Despite the economic uncertainty manifested in true fleet sales down marginally year-to-date (by 3% or 9,500 units), fleets at the Fleet News roundtable sponsored by Arval were optimistic about their operations.
No-one anticipated the number of vehicles on their fleet reducing over the coming year; two forecast growth in line with business expansion.
Amanda Nash, global director corporate procurement at Intercontinental Hotels Group, is planning for a 6-7% rise in fleet size as the head office team increases.
Tom Sayer, car fleet manager at Coca-Cola, believes his fleet size will rise as the soft drinks giant encourages its grey fleet to migrate to company cars.
All fleets at the roundtable agreed that the gloomy economic outlook meant one thing: management of budgets and driver-focused initiatives would continue to be their main priority.
Fleet News: What actions are you taking to reduce your costs this year?
Tom Sayer, car fleet manager, Coca-Cola: We are taking a multi-source approach to leasing. We will select from a pool where for the past 20 years we have had a solus approach.
We couldn’t be sure we could guarantee best value from one supplier so we have taken a procurement-driven approach to multi- supply with a third party supplier to manage it.
This will release our resource to focus on risk management and managing drivers. We expect to see savings from leasing companies competing for the best deal.
Peter Bonney, fleet controller, Salvation Army: We found if you knock out a leasing company, they lose interest; service levels fall and they become harder to manage.
I can’t understand companies that are seduced by offers of fantastic savings and outsource their fleet management to them.
Tom Sayer: You have to maintain fleet management in-house to retain control and to manage the relationship with the leasing company.
We deal more directly with drivers to manage their behaviours. We profile them and identify those that need action. Our driver training has evolved to online assessments, risk profiling and changing attitudes.
Fleet News: Do you incentivise drivers to encourage behavioural change?
Jon Sweet, regional risk manager, Arriva: We do for our bus drivers: we reward them each month with a £25 shopping voucher which increases to £35 if it reflects good customer service as well.
We also run an annual safety campaign where drivers go into a draw for £1,000. We have seen up to 37% reductions in incidents with no impact on late reporting.
We also have the perceived threat of covert assessments which affects driver behaviour.
Paul Lewis, fleet commercial co-ordinator, The AA: We have telematics in every vehicle which reduces the cost of fuel – it saves a fortune.
It also helps when there are claims of being hit by an AA driver. We can find them or prove that it wasn’t us – it stops fraudulent claims.
Michelle Nasr, fleet services manager, Thames Water Fleet and Transport: Telematics helps to prevent fraudulent claims and challenge fixed penalties – it sounds small, a £50 fine here and there, but the savings mount up.
We also save fuel from monitoring speeding and routes so drivers don’t go out of their area. We have pulled together a fleet performance pack to manage the process.
The priority is to reduce incident rates, including speeding, fixed penalties, tyre wear and fuel.
Fleet News: What action do you take if someone is involved in an incident?
Jon Sweet: Every driver is formally interviewed by the depot manager for any incident, which leads to a training plan.
They use a prompt sheet; if it’s a serious incident then I get involved. The reviews are reducing our accident frequency, but we are not seeing a reduction in claims costs.
Paul Lewis: If people know they will get an interview or assessment then they calm their driver behaviour – they don’t want the follow-up chat.
Fleet News: Do you consider other safety issues, such as eyesight and drink/drugs?
Tom Sayer: We have full cause [a suspicion of usage] and random testing with a percentage of the workforce each month and we release information to drivers on drugs education.
Drivers that are referred for development training have an eyesight test. If they fail they are suspended until they can prove it has been corrected.
Jon Sweet: We introduced an amnesty for people to come forward if they have a problem.
After that period, then it became gross misconduct. One young lady came forward to say she had been using cocaine for weeks. We did all the checks, but couldn’t find anything. It turned out she had been buying talcum powder!
Peter Bonney, fleet controller, Salvation Army: It comes back to a balance of employee and company responsibility, especially for people who aren’t driving as their core job responsibility.
We have documents that state you must meet legal eyesight requirements and that it’s their responsibility to ensure they do.
Fleet News: How do you get buy-in from management for new initiatives?
Jon Sweet: We are self-insured so our damage and third party costs have a dramatic effect on our bottom line. If we can demonstrate even a fraction of a saving, then it’s a priority. The argument is: if we don’t have accidents, we don’t have the cost and that gets us buy-in.
Michelle Nasr, fleet services manager, Thames Water Fleet and Transport: We have a road risk steering group with representatives from HR, health and safety, insurance and fleet. You have to have lots of parties involved – there’s no one area that can make changes on its own.
Everyone is clear on where their responsibilities are on risk management and health and safety. We introduced this a year ago and are having fortnightly meetings initially. It is being driven by safety and cost falls out from this.
Mike Waters, director of market insight, Arval: We deal with a lot of fleets and their priorities are mixed: for some it’s safety; others find it easier to get buy-in for the cost benefits.
There are still instances where the fleet is a poor relation to the rest of the business. Many companies have a large health and safety team that is separate to fleet.
Fleet News: Has the grey fleet taken on greater importance within your businesses?
Amanda Nash, global director, corporate procurement, Intercontinental Hotels Group: We have a new expenses system so we can see who is claiming mileage and identify the size of the issue.
We are looking at driver training, but we need buy-in from employees – our company culture doesn’t mandate.
Tom Sayer: We are trying to eliminate ad hoc grey mileage by getting them to use rental.
Then we will only have a grey fleet that is funded by us [via cash allowance] where we have more control in areas like licence monitoring and insurance checks. The CO2 output in that fleet is much higher – our fleet average is 127g/km on an average age of two years; our grey fleet is more than 200g/km and six-and-a-half years old.
Financially, it’s better for us if they take the company car so we are encouraging them by widening the manufacturers on the list.
Amanda Nash: We have seen a significant number opt back in. We surveyed them asking how they choose their cars. They choose on lifestyle, then safety and then cost efficiency.
Brand is only fourth. As a result we changed the brands on the list and a lot opted back in. We also promoted the support services and duty of care so they are more conscious of the cars.
Tom Sayer: A quick win is to educate them about the benefits of being in the company car scheme.
Jon Sweet: We have pool cars at each depot for staff and they can also borrow company cars so there is little need for staff to use their own cars.
Fleet News: How do you benchmark the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your fleet?
Amanda Nash: We get an annual health check from our leasing provider which compares us against three similar fleets in areas such as fuel costs, incident management, CO2 and cost per vehicle. It prioritises recommendations based on cost, risk and ease of implementation.
Peter Bonney: We have an issue with benchmarking because of our unique usage. Our year-on-year comparisons are of as much value as seeing what someone else is doing. We look at areas like end-of-lease changes, accident rates and accident costs.
Courtesy of Fleet News