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Stand up and be counted Phil Clifford may have retired from his role as fleet manager for West Suffolk councils, but his advocacy for the profession remains unchanged. In this latest comment, Phil urges transport managers to make their voices heard to ensure that fleet management receives the attention it deserves.
have written before about the lack of recognition for the professional fleet or transport manager – and, indeed, the current lack of understanding around what just what fleet management involves. I may well be preaching to the converted here, but as I see it, there are two distinct aspects to this problem that need addressing. The first and most obvious is the need for transport managers across the country to stand up and be counted. As the saying goes: if you want to be recognised as a professional, then you have to be professional. This is a simple statement, but what does it mean in practice? In my view, it means that we, as fleet and transport managers, must be more forceful when dealing with our organisations to ensure that our voices are heard at board or CEO level. It also means that we must ensure that our knowledge and training is always up to date. What is the best way of going about this? Well, the fact you are reading this publication is a good start. There are many bespoke resources for the individual to improve their skill set, ranging from magazines and periodicals such as LAPV to annual events, conferences, and seminars (such as Future Fleet Forum in January 2019) that not only share best practice but also offer attendees opportunities to network with their peers. Then there are formal education resources such as the excellent certificate and diploma courses provided by the Institute of Car Fleet Management (www.ICFM.com). There are other well-established organisations that can provide structured training in various fleet-related disciplines such as the Freight Transport Association, the Institute of Road Transport Engineers, the Institute of the Motor Industry, and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport to name but a few. Spend a bit of time on Google and you will soon realise the wealth of resources and organisations that are out there. However, while being competent and knowledgeable is essential, on its own it is not enough. Take a health and safety manager of a large organisation, for example. This is a respected position and one that will have direct access to the management team. How many fleet managers, I wonder, enjoy the same respect and have their voices heard by the CEO? Although the situation is slowly improving, many organisations do not appreciate the importance of correct fleet management. Often an organisation’s vehicle fleet is its second or third largest asset in terms of financial investment, yet many still assume that fleet management is merely a clerical function. Large parts of the fleet operation are managed as part of the HR function, especially large car fleets where personal taxation issues are prevalent. Now it is not my intention to
10 LAPV June 2018
disparage HR professionals, as they have a vitally important role to play in this area. However, an HR department will seldom have the skill set to look beyond the management of the HMRC issues around running a car fleet. So how do we get the message across? I recommend that you start by asking your corporate management team to spend a few minutes watching some of the excellent videos that are available to highlight the importance of the corporate social responsibility aspects of fleet management. There is an excellent series of short videos entitled One Fateful Day, produced by Van Excellence (www.vanexcellence.co.uk), which play out the scenario of a company van colliding with a 10-year-old child, resulting in a fatality. In a similar vein is the video titled Our Vehicles, Our Safety, Our responsibility: Improving Road Safety for Vulnerable Road Users, produced by the CILT (www.ciltuk.org.uk/ News/CILT-Media). Both of these productions are hard-hitting and, although they portray fictitious events, they successfully bring home the personal and corporate consequences of such incidents and illustrate the importance of assigning the highest possible priority to vehicle safety and management. In a recent article, Paul Hollick, chairman of the Institute of Car Fleet Management, wrote: ‘If you don’t have someone dedicated to your fleet, God help you’. He is absolutely right, and I urge everyone in this profession to view and share the above videos. They are freely available, produced by the industry, for the industry, and their message is unequivocal – make fleet management a top priority or pay heavily for the consequences. The world revolves around supply and demand. If together we can create a demand for qualified fleet professionals, who knows, we might eventually see school leavers choosing fleet as a career. Phil Clifford is the former fleet manager for Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough councils, operating under the West Suffolk brand. He is a member of the juding panel for the Future Fleet Awards. His specialisms include fleet procurement, use of vehicle telematics, and the development and use of fleet management software systems. He is an advocate for sharing best practice and benchmarking. He is also the founder and board manager of the Public Authority Transport Network, member of the Freight Transport Association, East of England Freight Council, and committee member of BSI working group B/508/01(Waste containers and associated lifting devices on refuse collection vehicles). Contact him at philip.clifford4@ btinternet.com or follow him on Twitter @thefleetman.