When fleet management isn’t fleet management
I think it was Charles Darwin who believed that species adapt to suit their surroundings and thus survive. I think presently we are seeing a fine example of this among insurance and accident management companies.
For the past few years they have promoted personal injury claims and credit hire, causing our insurance premiums to rise.
Now they have decided to play the part of the good guys, and that it’s time to prevent accidents occurring in the first place by providing us with telematics and behavioural training. The cynic in me says they have been forced into a change of tactics due to the current investigations by the Competition Commission, following a review by no less a body than the Office of Fair Trading. As ever, I suppose those companies who change tack early will prove Darwin’s theory and survive to fight another day.
But there’s a difference between actually changing what you do, and selling yourself as something you are not, and here I’m looking to a different area of the fleet market.
I was recently invited to participate in an online survey on fleet management. The first question asked me to enter the names of any fleet management companies I was aware of – and three sprung instantly to mind – Fleet Alliance, Fleet Support Group and CLM. The next page asked me to tick which of the following list of fleet management companies I had heard of – and then listed a number of contract hire suppliers, with not one fleet management company among them.
In my experience there is a world of difference between a fleet management company and a contract hire supplier. A fleet management company usually has no affinity to any finance lease provider, and indeed part of their attraction is that they will shop around to find the best finance deal for their client.
They are likely to do the same with other services on offer: maintenance, short-term hire, disposals and accident management, for instance. A contract hire supplier likes to tie you in on a sole supply arrangement for which it promises a raft of extra services which might loosely be termed ”fleet management”. Indeed, unless it has a solus deal with you it will be unable to effectively fleet manage because it will not easily have all your relevant information at its fingertips.
Basically a fleet management company will carry out the same functions as a fleet manager but with economies of scale, in that it should have better buying power, as it will be acting for a number of clients. What it probably won’t have is good interaction with your individual members of staff, which is all fine and dandy when policy is upheld and everything goes to plan but less so when it doesn’t.
And if you employ a contract hire company to be your fleet manager then you don’t have the luxury of an intermediary to bang heads together when required. Whichever route you go, you still need to keep your finger on the pulse by having someone in-house who has an expert knowledge of fleet in order to oversee that the package is working as it should, and that costs remain on the promised downwards trend.
I would say that over the past five years, contract hire suppliers have upped their game considerably in terms of giving advice which might loosely be considered a form of fleet management and of course that’s great. In part that is due to some very high-level former fleet managers being employed by them in a consultancy role. But they have some way to go before they can call themselves fleet management companies.