Ladies and gentlemen, good evening – it’s great to be back at the Grosvenor once again for the 2011 Fleet News Awards, for me, and I hope for you as well, the best night in the fleet calendar.
This executive was saying to me how one of our awards finalists this evening is also sponsoring another category.
He suggested this might make them a favourite to collect a Fleet News Awards trophy.
Well, let me tackle this concern that sponsors and advertisers stand a better chance of winning by taking a couple of minutes to explain our awards process, and how we take every possible step to ensure that only the most worthy companies win.
First, the judges. We have three panels for each awards category: supplier, manufacturer and fleet. They are made up from highly respected experts in fleet and representatives from leading fleets themselves.
Their details have gone on the screen behind me – I’m sure you will recognise many of them.
The whole process is overseen by our respected independent chairman Christopher Macgowan, a former chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, an ex-interim chief executive of industry charity BEN and currently the chairman of the Royal Automobile Club Foundation Network.
I won’t embarrass him by listing all his other achievements, but they are extensive and impressive.
Here’s what Christopher had to say a little earlier this evening about being the Fleet News Awards chairman.
As a final measure to ensure everything is above board and that every decision has clear reasons unimpeded by subjective opinion, the awards judging process is signed off by our adjudicator Deloitte, represented by David Raistrick.
Both Christopher and David ensure that every single candidate is thoroughly discussed and debated before we decide on the winners.
I’ll give you just one brief example. The leasing company of the year category had 10 entries. It took close to three hours to debate before the judges agreed on the winner. Now that’s thorough!!
The discussion was intense and the arguments passionate –and this typifies everything that is great about the Fleet News Awards.
The process cannot be ‘fixed’ by Fleet News. Deloitte would not sign off the auditing, Christopher Macgowan would not chair the judging.
And our judges would not agree to give up days of their time to pour over the entries and take part in the judging days.
But, most important of all, I would not allow it. Fleet News’s integrity is vital – without it we do not have a place in this fantastic fleet sector.
So my thanks to the judges, to Christopher and David for the time and effort they put into ensuring we select the most worthy winners.
And thanks to all the sponsors for their support, which enables my events team to put on this excellent, “fix free” evening.
You can read a lot into the health of an industry by the information contained within awards submissions.
So, my take on fleet in 2011?
You are in a much healthier position than a year ago.
Simply examining the quality of the entries tells us that. New initiatives, more innovation and reduced costs tell me everyone is coming out of the economic downturn with greatly strengthened businesses.
Our six awards winning company fleets this evening can proudly boast combined savings approaching £4 million over the past 12 months.
High on their agenda has been reducing accident rates, tackling fuel costs and boosting vehicle utilisation.
Yes, there are ongoing challenges. Public sector fleets are still coming to terms with the budget cuts required under the Government Spending Review, for instance.
But both car and vans sales to fleets are up on a year ago with the focus squarely on those models with the best running costs and lowest CO2 emissions.
We also had a big rise in the number of awards entries this year, another positive sign.
In fact, we had 126 entries across the 15 categories in which we invite submissions. That’s up by 26 on last year.
Not everyone has made the shortlist of finalists. We try to restrict the number to five, but in some cases there are fewer finalists.
We only put through those companies who we believe offer something extra special.
So it really means something to be a Fleet News Awards finalists and everyone that sees their company name in highlights later on should feel proud.
I look forward to the announcement of the winners and our highly commended companies.