Paul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures – ICFM Chairman, Paul Hollick
ICFM, formerly known as the Institute of Car Fleet Management, is the fleet industry’s training body, and its chairman Paul Hollick believes the organisation has an important role to play as companies plot their way through the challenges of modern vehicle management.
QWhat sort of position is the ICFM in at the moment, and where is it heading?
It is still about trying to ensure we give fleet managers the training and education that they need – managing their needs so they can be educated and trained to a level where they can feel comfortable and excel at their role.
We’ve got our standard training courses which will continue to be fine-tuned, and we have far more now on commercial vehicle fleets than ever before – you very rarely find a fleet manager coming to the training courses that just has management of company cars. We also do more on grey fleet than ever before and we’re doing more on ULEVs and lower-carbon initiatives because the green agenda is a massive chunk of what we do now. It’s now got modules in its own right.
JOLLY GOOD FELLOWS
While ICFM membership continues to grow, and is up to around 840, the organisation is making a big push in 2019 for experienced fleet managers to join the fold through its new fellowship scheme.
“There is still a gap there; I think a lot of people do their training courses, continue with membership for a few years and then go off to do other qualifications,” explains ICFM chairman Paul Hollick. “So I’d like to get some of them back, or get some experienced fleet managers using us that have never been before.”
The ICFM’s new initiative allows long-standing fleet managers to apply straight in at fellowship level, rather than needing to do the entry courses, something the training organisation has not done before.
“We’ve got to recognise that just because they haven’t done our training courses, it doesn’t mean they haven’t been trained by other organisations and been on the journey themselves independently through their experience or through other parties,” Hollick continues.
“So we look favourably to get particularly very experienced fleet managers straight into a fellowship grade. And of course, to be honest a lot of these guys run teams and we want their support to push the people on their fleet teams into our training courses and help them positively impact the next generation coming up behind them as well. They might not have been as lucky as that individual to have done the training courses or learned by experience.”
We offer a far broader spectrum of training than we ever have done. In this way, we’re aiming to appeal to both the highly skilled, effective fleet manager that has been in the marketplace for 20 years plus, through to the new fleet manager that has been thrust into it as a new role and needs to learn and understand how to run a fleet.
Then we do just as much training to leasing companies, rental companies, accident management companies and data companies as we do to fleet managers.
Financially ICFM is in the best shape it has ever been in, but obviously we are not-for-profit so the great thing is that we can invest all the additional funds back into our training, development, website, interactive guides and other things.
QThe company car itself seems to be under attack from Government taxation policy. Why do you think we have got to this position?
I don’t think that HMRC and the Government know enough around the subject to be able to adequately set the right measures, incentives and disincentives in place for corporate fleets.
About 10 years ago HMRC was set up with individual specialists for each of their topics, and now they don’t have those teams any more; they’re all generalists within HMRC, which means they don’t have the skills and experience they used to have and they certainly don’t have the knowledge they used to have around cause and effect.
And the other thing is that normal business-as-usual has been paralysed because of Brexit as well, so everyone is focused on Brexit rather than being focused on what the right sustainable policies need to be for UK PLC over the next five-to-10 years. We’ve never been in this environment where we don’t have the tax tables for two years’ time, which is absolutely ridiculous.
QSome businesses are looking at swapping out of company cars and into cash-for-car schemes. Will that bring its own problems as well?
Of course. People will take the car and they won’t necessarily look at total cost of ownership or whole-life cost; they will look at the lease cost, or more than likely if they take the cash they will go into a used vehicle. Which will have its own carbon issues, and that vehicle travelling on company business still needs to be managed like it is a company asset. The employee still needs to be safe on the road so it needs to be managed, therefore there is a requirement for a fleet manager to coordinate and control that trip as if the employees were driving a company car.
But worse than that; it’s anti-ultra-low emission vehicles. It’s pushing people into, more than likely, higher-CO2 vehicles than if they were in a structured scheme.
QAre companies fully aware of the level of management cash-for-car or grey fleet vehicles require for their business travel?
I think the fleet manager is sometimes pulling their hair out about that decision being made, because it tends to be purely financial, but I think they get it. It just becomes a challenge then for the fleet manager to create policies and procedures to make sure that they are effectively managing their grey fleet.
But arguably they have got grey fleet already. No business is running an exclusive business-only company car and van policy, there is going to be a small element of grey fleet. It just means you have to be a bit more expansive with your programme and make sure that you think holistically about what you want to achieve and how to control it in a way where the employee still gets the car they want, but you’ve still got the rigour and controls in place and the policies in place to make sure you feel comfortable with it. Because a lot of people might change over their fleet policy but then not really do any audits or controls around it to make sure it’s being controlled in the right way.
And it’s a modern age now, so there are tools that are out there to be able to manage these things, and they’re cost-effective, so I don’t think it’s like it used to be with fleet managers having to deal with loads more paper and having to go out and control things. You can create tools around blocking expense payments and things like that if drivers are not compliant.
QDo you think it will find its way full circle and people come back into company cars?
Tax drives everything and at the moment tax tables and the way the Government has been pushing company car drivers and businesses, almost taxing the company car to death, is driving the behaviour. If they change the incentives and disincentives in the right way then it will drive people back in. At the moment it’s not sustainable and if we’re not careful we will end up with a market like the States where everyone is on a personal lease rather than a company car, so then obviously we end up with issues around controlling powertrains. As we know, fleets tend to be running really low-CO2 solutions because it’s in their interest to, whereas individuals won’t necessarily be doing that. It becomes unregulated – the wild west frontier really – which in 2019 shouldn’t really be the case.
A company car is still an attractive perk, people still like a company car. It’s just a cost equation, a balancing act. Some will want to move away from company cars and some will be incredibly loyal to company cars.
The shame of it is, I don’t mind decisions being made with the right level of education, I just think that unfortunately that is not applicable when it comes to the tax situation surrounding company cars at the moment. The government views it as a golden goose and believes it can keep on ramping it up and people will continue to keep paying it, but they won’t.
QBut the evidence is already there of a clear downward trend in company cars, thanks to the Government’s actions
Which almost makes me think that the Government doesn’t really like the company car as a perk. But actually that’s detrimental to clean-air zones and it’s detrimental to occupational road risk duty of care for the employee. There are loads and loads of benefits for UK PLC that there is a company car market, and just to change it over through massive taxation without the understanding around cause and effect is, I think, quite worrying.
Birmingham’s ULEZ coming in January 2020
It creates a funny situation geographically; a lot of people wouldn’t drive into London, but Birmingham is going to create a culture change around how to move employees into urbanised centres. The real shame is parking at the borders of those zones will remain expensive.
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