I am not a fleet manager. Never have been, likely never will be. Aside from coordinating press demonstrators, I do not know what it is like to be responsible for multiple vehicles, driven by other people. I have no first-hand experience with tussles over choice lists, dealing with a colleague’s accident, or anything else someone in the role might encounter. 

I am, however, reasonably familiar with the fleet industry. I joined Business Car‘s staff in 2011 and have written for the publication on a freelance basis since 2014. Rarely does a week go by when I do not fire up Zoom/Teams/Google Meet to, say, the familiar face of a leasing company consultant, a telematics company’s MD, or the head of a trade body. I hear the words ‘off the record’ more than anyone really should. 

It was during one of these calls when AFP chair Paul Hollick and I were discussing the organisation’s Fleet Academy – its educational arm for industry professionals. Its entry-level offering is the Fleet Vehicle Management Introductory course, designed for those new to the business be they operators or suppliers, dedicated fleet managers, or those for whom vehicles are an ancillary responsibility – the likes of HR, finance, or facilities managers. It is approved by the Institute of the Motor Industry (all AFP courses are) involves around 12 hours of online study – you can dip in and out as you please – and you do not have to be an AFP member to do it. 

According to Hollick, the course has been running for around 15 years and attracts about 300 students a year, many of whom are not actually managers. Some, he says, are leasing company employees, while other organisations treat it as a form of induction training for new staff. Thinking out loud, I asked if I could do the course, and before long found a set of joining instructions in my inbox. 

Signing up for fleet management 101 was a sort of strange, dualistic thing to do from my position as an industry reporter with no hands-on fleet management experience, so I was probably not a typical student. However. I was keen to see how I would fare and examine the course’s relevance and application to its intended audience of newcomers. 

Back to basics 

The format is as simple as it gets and familiar to anyone used to online learning. The content takes up the lion’s share of the screen and all eight chapters (click to expand into bulleted subsections) are housed in a black bar on the left-hand side. 

Session one, An Introduction to the Programme, is a simple set-up and explanation job, and the course really gets going with session two. Called The Scope of Car & LCV Fleet Management, it provides a broad-brush overview of the industry, starting with jargon and acronyms, and progressing through explanations of vehicles, fuel, tax, and the roles of OEMs and fleet stakeholders. 

Each chapter contains an interactive activity, and the one in part two requires students to manually calculate the benefit-in-kind tax payments of four different cars. I am ashamed to say that this took me quite a long time, because I haven’t calculated BIK manually for years. I used to do it every week, but yonks of relying on vehicle spec sheets or online tools forced me to refer to the course’s breakdown of the DIY method. Then I prodded my phone’s calculator app and promptly got it wrong. 

However, trying something yourself, messing it up, then getting it right is arguably the best way to learn, and if there is one thing I took away from the course, it is that I can do the sums independently again.  

Policy and acquisition 

Session three, Fleet Policy – The Key Elements, would not look out of place in a more advanced training programme. That is not to say it is complicated – the idea is to explain the fundamentals of fleet policy, and it does – but so many industry specialists have told me stories about the absolute colanders of policies they have been tasked with sorting out over the years (see our January feature on grey fleet policies for details).  

It also points out a common issue faced by incoming fleet managers who inherit established (i.e. old) policies, crying out for a modern overhaul. There is also a link to a five-page pdf called Designing a Plug-in Electric Vehicle Company Car Policy, which, short of drafting in the professionals, is as good a start as any for EV novices. 

There is room for improvement in session four, Vehicle Acquisition. It is fine for the course’s intended audience because it explains the basics of dealer networks, supply, and OEM incentives well enough, but some of the descriptions of dealer structure could use some elaboration. For example, one subsection aims to explain the difference between traditional franchised networks and the agency model in three short paragraphs, when such a complex subject really needs more unravelling. It also suggests that dealers now “rely entirely on aftersales activities. as their main revenue stream” which is not the case. While dealer profit margins on new cars have reduced under the agency model, they still make a lot of money by selling used cars. 

That said, session four’s activity is another good exercise. It presents students with seven metrics (SMR, insurance, private mileage etc.) and asks them which ones are respectively used to establish whole-life cost, total cost of ownership, and the driver’s personal expenditure (you drag and drop them into boxes A, B, and C). It is another effective way of making seasoned fleet types think again about the fundamentals, while also explaining them to beginners.   

The main course 

Session five, Vehicle Funding Options, is the most extensive chapter, and rightly so. It effectively breaks down the different types of funding and, really, this is the sort of thing those new to fleet probably would not know. I found plenty of nuggets about tax and write-down allowances that were new to me and could well imagine a business hiring consultants for the same kind of information. 

Session six, Car/LCV Fleet Operation, delves into the nitty gritty of fleet management – all the ancillary stuff that comes after you acquire the vehicles, such as duty of care, SMR, and fuel. 

It breaks things down well, but I would question the activity, which asks students to pick the percentage of SMR savings between an ICE vehicle and an EV, and the ‘correct’ answer is that EVs are 40% cheaper. 

Yes, they typically cost less to maintain, but experts with data to back up their assertions have told Business Car that a broad-brush savings figure for EV SMR is too generic and does not reflect the nuances of running a variety of EVs in different circumstances. The exercise would benefit from a cautionary note explaining that there are financial and operational and distinctions between vehicles. 

The back end 

Vehicle Remarketing is the penultimate section and opens with the line “remarketing is arguably the most neglected aspect of fleet management” – amen to that. The activity is the most interesting part, because it asks students to list 10 factors – such as types of damage, cleanliness, service history – that would influence a used vehicle’s value in order of importance. 

Hit submit, and the forgiving message explains that there are no wrong answers, only recommendations. My order was not a million miles away from the AFP’s, but the two lists did not tally up precisely. If anything, this highlights the myriad factors that go into used vehicle valuations, and although there are general rules of thumb, what might be nothing serious for one used car buyer could be make or break for another – something a fleet newcomer will need to get used to.  

The final session is an optional assignment, in which the student carries out a general appraisal of their own fleet and produces a report highlighting its strengths and weaknesses, which is then assessed by the AFP’s training staff. I do not have a fleet to assess, so declined the option, but it is nonetheless an excellent, practical feature, and a fitting way to round off the course. 


As best I could, I tried to put myself in the position of an individual who might realistically undertake the course – someone completely new to fleet in every way. From that standpoint, this thing does what it says on the tin, and I would be surprised if a better kickstarter resource exists. No wonder some companies use it as an onboarding resource. 

But I actually think the course is just as relevant, arguably more so, to those with a greater level of experience; those further up the food chain who would get stuck in and find themselves muttering, ‘I probably should know that’. 

Everyone likes to think themselves an expert at their own game, but if my tripping and stumbling over BIK calculations proves anything, it is that there is always room for improvement. 

The Fleet Vehicle Management Introductory course costs £99 for AFP members and £149 for non-members, with an additional £50 fee to mark the optional final assignment. It and more of the organisation’s training resources can be found at: https://www.theafp.co.uk/fleet-vehicle-management/