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The role of a Fleet Manager is increasingly multi-faceted – resulting from additional regulatory compliance commitments, challenging vehicle utilisation environments, increased vehicle costs, supply chain issues, and now the transition to lower emission vehicles…just to mention a few!

Similarly, Fleet Consultants are increasingly busy working with clients to deliver better Return On Investment (ROI) outcomes, improved risk management procedures and future-proof fleet strategy that meets the ever-changing environment.

While in many cases Fleet Consultants are engaged by organisations that do not have staff with dedicated fleet expertise to manage the fleet, there are increasing incidents of organisations with their own fleet teams seeking external assistance to drive results.

This sometimes arises due to a lack of resources – staff are so caught up in operational fleet management that strategy development takes a low priority.

Yet increasingly, it seems that executive officeholders are recognising the need to challenge the ‘status quo’ of their existing fleet operations and long-held assumptions through a Fleet Review/Audit to determine opportunities for improvement and the development of revised fleet strategy.    

Here we consider some of the main triggers and types of work being undertaken.

COVID Impacts

Although we all want to move on from COVID19 the reality is that it stimulated fundamental changes in workplace behaviours that have strong fleet implications.

Central to this is the implementation of hybrid working arrangements and the increased acceptance of online meetings – resulting in a growing number of staff working part of their work week at home. This phenomenon is impacting fleets in numerous ways:

Fleet Utilisation – tends to be the first consideration and perhaps the most obvious when vehicles become visibly idle. With more work carried out from home and online, the use and ultimately the effectiveness of pool vehicles is being impacted.

Conversely, where vehicles have allocated custodians, the percentage of business use and overall cost effectiveness sometimes requires review.

This often leads to a need to clearly identify the transportation needs necessary to support the delivery of organisational strategy, sometimes requiring changes in fleet deployment.

Grey Fleet – with more people working from home there is clear anecdotal evidence of increased employee use of their own personal vehicles. Sometimes the organisation is conscious of this use and has arrangements in place for car allowances, kilometre reimbursements etc. In other cases, it ‘flies under the radar’ and is unquantifiable.

Regardless of whether the employee personal vehicle use for business purposes is known to the organisation, their ‘duty of care’ obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to provide a safe workplace apply consistently.

Regrettably, while there appears to be a growing perception amongst some organisations that personal vehicle use may be a cost-effective solution, few seem to be aware of their responsibilities, acting appropriately to effectively manage the risks.

The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ nature of Grey Fleet vehicles presents specific safety management challenges. Therefore, risk management can remain inadequately addressed simply due to the inherent nature of the vehicles used i.e. they are not under the direct daily management/ownership of the organisation.

Consider the following:

  • Vehicle Safety – what sort of vehicles are used by employees for business? How old are they and how many kilometres have they travelled? What Safety Rating do they have? When was servicing last completed?
  • Compliance – are all employees vehicles registered? Do all drivers have a current driver licence? Is anybody notified when of infringements and/or suspensions?
  • Insurance – are all vehicles insured? If so, is business use covered?
  • Policy – is there an effective policy that outlines organisation expectations relating to Grey Fleet use?

Fleet Strategy & Planning

Formulating an effective fleet strategy, along with relevant policies and standard operating procedures that support the strategy has never been more important for an organisation aiming to appropriately manage its fleet cost and risk management factors.

At the recent AfMA Fleet Conference & Exhibition we presented ‘101 of Fleet Management – Policy Development’, discussing three main policy types:

Fleet Management Plan – a strategic organisation document that outlines how fleet vehicles align to the achievement of organisational objectives. How fleet assets are acquired, funded, managed through their lifecycle, and ultimately disposed of.

Importantly too, what are the strategies to transition fleet management to ‘best practice’ through safety commitments, nominated retention periods and sustainability plans.

Motor Vehicle Policy – an employee/drive engagement document that establishes clear guidelines for how employees should operate fleet vehicles i.e. safely, compliantly, and diligently.

Grey Fleet Policy – similar to or perhaps even part of the Motor Vehicle Policy, but recognising the specific requirements and differences of employee vehicle use.    

Fleet Costs

As vehicle prices rise, the importance of good vehicle selection increases. Often a singular focus on vehicle purchase price instead of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) needs to be addressed. There is no point buying the cheapest vehicle if its more costly to maintain, has high fuel consumption and poor resale value!

Facilitating Change & Delivering Value

Fleet Consultants are having to fully understand the unique challenges now being faced by their clients, effectively considering their transport needs and the mobility options that may be available to facilitate them.

Importantly, the organisation’s capacity/appetite for change may need to considered in both the development and implementation of strategies designed to address compliance issues, optimise asset performance, enhance operational efficiency, and reduce overall fleet costs.

Paul Oliver is the Director & Principal Consultant of Fleet Advisory. Paul provides independent expert advice and fleet consulting services to business, not for profit organisations & government – Fleet Advisory for more information.

This article was first published in the July 2023 edition of FleetDrive.

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