier?

    Kevin O’Keeffe: A vehicle black box that would pinpoint what had just happened in a vehicle, where it was, what speed it was doing. That would help a lot with all the things we’ve talked about, from managing risk to environment. I don’t suppose we’d be allowed to do it.

    Howard Hughes: We’ve got that, and one of the things it does is record the last 30 seconds of anything that leads up to an accident. We get around it by fitting a privacy button, so if the driver is not working it can be turned off.

    Kevin O’Keeffe: If there was a standard across manufacturers that recorded things like service data or the history of a car. If you could look at that when you were about to buy a car that would be valuable, especially from a rental perspective.

    Howard Hughes: One thing that gets to me about this industry is that it closes on Saturday at lunchtime. My drivers work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You try hiring a van on a Sunday morning.

    Kevin O’Keeffe: National offers seven-day cover. It’s easy for cars and we can do vans – we can get somebody in a vehicle 24 hours, 365 days a year but where it gets difficult is with specialist equipment.

    What can you do to combat climate change?

    Ronnie Wilson: This is just my personal view, but I don’t think that fleet managers can do very much. I’ve added a Toyota Prius to the fleet and we all know about carbon footprint, but I don’t think we can make much difference. Sometimes it all feels just like ticking boxes and although we’re doing everything we can and we do our best, this thing needs everybody in the entire world to do something. Fleet managers on their own can’t make a huge difference.

    Andrew Goldsworthy: It’s alright having a biodiesel Saab but there needs to be the infrastructure to support it.

    Howard Hughes: Yorkshire Water is an environmental company. We do everything we can to be responsible. Until we’ve got an integrated government policy, nothing else will work. When I go abroad I can get about quite effectively by train. I can’t get to Bradford in the morning without using my car.

    Ronnie Wilson: If I had eight hours in the day, I’d probably spend the last quarter of an hour on environmental stuff. The rest of the day would be spent on duty of care, fuel pricing, residual values, that kind of thing. But that’s very personal.

    Howard Hughes: We’ve just trialled biodiesel and it looks like the results show it to be dirtier than conventional diesel. There are other problems with biodiesel – like waxing and the fact that it’s hydroscopic, it absorbs water. And it’s a penny a litre dearer. You need to know all the facts.

    Kevin O’Keeffe: How do you deal with drivers using their own cars for business?

    Ronnie Wilson: You deal with it in exactly the same was as if they were a company car driver. When they get in it for business, it becomes a company vehicle and all our policies apply.

    Howard Hughes: How do you ensure the car is fit for purpose?

    Ronnie Wilson: We don’t allow any cars over six years old.

    Howard Hughes: But I can show you a ten-year-old Audi that’s clean and it’s reliable. Prove to me why I can’t use it for work.

    Ronnie Wilson: I don’t have to prove it. I just say no.

    Andrew Goldsworthy: The way we’ve done it is by insisting that every car driven for company business has to have a minimum of four star EuroNCAP rating.

    Howard Hughes: So if we agreed that cars had to be less than six years old, minimum of four stars EuroNCAP rating and, say, Euro-III diesel compliant, that would kill a few off, wouldn’t it?

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