Insider Business Club: fleet -green light

With green and safety issues more important, how are fleet manager’s
roles changing?

John Pryor, director of ACFO and group car fleet and travel manager,
The Arcadia Group

Fleet managers are taking on a wider role, which includes all aspects of
travel, and therefore are looking at the environmental issues of how you get
someone from place A to place B.

We are seeing the role become almost that of mobility manager where they are
looking after rail travel, air travel, hotels, businesses expenses and how all
those are fitted together. What it really comes down to is that it’s not just a
car, it’s how you are going to get somebody there and what do they want to do
once they are there?

You can take it even further. Why is that journey necessary? How are we
making that journey? I believe those are the sort of things fleet managers
should be looking at.

Obviously you also have to look at fuel costs, what is happening in taxation,
hybrid cars and all of those things. That is always churning along, however from
what we are seeing I think you are getting more people who are more trained at
taking a much more holistic and overall approach to the subject.

Is the cost of running a green fleet always more expensive?

Stewart Whyte, director of ACFO & Fleet Audits

It’s a happy coincidence that I’ve seen across many years’ experience that if
you run a green fleet and a safe fleet, you will have a low cost fleet in any
event. If you follow the business cost imperative, then the green and
environmental and road safety benefits follow almost free on the back.

Where people do have an environmental concern and where there is a corporate
green agenda, they tend to concern themselves with offices and production
facilities and forget that the motor vehicle fleet and their business mobility
can be a very important, very significant component of their overall emissions

I think the key thing that we need to look at is making sure that
environmental issues as far as fleet business travel are concerned are dealt
with as part of a long-term strategy. The government bears some responsibility
for delaying the implementation of good robust green policies in many fleets,
because of uncertainty over grants.

The work I do with a number of government agencies and bodies suggests that
the government has at long last learned a lesson and is backing results rather
than specific technologies now.

Are there likely to be changes in the Budget that will impact on drivers
and businesses?

Alastair Kendrick, partner, Wilder Coe

The interesting thing for 2007 is Gordon Brown’s intent to possibly try and
encourage more green travel and encourage people using their own car on business
to have something that is perhaps greener. We are in the very early stages on
consultation on that particular point.

My understanding is that we are likely to see something in the spring Budget,
which is probably Brown’s last Budget, that will take green travel along a stage
further. The impact of that could be a real cost impact on companies. So if it
is not on the agenda of finance directors then they need to put it on their
agenda and watch very closely. With the rising popularity of the grey fleet
(people who have opted out of company cars) combined with what is being
considered, you could see a real cost to businesses and, primarily, to

Because those people are travelling on business it may well be the company or
the employer who will be asked to support bringing people back to the position
of being able to use their car on business. The tax-free allowance that a driver
gets per mile could be significantly hacked and reduced.

Are drivers taking the cash or going down the company car route?

Sean Bingham, director of new business, Bank of
Scotland Vehicle Finance

All organisations need to set a policy of what they do about alternative
transport and the use of alternative fuel. There are low sulphur fuels and there
is a push from the government for them to be used. But it’s a question of cost
and availability.

Unfortunately we see a piecemeal approach on the part of fleet managers.
Specific issues or problems come up and are addressed rather than an approach
that says ‘here is a good opportunity to look at everything – from cost to CSR

For a substantial organisations fleet costs, including fuel and all the
inherent costs that come with them, is probably a top three spend. If they are
spending that sort of money on other areas one could argue that there is more
attention going to those other areas.

There was a great move away from company car provision when the CO2
legislation came out. Now more people are coming back out of their own grey
fleet car and back into the company route.

Chaired by Damian Wild, editor in chief, Accountancy

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