Scott Blyth is known in the fleet industry as a highly tenacious self-motivated professional who provides specialist analysis and recommendations for public sector fleet operations from real life experiences. Scott has vast experience in all aspects of fleet management and here provides some interesting pointers for Fleet Manager readers on the importance of reforming business practices in order to stay legally compliant and commercially aware. Here he explains why now may be a good time for organisations to conduct a review of their fleet policies, but they must be clear of their objectives …
Whatever your fleet size – large or small – and whatever the size of your organisation, undertaking a fleet review periodically can really help you to keep on top of costs and highlight inefficiencies. It might sound like an obvious piece of advice, however it’s amazing just how easy it is for time to slip through our fingers and for us to take on an ‘I’ll look at this tomorrow’ attitude.
In today’s financial environment, particularly for public sector organisations that are seeing more cut-backs than ever, it is prudent to be forward-thinking. The old adage ‘it’s how we’ve always done it’ just isn’t something to fall back on any more. Fleet managers need to realise potential commercial opportunities and even create revenue streams to help support other costs too.
So it really is worth revisiting and updating your business plans and risk registers for both legal and commercial reasons and for integration into the whole business strategy. Operational costs are always on the move, as are improvement requirements in legal compliance, and with enforcement agencies being more KPI motivated than ever the industry must remain focused.
But how can this be approached? The key is to be open-minded and ensure that the ‘powers that be’ understand your approach and lose the old culture. Your senior management teams, from the Chief Executive cascading down must learn and understand key phrases that are important to us all such as ‘Good Repute’, ‘Fitness to Operate’ and ‘Transport Managers’ Undertakings’. No longer is it solely a Transport Manager or Operators Licence holder who will only take responsibility for failings to operate within the law, anyone who has a responsibility for your fleet operations can and will be held responsible for their actions or, more so, any lack of.
It’s important to know your business, know your costs and appreciate how to blend these to remain legally compliant and cost effective and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
Fleet managers who’ve been in the role for some time will know that there have been many changes over the years. You ‘must’ be legal and you ‘must’ be cost effective. Every fleet operation must be and remain within the legal tolerances and remain cost-focused to be at the top of their potential.
Moving with the times is so important. Enforcement agencies such as the DVSA and the Office of the Traffic Commissioner are seeking higher standards and utilising technology to improve targeted enforcement methods. Remember that all of this is to improve safety, which is only a good thing, so know your business or face the consequences of the Traffic Commissioner!
It is important to raise standards, but how can this be done? In simple terms, practical old school operational methodologies should be aligned to new improved cost and legally efficient practices. Moving products and vehicles around has not changed and never really will in terms of basic principle however, how you legally do it and how efficient your costs are can and will make the difference.
Sadly, some believe that exemptions are an excuse, a way to remain out of jail, but this is a thing of the past – exemptions no longer apply as people think they do and safety in any operation is as paramount as legal compliance. Enforcement should be used as guidance in building the operational methods of safe normal working. It’s important that training and advice is taken through regulatory bodies such as the FTA, RHA or the CILT and through private consultants – this should be an integral, cost-effective part of your organisation’s fleet future. I was proud to recently become an Ambassador of Van Excellence with the FTA and can’t emphasise how important and useful I have found this in my van operations. Local authorities run large and diverse fleets with a huge percentage of the vehicles being vans and there is an estimated four million vans out there on the road. Targeted enforcement last year saw 10,800 vans stopped, a very high percentage of those targeted had defects or were overweight so it’s very important to know your fleet.
As public sector budgets continue to be slashed, efficient fleet management has the potential to actually generate an income revenue stream instead of being a perceived unnecessary on cost. Looking at your fleet operation in a more ‘commercial’ way can often provide the sustainable and profitable boost required to enable new technology, more efficient vehicles and working practices to be introduced. For example, many local authorities are opening up their workshops to the general public, considering quicker replacement fleet programs, specialising in robust tendering and looking at improved work shop and parts management to savings and create revenue streams or spend-to-save practices. How often in recent years have local authorities thought of fleet operations as privately run businesses? Remove yourself from public authority thinking and become your own boss controlling the business as if it is your own.
Another option that is becoming increasingly popular, particularly for emergency services fleets, is exploring the benefits of shared services. This is a fantastic way of sharing costs in fleet establishment and efficiencies – you would be amazed what can be achieved through simply talking to colleagues and sharing thoughts. I have helped to create and witnessed so many cost-efficient ways of working while improving the capabilities of those individual services for the communities we all serve, it can only be a good thing and it is when you get it right.
Another area that cannot be overlooked is adopting technology to help run a more efficient and safe fleet. There are some fantastic telematics, tracking and fleet management systems on the market that can create your weekly, bespoke, business KPIs and that can provide some excellent data when it comes to sharing best practice and analysing driver behaviour, fuel and tyres, damage costs and controls all improving compliance .
In summary, fleet managers must not fear shared fleet or staff utilisation and make sure they are on top of issues that will always be at the forefront of operations such as controlling fleet capital replacement costs, adopting green alternative fuels and remembering driver license capabilities. Fleet managers should become increasingly aware of and proactive towards LGV and HGV operations and legalities. Because Local Authorities control such diverse fleets of vehicles it’s not as simple as some think, however, it is very rewarding when you achieve your targets and conducting a fleet review is a great way of helping you to do this.
• Blyth Transport and Logistics Consultants Ltd provides a one-stop shop in analysis and recommendations for fleets including Logistic Operations 3PL or in-house, Public Authorities, MOT Stations, LGV and HGV Workshop operations, Small and Large Plant Workshops, Home Delivery, Manufacturing, Finance, Health & Safety, Budgeting, leading Operational Management & Development teams, Recruitment & Consultancy.
If you are looking for your operators licence to be made secure and your operation to become commercially safe, get in touch on 07811 272672.
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