Whitbread is no stranger to the Fleet News Awards, but the period between its two successes – 2010 and 2008 – has been one of momentous change.
The 2008 Fleet of the Year took victory in the 251-500 vehicles category this year, but did so without a dedicated fleet manager and having embarked on a major efficiency drive.
Responsibility for the 436-strong vehicle fleet (which is expected to increase over the next few years) is now shared among four people.
Group rewards director Ruth Hutchison, group reward analyst Lois Gumm, senior procurement manager Phillipa Jamieson and benefits adviser Karen Thomas all have a hand in looking after the fleet, while GE Capital Services takes care of areas where the in-house team can add no value.
It epitomises the modern fleet, forcing departments to work together and pool their knowledge to maximise efficiencies and drive through policy changes.
The Whitbread team can focus on strategic objectives and they have already made significant cost savings as well as increasing choice for staff.
The fleet bill has been cut by more than £900,000 by the end of the last financial year.
With such significant cuts you might imagine that staff entitled to company cars might have been feeling pretty glum, but cost cutting has gone hand-in-hand with improving their options.
Hutchison says: “There was a big cost efficiency drive. The group managing director kicked off 20 major initiatives and the car policy was one of them.
“Looking at the fleet before and after shows quite a dramatic change. There used to be 42 models in total and now there are 85.”
Previously, Whitbread ran company cars for a maximum of two years/35,000 miles, whichever was reached first.
For some high-mileage drivers it meant they had to change cars after about a year.
It also meant that the ordering process for replacement vehicles could begin just a few months after a new car was delivered.
“We switched to four years/70,000 miles for the existing cars and four years/80,000 miles for new cars,” says Hutchison.
“Some drivers prefer it, and although some didn’t like it to begin with, they have grown used to the idea.”
She says the average life of a vehicle on the Whitbread fleet now is about three years as the mileage limit is often reached before four years.
The models are capped at 160g/km for job-need cars and 200g/km for perk cars, although during the past few years Whitbread’s car fleet CO2 emissions have fallen from 158g/km in 2007 to 146g/km in 2009.
This demonstrated that, as well as limiting the environmental impact of the fleet, staff understood the benefits of lower emission vehicles.
Whitbread also offers a reasonably broad range of vehicles, including upmarket ones, with a choice of Volkswagen Group products (Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda) as well as BMW.
Hutchison says: “We looked at the badges we were running and the premium brands were the most efficient cars on the fleet.
“We decided to cap CO2 in the choice list, but allow more flexibility with more low emission cars. The scheme was designed not to dictate behaviour, but to drive behaviour.