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INSIDER: For he's a 'jolly good' fellow, for he's a 'jolly.

Date: 05 March 2008

The Insider is a fleet manager with years of invaluable experience

Like most fleet managers, Insider goes on his fair share of driving 'jollies', but accepting that invitation does give pause for thought

Of all my daily moral dilemmas, I think the most testing has to be: should I accept that manufacturer invitation?

As you'll know, the more cars you control, the more likely you are to get invited to drive days, mainly in the UK but occasionally abroad. As a consequence, I know far more about new cars on sale today than I ever needed to do my job properly.

And that's my dilemma. Instead of taking a day or more out of my schedule to willingly participate in an interactive commercial for a car of possibly negligible interest, wouldn't my time better be spent unpicking the residuals/costs charts once a month or so?

In my worst quandaries, I imagine the headline as produced by a Fleet Street journalist looking for an explosive angle: "Junket-addicted manager squandered 'weeks' of company time." I know there are benefits, and I'll come to them in a minute, but who of us hasn't stood on a windswept airfield waiting in keen anticipation for a drive in a performance version of a fleet-ish car and not suppressed a pang of guilt that the next four hours will have as much relevance to our job as a canoe trip down the Zambezi?

That rare foreign jaunt is even worse. That snatched phone call to an undermanager while relaxing in the airport lounge is the only real work you'll do all day, once all the faffing of flying, transfers, check-in and 4pm consumption of minibar vodka - because it's been a 'tough day' - have eaten up the hours.

The following day does include a drive of a car that will most likely be a contender for my fleet (it has to be, for me to accept a foreign trip), but there'll be little surprise in the way it drives. Sometimes it's even too early for prices.

“Calling an undermanager while relaxing in the airport lounge is the only real work youâ?Tll do all day.”

The Insider

So why go at all?

You might call this rationalisation, but fleet management can be a solitary job. No-one else in the company really understands what I do (which, I have to say, allows me to disappear on junkets), so time to sit down with fellow practitioners is important to me. A topic knowledgeably discussed among one group at the bar could be completely new to me, the casual atmosphere allowing that topic to be far more candidly discussed than is permitted at often self-righteous fleet conferences.

And despite the reams of information available to fleet managers, there's nothing like poking your nose round a car and driving the thing.

Much as I admire the work done by the cost companies, I've been around long enough to get something of a handle myself on what a car's going to be worth three years down the line.

Anyway, who said fun and work are mutually exclusive?



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