Fleet on Fleet: Paula Maxwell of Longhurst Group
Fleet size: 158 cars, 12 vans, 337 grey fleet
In what sector does Longhurst operate?
Longhurst Group is the parent company for three subsidiaries located throughout the East Midlands. We rent out 18,000 houses. Spire Homes are in Rushden, Friendship Care & Housing in Birmingham and Walsall, and L&H in Boston, Nottingham, Lincoln, Skegness and Grimsby. The HQ is in Boston. So as you can imagine the fleet is spread around. We have a few perk vehicles but most are job need.
How big is the fleet?
We lease 158 cars and 12 vans and have a 337-vehicle grey fleet. The lease cars are operated through Lex Autolease. We’ve been a customer since 2007. I have a very good working relationship with them.
A diverse fleet has its own challenges, what are yours?
I think it’s getting company car drivers to read the driver handbook. It took ages to produce but when used properly, greatly reduces the number of times drivers need to phone me up with queries. Of course, they still find it easier to pick up the phone and ask!
Regarding the vans, which we own outright, achieving a decent sale price is always a challenge, unless they are in really good condition.
With grey fleet it is getting the drivers to understand I must hold copy documents before they drive on company business, and that they need business insurance, particularly if they expect us to reimburse their business travel expenses.
Sustainability and the environment feature highly on the Longhurst agenda. How does that translate to fleet?
In April 2014 we reduced the overall CO2 to 125, which when I talk to other fleet managers, is quite low. We do run hybrids and I have looked into electric vehicles but the range needs to improve before we could consider them. We are using teleconferencing more and more and hoping to get video conferencing in the near future.
We also ask drivers to car share and for the grey fleet drivers to use public transport and pool cars when possible.
Are you a carrot or stick person – penalise “offenders” or reward good behaviour?
We recharge a driver if they have two fault incidents and we also charge them the excess. We will also recharge if a car needs repairing due to the driver’s negligence. But we don’t reward good behaviour as I think it would demotivate drivers. And anyway we are a charity so couldn’t give away financial rewards.
Tell me a bit about your driver training programme – I believe you are a trained assessor?
We roll out online driver training every three years using the Driver Risk Index that was written by DriverMetrics at Cranfield University. This is for all car drivers and any grey fleet drivers doing more than 50 business miles a month. From the results we can see if they are low, medium or high risk. Being high risk doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad driver, but they may do high mileage.
We also ask everyone to attend a driver workshop and together with our training team I go out to each office to deliver these workshops personally. We get great feedback on them, which is nice.
I qualified as a driving assessor through RoSPA and take all the high-risk drivers out on the road, just to give advice on safer driving, driving fuel efficiently and to think about what they are doing a little more. Feedback suggests the drivers generally learn from the experience.
What would be your one best piece of advice to someone just starting their first fleet manager job?
Undertake the ICFM Certificate & Diploma, and attend fleet conferences to network as much as possible. Also join ACFO – you always come away from a meeting having learnt something.
Time for a hobby outside of work?
I own a Honda CBF1000 and love to get out on it as much as possible. I have ridden around New Zealand, Peru, Chile, the Canadian Rockies and America on a bike and I love it. It’s such a great way to travel.
If you weren’t a fleet manager, what would you do?
I’d be a personal assistant or an events organiser as I love organising things.