Fleet on Fleet – Brad Wilkie of Kelway
You have a wide remit – was fleet part of the job originally? Where does your fleet experience come from?
My remit is to be responsible for facilities, car fleet and supplier management. My role started 11 years ago in procurement and only in the last three years did facilities and fleet tag on. I recall the conversation, standing by the coffee machine, as the owner walked up to me: ‘Morning, I really think you need to take over facilities, what with your commercial experience.’
‘Ok.’ And that was it, 20-plus global locations, car fleet and my main role at the time, to manage our supplier relations and commercial agreements of around £180 million of spend.
My previous experience of facilities and car fleet – nothing! But I like to think that applying sensible logic and my commercial confidence to most challenges meant half of the task would be achievable.
Kelway is clearly a fast-moving business. That must bring some challenges in setting a fleet policy that’s also flexible enough to cope with the ongoing needs of the business?
When I started at the business we were turning over £12m. This year we are on target for £500m. That brings its challenges with policy setting, albeit we are only just about to launch our second revision. I think it’s important to ensure legal compliance along with a realistic user guide that people actually can reference when needed.
With a 24-hour operation and our engineers being on call, the importance of getting the policy right is a serious matter. My car fleet manager has put a lot of time and effort into making this a policy that is both relevant and compliant.
Given what Kelway does, how much of your fleet activity is carried out online?
We use a number of online tools for car rental, insurance management and fuel usage. But our internal comms to car fleet is managed through a specific mailbox. When we first took on car fleet we had around 150 inbound emails a week. We now get around 15. That’s down to process improvement, good communication and of course an excellent team!
In your role, relationship management with internal and external stakeholders is obviously key. I presume you have a very structured approach to this?
I think with any business of our size there is the inevitable need for structure and a measured approach. I think what makes our business unique is that in many ways we operate like the £12m business of 11 years ago.
What are the two biggest fleet issues for you presently?
If you asked me over a year ago my two biggest issues were fuel management and standardising our fleet vehicles. We carried out a tender for both preferred lease partner and vehicle manufacturer and from there defined four levels of spec. Standardising this has helped with the reallocation of cars, and allowed us to work with one preferred partner who provides significant value on a controlled commercial basis.
From a fuel management side, one partner in particular has proven invaluable, demonstrating excellent service and significant savings by policing our staff on their fuel usage as well as making sure our monthly mileage submissions are fully HMRC-compliant.
What’s your best advice for maintaining cost control on fleet?
My best advice to anyone running a fleet is firstly to understand the reality of what the business is trying to achieve with its fleet, as well as to fully understand the areas of expenditure and operational load. For us, that meant changing the vehicles and standardising a spec to defuse the issue of people wanting a particular car. Second to this was finding an excellent value lease partner. Managing fuel costs using a third partner was also a big win.
I would say we have a slick fleet operation that is fully compliant, with a robust underlying policy to mitigate business risks and save costs.