Whiskey on wheels
LH What’s the composition of Chivas fleet?
TC Chivas Brothers is part of the Pernod Ricard Group, and we produce whisky brands such as Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, The Glenlivet, and Royal Salute alongside our gin brands, Beefeater and Plymouth Gin. These brands are then distributed by our sister companies around the world.
As the largest group subsidiary in the UK we take the lead in many functions, and fleet is one of those, where we look after irs management for our sister companies in the UK (PRUK and The Absolut Company). So altogether we operate a fleet of 320 vehicles which is made up of 260 cars and 60 vans.
Many of our cars are allocated to our sales force at PRUK and our vans are generally used by engineers and crafts men to service and repair equipment and facilities at our many distilleries and warehousing sites around the north of Scotland.
Our fleet is funded by Lex Autolease on fully maintained contracts including accident management and European breakdown cover. The typical replacement cycle is four years/60,000 miles on the cars and five years/60,000 miles on the vans. We have a great working relationship with Lex which manages our account from its office in Stirling.
LH Are you qualifications or experience based (or perhaps both)?
TC I am experience based. I started my career as an assistant to the fleet manager at Semple Cochrane, where I remember being overwhelmed by the complexity of the role. Having said that, it is amazing how quickly you can pick things up.
I find that the most important things required for the job are a good dose of common sense, good organisational skills, and a can-do mentality with plenty of energy. Of course qualifications are often required for this kind of job, but it is not the be-all and end-all. You just can’t beat experience.
LH Do you have other functions to manage as well as fleet?
TC Fleet is my main responsibility; however I also administer the Cycle to Work Salary Sacrifice Scheme, and I have recently taken over responsibility for managing some other facilities related contracts for the business.
LH What’s the worst fleet-related issue you’ve had to deal with?
TC Any time the CEO has a problem with his car can usually be classed as the worst fleet issue. Talk about feeling the pressure. My heart sinks when I see an email from his PA, and you really feel like you are put to the test to resolve the issue ASAP with minimum fuss or inconvenience. I think I always manage to keep him happy – well I must do, I am still in a job.
LH And the funniest?
TC In my last fleet role, I had an apprentice electrician who jumped into a truck to go and collect the lunches for the team and proceeded through the KFC drive-through removing part of the roof. Somehow he managed to cover up his stupidity, and I was none the wiser that the incident had ever taken place, until that is, I received a letter from Colonel Sanders requesting reimbursement for the damage caused to his roof.
LH Do you run alternatively fuelled vehicles on your fleet – what’s your take on electric vehicles?
TC Chivas Brothers was one of the first fleets to run hybrid vehicles when we took delivery of 10 Honda Civic Hybrids in January 2008. These vehicles proved at the time to be great pool cars, enabling us to reduce our carbon footprint.
Almost five years on and these hybrids are still in service, but are due to be replaced within the new few months. I can’t say too much at this stage, but I am in the process of choosing the replacement vehicles, and am hopeful that we will be adopting the latest technology to further reduce our carbon footprint and our fuel costs.
LH What are your biggest issues in fleet currently?
TC Managing fuel costs is a challenge at the moment. I find that you constantly have to fight just to maintain costs at current levels, and if you introduce more fuel efficient vehicles the price per litre increases and there go your savings, which is very frustrating.
Encouraging van drivers to take greater care and responsibility for the condition of the vehicles is an issue that I am working on at the moment. We often have pool cars or vans returned at the end of the contract with various small areas of miscellaneous damage which nobody ever seems to know anything about. To combat this we are trying a new daily vehicle check procedure similar to that carried out by drivers of HGVs.
LH If you weren’t a fleet manager, what would you do?
TC Having had a taste of the Scotch whisky industry, I can’t think of another industry I would rather be in. Being the convivial person that I am, I suppose my dream job would be as a brand ambassador. However I would settle for chief taster on the Chivas Regal line!