Neville Briggs still recalls the time former British rally champion Roger Clark walked across the car showroom and asked him how his first day at work had been.
Back then, Neville was a ‘young lad’ of 23 and had just joined the sales team at Roger Clark Cars in Leicester.
He admits to being star struck by the encounter.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Neville says. “I’d always been into rallying and I thought it was fantastic that he took the trouble to come over and speak to me.”
Thirty years later, Neville is now at the helm of two businesses, but still retains the passion for the motor industry that he had when he started out.
He became managing director of fleet software company CFC Solutions in May this year, in addition to holding the managing director position of sister company Pinewood Computer Solutions.
It’s Neville’s 10th year at Pinewood – the longest he has stayed at a company, although he worked at Grosvenor Contracts Leasing for eight years.
He says it’s the constant change which has kept him at the company.
“Every day there’s a new challenge so I don’t get bored,” he explains.
“In other jobs, you might get bored after two years and want to move on but at CFC and Pinewood the market changes so rapidly – it’s a constant challenge.”
CFC Solutions started life as a leasing company in 1951, developing its own in-house fleet management software, which it then took to the wider market in the late 1970s.
Today, it has around 3,000 clients worldwide and is part of the Pendragon empire.
“It’s certainly a big selling point to CFC customers to say that we’re part of Pendragon – it’s a massive company,” says Neville.
CFC and Pinewood share the same brand values of innovation, commitment, simplicity and passion.
And it’s commitment to customer service which comes across as particularly important to Neville.
He talks about getting to know CFC’s customers and says there is a much wider spread of clients compared to Pinewood.
“From my point of view of going out and meeting businesses, it’s great to have a lot more variance in the type of customers you’re going to be talking to,” he says.
He also points out that CFC has long-standing customers – some of more than 25 years’ standing.
An account management team keeps in regular contact with customers, seeing how the software is being used in a particular business and sharing best practice between different companies.
Neville’s aim at CFC is to maintain the company’s position as market leader and to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing fleet market.
He says one of his biggest challenges to date has been adopting a pay-as-you-go approach at Pinewood, known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
CFC’s core customers are fleets of around 500 vehicles, which use CFC’s Fleet Plus software.
Fleet Plus helps with the day-to-day aspects of running a fleet and includes an asset management feature to analyse budgets; accident management to track the progress from the initial incident through to the financial claim and fuel management – among other features.
A Fleet Plus customer was able to spot fuel fraud recently thanks to the software.
Neville says it’s much easier for a driver to fill up their own car and then fill up the car behind them and pay for it on the same transaction if a fleet manager doesn’t monitor fuel or have a fuel card system in place.
But it’s not just about data gathering, according to Neville.
“It’s about being able to get the data out of the system in an easy way so you can make sensible decisions.
“You don’t want to know about the cars and drivers that are meeting your fleet policy, it’s the exceptions that are important.
"The software will highlight the drivers that keep having accidents or the vehicles that are using more fuel.”
As well as bringing information to a fleet manager’s attention, the advantage of the software is saving time.
And Neville says the software pays for itself by the cost savings and efficiencies it drives. He also suggests that the system is intuitive and easy to use.
A customer usually requires only a few days’ training and a few days’ implementation.
Carbon dioxide emissions reporting is one feature of the Fleet Plus software which is proving a useful tool for fleet managers.
It calculates the carbon footprint of vehicles managed within the system, based on the mileage/life of the vehicles and CO2 details from the manufacturer.
Neville explains that CFC cut the carbon footprint of its fleet by 27% last year, and used the CO2 report generator to measure the reduction.
The reduction was achieved through having more online video conferencing instead of face-to-face meetings, increased car sharing and better journey planning.
CFC’s other fleet management products are Fleet Horizon for mixed fleets, Fleet Outlook for small fleets and Contract Manager for outsourced fleet management. In addition, CFC can provide bespoke applications.
For instance, BP required a pan-European fuel management solution, including local translation and legislation.
There are currently two risk management products – Safety Net (an online corporate road risk assessment tool providing a risk ‘score’) and Licence Link (a licence checking facility linked to the DVLA).
All software is developed in-house by a team of 45 employees and Neville says there are other products in the pipeline too. So, how long does it take to develop a new product?
“A simple fleet management product could be out in the market within four to five months,” Neville replies.
“A more complicated one might take twice as long, but it’s a matter of months rather than years.”
Gary Black, fleet manager at Inspired Gaming who picked up a Fleet News Award earlier this year, says it would be very difficult to track the company’s 13,000 vehicles without software.
The company has been a CFC customer since 1997 and has used Fleet Plus for the past two years.
“Small fleets might be able to work from a spreadsheet but we couldn’t do that with a fleet of our size,” Gary says.
“Time-wise, we couldn’t run the fleet without it.”
The fleet team at Inspired Gaming uses Fleet Plus to record incidents, track fuel cards, check driving licences and for buying and selling vehicles.
It is also used for P11d reporting and to ensure that drivers have read and understood the company car handbook.
However, Gary criticises the amount of updates and admits that he may not use the system to its full capabilities, but he will be remaining with CFC for the foreseeable future.
“There are some new systems out there but Fleet Plus does everything we need,” he says.
With so much legislation to keep abreast of, fleets beyond 20 or 30 vehicles need to use software, according to David Coggins, fleet manager at AMCO Interinvest, which is part of civil engineering and construction company AMCO.
David runs a fleet of more than 400 vehicles and says the software lets him know when certain things need to be done, such as MoT testing and driver licence checks.
The system even copes with the 70 drivers who are on a cash allowance scheme.
“It helps us know that we are running the fleet to the best we possibly can,” he says.
Like Inspired Gaming, the company has been with CFC since 1997 and David chose it because it was the best in the market at the time.
He suggests that the initial outlay pales into insignificance over the years. The company now pays around £2,000 a year for support.
The only aspect David dislikes is asset management – at present, he still runs a spreadsheet alongside Fleet Plus to monitor vehicle depreciation.
Fleet software providers
CFC claims to be the market leader, but what else is out there for fleet managers?
One rival company is Jaama, which has products to suit fleets below 250 vehicles and those above.
Its Risk Assistant product, helping to meet duty-of-care obligations, is aimed at all fleet sizes.
In addition, Jaama provides contract hire and leasing software, daily rental software and a vehicle quotation system.
Chevin Fleet Solutions is another of the major providers and caters for those on a limited budget with its RoadBASE Xpress software.
Its FleetWave product is aimed at blue chip organisations while RoadBASE targets medium-sized fleets.
Other providers include Bynx, which has applications for contract hire, rental and fleet management organisations and Epyx, which focuses on e-trading platforms such the 1link hire network.
Log on to ‘find fleet suppliers’ on www.fleetnews.co.uk for a full list of software providers.
Neville’s top tip
Don’t just think about the vehicles you already have on your fleet – think about the cars that are going to come on to your fleet.
So be careful about your fleet policy – don’t let people choose gas-guzzlers when they could be choosing something more economical with lower CO2 emissions or better fuel economy.