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Still life for company cars, says fleet expert

Company cars still have a vital role to play for businesses, despite rising costs, but it has never been more important for fleet managers to understand in detail how their employees travel for work, according to Caroline Sandall, director of ESE Consulting.

ACFO deputy chairman Caroline Sandall

The Fleet Heroes Conference saw Caroline Sandall outline how operators need to have strategies for opt-out drivers

Speaking at the Energy Saving Trust’s Fleet Heroes conference in London this week, Sandall – who is also deputy chairman at ACFO – said companies need to have a view of where they want to be in one or two years’ time and understand the growing number of mobility solutions available to suit those travel needs.

This includes the full spectrum of vehicles used for business, requiring fleets to get data on grey fleet, hire cars and pool cars, which are traditionally harder to monitor, she said.

This is particularly important as drivers might now be looking to opt out of company schemes due to rising tax costs. Research by Cap HPI this year showed Benefit-in-Kind liability for a BMW 320d had risen 105% since 2009, while real wages had only increased 20% in that time. ACFO has long warned that uncertainty and inaction over company car tax is causing delayed ordering and eroding the value of company car schemes. The latest HMRC data shows 940,000 drivers paid BiK on a car in 2016/17 – a decline of 20,000 drivers compared to the previous year, and the tax liability had risen year on year.

Sandall said fleet managers faced the important task of spotting drivers at risk of significant Benefit-in-Kind increases, and to have strategies in place for those who might opt for a cash allowance to encourage them to choose appropriate vehicles.

“If you don’t get your policy and strategy right, and don’t work with stakeholders effectively then your company car scheme could fail in its current format,” she warned. “It’s about being prepared and looking at solutions that keep your employees mobile, keep your benefit programme healthy and happy, and keep your employees wanting to stay with your employer.”

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.