You know those little, innocent red buttons in most new cars? The ones that trigger an alarm in case of an accident, and pinpoint where you are, making it easy for the emergency services to find you. Well, they are not as innocent as they look. 

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from the police many miles away, saying that one of our car’s “alarms” had been triggered. They had in turn contacted the leasing company who are the registered keeper, and they gave our details to the police. I knew whose car it was, but after calling the driver many times, with no reply, the panic really started to set in. The car was not in the location where the alarm had been triggered, and the police were not able to track it. Had the driver been kidnapped, or injured? The number of thoughts that went through my head were unbelievable, I think I’ve watched too many TV mysteries. Anyway, I gave the police that driver’s home address. There was nobody there and we didn’t even have a contact number for relatives. The panic increased as the hours passed by, thankfully the nameless driver did answer his phone eventually. “Hello” he said, “I think you’ve been trying to call me, I’m at my daughter’s house – it’s one of the grandkids’ birthdays.”

It turns out, he’d nipped out to a shop, left the kids alone in the car, they saw the red button, and pressed it. There was no noise or warning in the car, so the driver had no idea what had happened. Why is the red button red? Surely a grey, or black or anything but red would be better? It’s just asking to be pressed. Panic over, but weeks after, I’m still cross about it.

Everyone knows about the current shortage of new vehicles, a big problem for everyone, especially as fleet managers, whether at large or small leasing companies. 

The problem isn’t going away anytime soon, in fact I do believe it will get worse before it gets better. I’m trying to manage as effectively as possible the current fleet of cars and vans, trying to extend leases wherever we can, but some leasing companies are wanting their long overdue vehicles returned ASAP – presumably to get high prices and top money for them. Running a fleet now, as other fleet managers know is like knitting fog at the moment. I’m thinking of changing my company title from “fleet manager” to “fleet muddling through on a daily basis.”

To add to the woes of a shortage of vehicles, we recently had a catalytic converter nicked from one of our cars. It was on the road outside our driver’s house, and not the ‘red button incident’ driver, but another one. He saw someone with a jack under the car, and by the time he went out, the thief was running up the road with a four-foot bit of exhaust pipe under his arm and a small battery powered saw under the other. He gave chase, but the saw and exhaust went straight into an open boot on the get-away car, never to be seen again. It took a couple of minutes from start to finish to remove this valuable piece of metal. The car is still off the road, waiting for new parts, that like other new cars, could take months to get hold of. Our insurance company will pay for a difficult-to-get, rental car for a short time, and after that we are on our own. 

There are no spare pool cars, so we’re in a bit of a mess.

Despite a few mishaps, these trials and tribulations of a “Fleet Muddling through Manager,” I love this job, honestly.

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