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Diary of a fleet manager: Month 20

Date: 06 November 2023

New manufacturers and SMR niggles are among the complications being faced by our anonymous insider.

I read with interest the feature by editor, Martyn Collins in last month's Business Car, and felt shivers run down my spine. He had been to the Munich Motor Show, and reported the large number of manufacturers there, mainly from China - many of which, he had never heard of. I have only just heard of a Chinese car company called BYD, but how I'd go about getting a vehicle for one of my drivers is still a bit of a mystery. With many more coming along, it's going to be difficult for us fleet managers to keep up with the growing number of car suppliers - especially from China. I do know MG are now made in China, and there are many dealers up and down the country (there is one near me!) but all these new ones I've never heard of are going to give me lots of headaches. There's enough to do in this job, without adding more complications!

I have made friends with someone at another company, who is also a fleet manager. We are not best buddies, but we do share a common interest: vehicles and fleet managing. We regularly help and run things past each other for best practice. So, I was shocked the other day, when she phoned to say she'd been made redundant with immediate effect. It turns out her company had lost lucrative contracts, meaning there's a lot less work coming in - so staff numbers must be reduced to cut costs. I understand these things happen, but for a company to get rid of a competent and professional fleet manager, in my opinion, is just asking for trouble. This is due to the potential cost to the company by not having a well-run or well-managed fleet. A fleet manager is permanently saving money by controlling costs, and of course keeping drivers and other road users safe. It's a totally false economy in my opinion, and something I suspect the company will regret very soon.

My working life seems to be full of very minor niggles, a lot of tyre problems, small dents, and scratches, and booking vehicles in for services or maintenance. Fortunately, we seem to keep clear of major accidents - it's just a lot of small car park incidents! Big bumps would be easier to sort than minor scratches, though I really would prefer the scratches. Our drivers don't want to be seen driving a vehicle that is not in perfect condition, however the interior of most of our vehicles is another story - as most are absolutely disgusting. It seems as soon as 'someone else', has scratched their company car or van - they want it fixing NOW, not tomorrow, or the day after.

It is very difficult to get small dents and scratches fixed quickly, as everyone who does it is generally busy, and booked up for weeks! We don't claim on our insurance for small jobs, it just comes out of our own company funds. However, these small jobs are now adding up, costing more and more. At some stage in the future, I can see myself having to personally inspect every single bump and scrape, to establish if the driver is responsible and will have to pay for repairs themselves - that won't be popular!

Tyres are another small niggle, especially when they are on a job, and get a blow-out. It is nobody's fault, it just happens. They are usually on a motorway, and generally don't have a spare wheel. So, in turn, they phone the breakdown company, who turn up hours later, just to tell the driver it can't be fixed, and they don't have a spare wheel that will fit that vehicle on-board! What they do offer, is to get a recovery truck to take the vehicle to a tyre fitter. In my experience the tyre place won't have the right tyre in stock, with 'we can get one by tomorrow' the normal response. The upshot of this, is the driver can't get to the job, can't get home, and all because of a flat tyre. It's so annoying, and time-consuming, and so unnecessary. If only they came with a spare wheel, just like they did in the good old days, oh, how I love progress.

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