Unlocking the key
LH Please tell me a little bit about your company and the composition of its fleet, including who you lease through.
GS We are a service provider for glazing and locks, and support most insurance companies in the event of property break-in, broken glass and locks. We also partner many well-known High Street stores and supply domestic glazing and conservatories. Our fleet is made up of 270 vans and 45 cars, funded and maintenance-managed by ALD Automotive. It’s important to find a reliable partner if this is the chosen route. Most suppliers have access to the same technology but the people make a difference.
LH I know you have other functions to manage as well as fleet. How do you keep control of all of them?
GS As well as fleet, I also manage the property for Evander – 25 depots across the UK and our Norwich head office. It’s important to be well supported in order to provide the right levels of service to the business and I have two terrific (and understanding!) assistants who know the business and have the right work ethic. The team is far more important than any individual.
LH What’s the worst fleet-related issue you’ve had to deal with? And the funniest?
GS In our job every day is different and you never quite know what you will be dealing with next – you really have to expect the unexpected so policy and process is important to ensure that we comply and that there are no grey areas when emotions take over. Sadly we have to deal with some traumatic situations, which is difficult. Thankfully this is rare and there is usually something to make you laugh – like the lady who removed her head restraint as it messed up her hair, or the guy who couldn’t fit anything into his boot as it was filled with sub-woofers. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…
LH What are the two main fleet issues for you presently?
GS The main fleet issues I currently face are rising costs and managing our insurance premium. Fuel is our largest spend and we can’t control the cost of a barrel of oil so we have to make the best use of the fuel we buy – vehicle choice, route planning and driver education are key. Our business is considered high risk. Transporting glass in a response situation must be carefully managed and provides us with a number of challenges.
LH How do you manage fuel claims – fuel card, pay and reclaim, mileage capture, AFRs or actual cost?
GS Any area that involves money is emotive and fuel claims are no exception. It can be very difficult for a high-mileage, low-paid employee to keep their car fuelled due to the high cost. Fuel cards are therefore helpful, so long as they are not fully expensed. And this also helps as a vital management tool with cost control. A good fuel card provider in conjunction with telematics gives total control and no room for discrepancies.
LH So how did you persuade drivers that tracking was a good thing?
GS The majority of us employ people to do a job other than driving – driving is a necessary evil and it is our job to make sure our employees can drive to the right standard. There are two things that men in particular don’t like to be told – and one of them is that they need help with their driving. Vehicle tracking is a key part of managing a fleet nowadays and selling telematics to any driver is difficult. Telematics can help improve driving style and reduce onerous manual mileage claims. I prefer the carrot rather than the stick and incentives for good mpg, high driver scores and zero crash rates are the way I prefer to work.
LH If you weren’t a fleet manager, what would you do?
GS Sadly the fleet manager is a dying breed so I consider myself very lucky to be in this role but if I wasn’t one I would probably be part of the blue light brigade. I was a first responder at London 2012 and found it challenging but enjoyable and very rewarding. I wanted to be a dancer but it seemed that I just took one step forward and two back.
LH Time for a hobby outside of work?
GS Outside of work I like most sports and am a keep-fit fanatic. It helps to have a gym next door to work but I love to swim, cycle, run and generally physically challenge myself and prove to my children that I’m not past it yet!