Business Car Conference - Fleet Week May 2006

The RAC Foundation's boss Edmund King called for an independent body to oversee the start of road charging amid increasing government distrust.

"They've got to set up an independent body and then move away from it," said King. "If you look at Ken Livingstone in London, he said the charge would stay at £5 for 10 years; two years later it's up to £8, now there's talk of doubling it to £10. How can people trust politicians when they see what's happening in London."

King also called for a system to take fleet operations into account when setting up a charging system. "We don't want to see a repeat of the problems fleets have had in London," he said.

Delegates also heard of the RAG Foundation's worries over conges¬tion. "The car is not some optional extra in this country - it's absolutely essential and that's why we should address the problems with a little more urgency," said King.

But King said businesses aren't doing enough to tackle congestion. "It's pretty ridiculous that the majority of people get into work at 8.30-9am and we have this rush hour," he said, lamenting the continued lack of enthusiasm for teleconferencing or working from home to cut down on business journeys.

Fuels expert Roger Bazley from fleet and fuel card giant Arval controversially slammed driver incentives aimed at reducing fuel bills for companies.

Speaking at the Business Car Conference on how fleets could lower fuel bills, Bazley criticised schemes rewarding drivers for efficient driving or buying cheaply by claiming it isolates up to 75% of employees. Fuel is the greatest fleet cost, after depreciation said Bazley, and in the past three years, the typical 100-car fleet's bill has rocketed by a staggering £54,000.

Bazley said it was now time for fleet managers to begin a "reim¬bursement revolution", where instead of a generous fixed rate, drivers are refunded at the actual rate. "It is time to employ the stick, rather than carrot, to drive down company fuel bills". He pointed out that cutting the reim¬bursement rate by 2ppl would cut fuel bills by a staggering £40,000 a year for a 100-car fleet.

Raising eyebrows throughout the room, Bazley suggested employees should perhaps be given less choice when it comes to choosing their next company car, instead being urged to drive cars with smaller, more efficient, engines that can reduce fuel use by up to 7%.

motor and roads industries to talk to each other in a bid to cut the number of accidents and deaths in UK roads. Walsh explained to delegates that car designers and engineers never speak to road designers and builders. This lack of communication meant avoidable accidents were still happening. Roadsafe was created when leading manufacturers reached the same conclusion - making cars safer will never alone reduce casualties on our roads.

"Where or when in the past has a manufacturer ever had the chance to talk to the actual person who made the road," said Walsh.

Walsh went on to talk to conference delegates about the importance of risk management within an organisation.

"Businesses reducing risk reduce costs, and make journeys safer and employees happier."Walsh also explained that simple management decisions can significantly impact a business's exposure to risk. Assessing and identifying the risk could mean that drivers have less time pressure, deviate around accident black spots and reduce the amount of night time driving.

Lex Momentum consultant John Webb urged delegates to break the industry's attitude of viewing fleet services as mere commodities and bring an end to "procurement strategies based on price", by highlighting that ultimate cost always came at the expense of service delivered.

Speaking with an in-depth knowledge of the industry and 30 years working within government, the award-winning fleet manager declared the importance of achieving a balance between price and service when picking a service supplier. Webb showed delegates how to use a scorecard system to rate current and potential suppliers.

Fleet data warning

Fleets can't rely on old software to cope with the increasing data demands placed upon them, Jaama managing director Jason Francis told delegates. "If you compare a 15-year-old system with now, they were very limited; systems now can store 50 times more." Francis advocated software that can link fleet management programmes with other company applications and departments to cut down on data input.