Fleet on Fleet: John Pryor of ACFO
Fleet size: 590 user-choosers, 700 cash out, 30 vans
How are you finding being chairman of ACFO?
It was and is a great honour. Arcadia has been a member for some 18 years and I do find it invaluable. It helps as I can talk to other fleet people who are having the same issues I have. We are fashion retailers and we have no other fleet expertise within the group so talking to other fleet managers is a great benchmarking exercise.
Did you have a fleet background initially or were you working in another sector?
I came from a facilities background and it was one of those, ‘Oh can you look after these’ conversations. Initially there were about 70 cars but then came the amalgamation of the total group fleet.
We’ve often said that “travel manager” is the natural progression for a fleet manager’s job. Do you see ACFO focusing on helping fleet managers expand their roles in that direction in the future?
I see it more as the other half of a whole role as I oversee all the movements – whether by air, road or rail. I think it is important that you do see the whole picture. But I believe fleet is one of the only disciplines within a company that can sit in many varied departments. It is more shaped by the business requirement.
How do you manage key relationships with suppliers?
I believe it is having a clear view of what Arcadia needs and requires and being able to structure that into the operation and ensure the supplier understands the requirement. We tend to manage by exception reporting and monthly reviews to ensure nothing gets missed. We have run our own standalone system of control for years and therefore can manage our suppliers. I am a bit of a luddite in regard to the latest “dashboards” etc as information is just pumped at you, without analysis.
I recently attended a meeting of transport managers responsible for freight fleets and when it came to question time, found them a lot more forthright than the majority of their car fleet counterparts. Why do you think that might be?
I think they have a very different discipline. But different fleets do as well. User-choosers have different objectives and targets than job-need fleets. Vans are carrying product and have a different focus again. I recall talking to a retailer which had a home delivery service but also had a car fleet. The home delivery service was run to military precision but the car side was run quite differently. But they saw the home delivery as vital for business as well as having their name on the side of the van.
What should fleet managers be losing sleep over?
I would hope that nobody is losing sleep. There are many changes coming up, which should have a positive effect on fleet. Tax disc removal will be a great time saver. The digital footpath that government are working on should reap benefits for the future. It would be nice if they were further advanced, but I am glad they are at least starting. We need to be aware of the changes in taxation and ensure we are putting pressure on manufactures to reduce CO2. But this has to be balanced with the cost of vehicles.
How would you encourage a company to take up or renew the ACFO subscription?
We have been members of ACFO for some 18 plus years and I believe it has been invaluable talking to others, and picking up what is happening is very important. I see ACFO as a central source of information for all companies who run vehicles for their business. ACFO is a members’ organisation and there is no "right" way to run a fleet, but there are good practices we can all adopt. My plea for membership in ACFO is to join so we have a voice and have the ability to influence and support the changes that are happening every day.
Over the next few years, it is likely telematics will become standard in all new cars. There is no doubt about the usefulness of the information, but what is the key to managing it usefully, as opposed to drowning in it?
As with all these things, all fleets will use it in different ways. I suspect that the issue will be to make sure fleets know what is out there and what they can get hold of. In some cases it may be how to interpret the data as well. I think from evidence, people who have smart phones only use about 20% of their capability and I suspect that this will be the case with telematics data.
Asking if you have time for hobbies away from work and ACFO is probably a daft question, but how do you relax?
I would love to say I have a deeply passionate hobby that takes up all my spare time, but unfortunately no. It’s normally home with the wife and kids – watching as they spend my life savings.