Trials and errors
LH Tell me about the Bracknell Forest Council fleet.
DJ The fleet is currently just over 50 vehicles, which are mostly commercial and passenger-carrying vehicles along with a few pool cars. The majority of the fleet are contract hire, which are sourced through a national framework agreement so I deal with a number of leasing companies.
LH I know you have other functions to manage as well as fleet. Plus of course you are heavily involved in ACFO as a director. How do you find the time to keep a firm handle on everything?
DJ I have had a colleague tell me that mine is the cleanest desk they have ever seen. I do like to be organised so I can get everything done. In my day job I’m responsible for transport (which includes fleet), facilities management, postal and courier services and the print room but I do have a great team around me. With my ACFO hat on I have been a director for a couple of years, and am also deputy chairman which is really a supporting role to help share Julie’s [Julie Jenner, ACFO’s chairman] workload. I’m really proud to be associated with such a great association, which helps promote good working practices in fleet throughout the UK.
LH What’s the worst fleet-related issue you’ve had to deal with?
DJ I remember in a previous role that a driver’s son wrote off his dad’s company car and then proceeded to write off the hire car the following night. Luckily there were no serious injuries but it prompted a quick change of policy and a grovelling call to the hire company.
LH And the strangest?
DJ A driver was distracted by a spider which appeared from behind the sun visor as they were travelling in the outside lane of the motorway. The car ended up with scrapes all down one side as the driver “parked” it in the central reservation. Worst of all it was a well-known Italian brand and it took over six months to get the appropriate parts in from Italy.
LH What’s your main bugbear regarding lease companies/manufacturers?
DJ Don’t get me started. It has to be the end-of-life process. This appears to be an excuse for leasing companies to make some more money.
LH Sole or multi-supply? And why?
DJ Because I use frameworks I have to use multiple leasing companies. This does have its issues as inevitably some are better at it than others.
LH You were an early adopter of vehicle tracking – what is your view now?
DJ Currently I don’t track although I have in the past. I invested in tracking when the industry was very young and I remember standing in a room trying to explain to 30 burly engineers why they had nothing to worry about when their vehicles were tracked. I think the technology is fantastic and will soon become mandatory (e-Call), but it needs to be used for the right reasons.
LH Do you run alternatively fuelled vehicles on your fleet – what’s your take on electric vehicles?
DJ I trialled LPG in the early 90s with disastrous results and inherited 75 LPG vehicles here, which weren’t successful. This time I want other people to make the mistakes so I can learn from them and jump in when all the problems have been fixed.
LH Do you have time for a hobby outside of work?
DJ I’m a runner and belong to a local club. Last year I ran five half-marathons. I really want to do some more but am currently injured and undergoing some physiotherapy.
LH What are the two main fleet issues for you presently?
DJ The end-of-life process as mentioned earlier, and the intricacies of passenger transport. It’s a tricky area to manage and there are plenty of grey areas that cause confusion and uncertainty.