More demo vehicles are arriving without a full tank. Insider spots a fleet policy he can understand

At least here I know I’ll raise some sympathy for the latest piece of fiscal nibbling from the credit crunch. Half-, even quarter-full fuel tanks on fleet demo vehicles.

Having confirmed with conference colleagues that they too are tapping the dash in disbelief in a growing percentage of demo cars, it seems that fuel prices have reached a tipping point for some car manufacturers.

Empathy is in short supply outside my work fiefdom, as you might have guessed, given that cars are still arriving, but these days everyone will have an example of prudence clamping down on the little things that helps make business bearable. A few less dabs of grease on the wheel powering corporate back-scratching.

I’m even wondering if the fuel situation hasn’t persuaded car companies to Excel the quantity of fuel in your demo based on fleet size and the current fuel price. So 50+ fleets get a full tank, cut to half a tank if diesel hits £1.40 a litre. Come £1.50, it’ll be running on vapour and gravity, and at £1.60 you’ll have to pick it up yourself. At £2.00, the whole process will be replaced by a virtual test drive on a PlayStation.

I think I joke from fear more than anything else. A recent column in this mag wondered why so few of us fleet managers seem to have a strategy to cope with a future £2 litre. Well, I can answer that. In all my fleet experience, I’ve never had to deal with anything quite so momentous. As a result, my tactic is to feverishly pray it doesn’t happen on my watch.

Changing the entire transportation thinking of a company that has done things one way for years and years is a task I’m not capable of. Simple as that. The job title just doesn’t confer enough influence. I’m not even sure the MD has enough power; the status quo is that ingrained.

Government think-tankers can talk all they want about car-sharing, video-conferencing, tax-efficient bicycles, electric cars, home-working and the rest, but it’s very, very difficult to implement a radical policy shift in one fell swoop. This quite astonishing rise in fuel prices is just happening way too fast. Is it any surprise there are more than a few heads in the sand?

All I can do is nibble at the edges, and I know I’m not alone in doing so. When it comes down to it, ordering drivers not to brim demo vehicles is a fleet policy I fully understand.