Fleet News

Industry insight: taxation, company car policy, risk management

Taxation: Road pricing the only solution to congestion

by John Lewis, chief executive, British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA)

John LewisI meet a lot of very clever people who know far more about road transport than I ever will.

The downside is that, while I take a great deal of interest in what they say, those in power seldom do.

Perhaps the most striking example of this is road pricing.

I have come to the conclusion that it is the only sensible way forward if we want a fair and workable solution to the problem of Britain’s congested road network.

The Dutch are already planning such a system.

Even if our ministers were convinced about national road pricing, its introduction is about as likely as a US car manufacturer making a profit this year. The reason? Lack of trust.

UK motorists pay about £40 billion in tax a year and less than a quarter of that is invested back into road infrastructure.

They remember things like the significant retrospective increase in vehicle excise duty, the baseless 3% diesel surcharge on benefit-in-kind tax and the spiteful increase in fuel duty at the last pre-budget report.

We need to de-politicise road pricing so that it can be introduced in a fair and equitable way, as a replacement for fuel duty and road tax, instead of as an addition to them.

This would give motorists a choice of when and where they travel and not charge them twice for travelling on roads for which they have already paid.

Motorists won’t trust the government to do this so responsibility for it needs to be given to an independent body.

The government has already de-politicised interest rates and passed responsibility to the Bank of England.

Could this be the answer for optimising the road network?

Company car policy: Throw away fleet policies from the boom years

by Geoffrey Bray, chairman, Fleet Support Group

Geoffrey BrayEconomic turmoil with job losses ensuing means fleet decision-makers should tear up their existing car and van policies and focus on SAS-style survival planning within strict common-sense business disciplines.

Fleet chiefs must analyse the impact of the economic turmoil on their own employer, and on the companies with which their firm undertakes business.

Any hint of exposure due to companies closing or being taken over with job losses resulting must be countered with action.

Many of today’s company car policies bear absolutely no resemblance to the current economic situation.

Policies still hark back to the boom years when, in many cases, HR departments ruled and corporate excess was fashionable.

In turn, that triggered demand for company cars that were often more of a fancy benefit than a working tool and the launch of cash alternative schemes have proved expensive luxuries for many organisations.

Fleet managers who expect to be untouched by recession and job losses are living in cloud cuckoo land.

We now have a completely different business model that demands a return to basics where common-sense strategies prevail based on the core principles of knowledge, thinking policies through and calculating their impact.

For many fleets this may mean wholesale changes to company car policies, including longer replacement cycles, the introduction of cheaper vehicles and the end of financially creative company car opt-out schemes.

The economic turmoil requires bold management and a return to strict disciplines.

Risk management: Drivers need convincing of mobile phone risks

by Andy Price, practice leader, motor fleet, Zurich Risk Engineering

Andrew PriceThe risks of using a hands-free phone while driving are well known, with users four times more likely to be involved in a collision, and reaction times similar to someone at twice the UK drink-drive limit.

In light of these statistics, mobile phone usage while travelling is a key safety consideration for any business.

The first thing to address is the business implications – it is vital to get senior management buy-in for any safety initiative.

In sales-based organisations, customers can be educated to call the office rather than the salesperson – one company’s customers perceived an increased level of service as they could always get a quick answer to their questions.

It is usually necessary to change existing business processes and practices to ensure that employees don’t have to use a phone while driving to do their job effectively.

Once management buy-in is obtained, the next challenge is persuading the drivers not to use their phones.

This takes more than a strong policy.

Many drivers will not accept that using a phone while driving is a high-risk activity, as it has not resulted in them being involved in a crash, and they need to have the risks demonstrated to them.

This can be achieved through a variety of methods, from regular communication to using simulators to demonstrate what happens to their driving when they are having a phone conversation.

Given the proven risks of using a hands-free phone while driving, this is something that all organisations should look to prevent.

It is not easy, but given the right management commitment it can be achieved.

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