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JOURNEY PLANNING: Putting your business on the right road with trip planning

Date: 20 December 2010

There is no definitive figure on how many grey fleet vehicles exist in the UK

Better journey planning on business travel can inevitably save fleets money, yet often it is overlooked. Fleet operators need to take it more seriously, writes Rachel Burgess

It's all too easy for employees to get in their car and drive without thinking of where they're going, the best way to get there, or alternative modes of travel. Yet, if workers thought about journeys in advance, time and money could be saved.

For company car drivers doing high mileage, journey planning mostly involves good use of telematics to ensure the quickest and safest route is employed. This naturally means decreased mileage and fuel savings as well as higher productivity from shortened journey times. However, fleet drivers should also consider, in advance, alternative options such as trains: if they are booked early, this can often work out cheaper and create more time to do work. For grey fleet users, journey planning is also key, with the potential to save firms millions of pounds in mileage reimbursement costs.

Kenneth Bowling from Driving Risk Management adds: "Journey planning should be right up there for duty of care as it's part of the evaluation/risk assessment. The first question to be asked is whether there is a safer way to reach that destination, i.e. consider using public transport, air travel, daily rental, cycling and walking. Then look at the risks that particular route may pose, taking into account whether it encompasses rural areas, towns or cities, for example, and whether motorways are included."

The most important thing is to have in place a well-implemented and well-communicated travel policy. Whether this happens falls into two categories according to Bowling: "It comes back to dedicated fleet managers compared with some other business operators. The first group are usually on the ball in this regard: they are aware of the benefits of journey planning and have the time and resources to do it, in contrast to the hard-pressed business manager who may be short on time, resources and, perhaps most importantly, experience."

Enterprise communications director Spencer King says: "We are selling into two specific camps: those who are policy setting, who create a transport policy to instruct the employee of the best way to travel on business; and then we've got the employees, who think: 'How do we got from A to B?'

"Whether they take a bus or rental car, it's about thinking in advance and maximising the efficiency of whatever measure they choose. Workers need to start taking a lot more foresight in what they're doing and when they're doing it."

Rob Ingram, director of business rental at Enterprise says: "Mileage reimbursement is the easiest thing to do. And motoring is still a very emotive thing. People like the comforts of their own car.

"Implementing a travel policy is important. It needs to consider whether teleconferencing is an option, or things like public transport or pool cars. It's about making firms understand that every journey profile is different and what options are available to them.

"Travel policies are no good just sitting on the intranet - they need to be clearly communicated, they need to say: 'We will not reimburse you for a journey over x miles a day.' It needs to be that blatant." With regard to those allowed miles, employees need to consider pool cars, sharing-car schemes or rental, says Ingram. However King advises caution with pool cars: "Are your pool cars being well utilised? Are they reliable? Often, they sit idle. Or you don't know who has the key or if it will be back in time to use."

He says that whatever alternative to grey fleet is used it needs to be fit-for-purpose: "For example, it might not be suitable to have a civil servant carrying security documents on public transport." He adds that often the success of travel policies is helped when a member of senior management is on board, showing they journey plan effectively.

Bowling concludes: "Each situation merits a personal review, as no two firms operate in exactly the same way. Fresh forward thinking, though, can almost always bring about substantial benefits in efficiency and safety.

Case study: Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has been working with Enterprise for five years to help meet travel objectives including reducing the total business mileage of vehicles, which in turn lowers the cost of business travel.

The agency used Enterprise's grey-fleet tool to identify that 75 miles is the point at which vehicle hire becomes a more cost-effective option. This was then incorporated into their travel policy, which now states that any mileage reimbursement claims over this distance would only be reimbursed up to 75 miles. Assuming the trip

is necessary and cannot be accomplished on public transport, their transport policy suggests that any journeys over 75 miles should be conducted in a rental vehicle. This policy has helped to reduce the incentive for employees to travel in their own vehicles and facilitated a change in attitude towards mileage reimbursement.

The agency has also changed its rental vehicle booking policy, from a lower medium-sized vehicle to a supermini. Enterprise's online booking system automatically selects superminis when bookings are made and only allow a larger vehicle class if certain criteria are met. This has seen supermini bookings increase from 28.2% in March 2009 to 73.0% in March 2010, while lower medium bookings have fallen, meaning CO2 emissions per mile have dropped by an average of 5%.