Peter Cooke: Reducing fleet costs

Few fleets are perfect. There is always room for cost reduction.

The challenge is to identify the opportunities, take them and then continue to take them, while showing a real cost saving.

Essentially, opportunities split into short-term and strategic issues.

Short-term fleet cost-management opportunities are typically associated with best practice and are a matter of driver practice, perhaps enhanced if motivated by management. Tyre pressure is so obvious it is too often ignored, but 10% or more fuel-efficiency savings are available if tyres are checked regularly.

Equally, employers should remind staff of best driving practice: acceleration, braking and careful driving are simple but easy savings. The extent to which drivers use the most cost-effective planning for journeys that cannot be avoided is another consideration.

But there are far more opportunities at the strategic level. Consider fleet insurance history. Is a fleet covered by a single policy? Could there be opportunities for an employer to hive off poor-record drivers and take the hit on a small number of the cars rather than across the fleet?

The best cost savings are achieved by an employer not providing cars. What are [employers’] criteria for providing cars? Would it be possible for employees to either share cars or use rental vehicles? What paid-for services does the organisation provide for car users, and are they all really necessary? Car downsizing is fashionable at present: are [employers] following the trend?

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Any steps taken to reduce company car costs must be sold to car users and have their buy-in. Without that support, the scheme is likely to fail. But employers must remember that the company car is earning its keep only when it is away from immediate management supervision.

Peter Cooke is professor of automotive management at the University of Buckingham