A roundtable session involving two fleets, an ACFO regional chairman, a residual guide expert and the BVRLA took place during the ACFO Annual Conference held on May 17 at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon.
The questions from the floor ranged from the future for electric vehicles to proposed changes to the motorway speed limit, and revealed some of the concerns currently facing fleet decision makers.
We have selected the pick of the bunch to publish in the Fleet News Debates. Cue disagreements on congestion solutions and a spot of government bashing.
What is the role of electric and alternative-fuelled vehicles on fleets?
Stephen O’Callaghan: From a total cost of ownership, I’m not convinced we have the right argument for it. We are working with manufacturers to understand how we can use electric vehicles – we want to write the cost over the life of the lease because we don’t know what’s there on residual values.
David Bamber: Hybrid doesn’t sit with our high-mileage fleet and electric vehicles won’t impact on us at the moment.
Tim Watts: 2011 is the year of electric vehicles from manufacturers’ point of view.
But fleet clients are reluctant to go forward because of the infrastructure.
It’s for niche fleets to use them at an early stage; it’s not an effective solution for most fleets.
Mark Norman: It’s not just about fleets; is society ready ? It’s a brilliant form of transport for some people which comes into its own with low mileage, urban environments.
But we have the politics of the silly £5,000 subsidy.
What would be more sensible is to have no road tax or fuel charge on these vehicles for the next decade to ensure strong residual values.
But if electric vehicles are a success, the Government would find a way of taxing them.
John Lewis: One challenge is that drivers will want them because of the zero BIK for the next five years.
But how do they go on their holidays or travel at weekends? What package will you have to offer them for the times that they can’t use this car?
A better option is range extenders . Range deterioration is a concern.
Another issue for the battery warranty and life is that you should only rapid charge a certain number of times. If you do it more it affects the battery life and invalidates the warranty. This could become tomorrow’s excess charge.
What can the Government do about congestion and the road infrastructure?
Norman: You’ll have to get used to the bumps.
O’Callaghan: We have to make better use of the assets we already have, such as motorways where the inside lanes are empty.
Using the assets better will free-up funding because we don’t need to build new roads – we have to be more honest about the way we use the roads.
Lewis: It’s time to say to Government ‘we pay you a lot of money, it’s about time you provided roads that are fit for purpose’.
There is also an opportunity to take collective action against a local authority rather than fight individually.
Should motorway limits rise to 80mph?
Bamber: A change in the speed limit won’t make a difference to us because our vans are restricted to 70mph. For cars, 70mph is really 80mph anyway – you don’t have to change the official limit.
Watts: The notion is contrary to the objectives that fleets are trying to achieve regarding safety and reducing costs through lower mpg. It’s a non-starter.
Norman: Who will catch you? There’s never anyone out there. If we all used the motorway properly, we would all speed up – police should prosecute middle lane driving.
Lewis: Ninety would become the new 80, so enforcement would be important. If vehicles all drove at the actual speed limit, CO2 would fall by 7% and accidents by 11%.
Will the new rules on continuous insurance enforcement make a difference?
O’Callaghan: We already put everything on the database as soon as we know a driver is going to drive a company car.
Bamber: We have suffered with accidents by people who are not insured.
Norman: The view of one person I spoke to that has been uninsured for the past three years is that a fine is cheaper than the cost of insurance.
Is there too much focus by the Government on CO2 and not enough on NOx emissions?
Watts: Over time we will see a point where we take into consideration aspects other than CO2.
Norman: The industry has to push for five years’ advance notice on the benefit in kind rules. It has massive implications for drivers.”