Fleet operators are tackling a “forest of fires” thanks, in part, to the Government being unable to set the agenda because of Brexit, says ACFO chairman John Pryor.
Addressing delegates at ACFO’s spring seminar, Pryor said: “ACFO seminars have always strived to cover the burning questions of the day, but currently it seems more like a forest fire of events, in that so much is going on, and so intensely, we are all in a flux as to which one to tackle first.”
Highlighting the “range and diversity” of issues that required fleet operators’ attention, Pryor said: “It is becoming quite obvious that the Government is unable to set the agenda, and it is we who have to take up that mantle.
“The seminar subjects show us the issues that are out there and how much we all now have to think about, and cover, and if we can help by working together we can lead the changes that are needed.”
With ACFO and fleet decision-maker training organisation ICFM working closely together to promote the benefits of professional fleet management and the importance of training and education, coupled with the implementation of best practice, Pryor said: “It is only perhaps ACFO and the ICFM which can bring such a diverse agenda together and see the joined up relevance.
“It perhaps has never been as important for bodies like ACFO and ICFM to help shape this agenda. We all through various job rolls and business requirements know what we need to do to get the job done.
“Businesses are no longer so compartmentalised and seminar delegates with their wide range of job titles only reinforces that belief. Business today within the growing area of mobility of their employees, are wanting and needing to understand the issues and seek the answers to them.”
Successive speakers outlined the impact that the UK’s departure from the European Union, which has now been delayed until April 12 at the earliest, would have in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
The Department for Transport and ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) have already published a raft of information on actions fleet managers, drivers and travellers may wish to take to help avoid unnecessary future disruption in the event of a ‘no-deal’ scenario.
Malcolm Maycock, managing director of Licence Bureau, urged fleets to be particularly vigilant in respect of European Union driver licence holders complying with UK regulations and potentially either exchanging their licence for a UK one or taking a UK driving test to obtain one.
He also advised fleet managers to not only undertake checks on driver licences to ensure their validity and whether drivers had any convictions, but also to risk assess foreign driver licence holders and put them through UK familiarisation training.
Meanwhile, Len Benson, associate director/motor manager at insurance broker Peter Lole & Co and an ACFO member, told fleet managers that if they expected drivers to be abroad after April 12 then a Green Card - an international certificate of insurance - should be applied for from their insurer or broker.
“Fleets may have a blanket insurance certificate but a blanket Green Card is not available. A Green Card is required for every vehicle when driven in a European Union member state and some other countries - Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland - in the event of no-deal Brexit,” he said.
Many fleet managers also have responsibility for corporate travel and Fiona Kail, national account manager at business travel experts Clarity, reminded delegates that it was important that they checked that passports of employees travelling abroad were valid for a further six months after their intended stay.
Even in a no-deal scenario, UK travellers will still be able to visit European Union countries without a visa up until the end of 2020. However, after that date the European Commission has said that UK citizens would need to pay a fee of around €7 for a so-called visa exemption.
It is part of a new electronic travel authorisation system applying to all third country visitors to the European Union, similar to the United States of America’s ESTA regime.
Maycock also warned of a potential driver shortage, particularly in the parcel delivery sector, as a consequence of Brexit with many foreign workers currently considering whether or not to remain in the UK following the UK’s European Union departure and some already having left the country.
A similar warning came from Oliver Waring, managing director of seminar supporter Reflex Vehicle Hire, who warned that many people employed as drivers, valeters and yard staff were from the European Union with some already leaving.
“The opportunity arises to bring in ambitious school leavers and the older generation who may be retired or semi-retired as mentors,” he said.
Waring also outlined how fleets could overcome a Brexit-inspired lack of business confidence and economic uncertainty and minimise residual value and balance sheet risk exposure by turning to rental companies for vehicles.
“Make these issues someone else’s problem by turning to flexible hire as part of your financing and operating strategy,” he told fleet managers.