Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Van Leasing and Management

Changing Times in Van Fleet Management

How Much Capital is Tied up in your Van Fleet?
How much cash is tied up in your van fleet?
Times have changed in the world of vehicle fleet management and managing that change in a cost effective fashion is your job. As a Vehicle Fleet Manager, or as the owner of a company that has a fleet of vehicles, you are constantly asking yourself questions. These questions are as detailed as the job but they all boil down to one basic query: how can we save time and money?

This will be a particular problem if you own your fleet of vehicles. That was the way that most businesses used to operate and superficially it seemed to make sense. The vans or cars were assets, which were always there, and which could be disposed of when necessary; allowance could be made for their depreciation of value in the accounts. The same sort of logic applied to the common practice of retaining an in-house maintenance facility; if you had your own mechanics, so the argument ran, then they would always be available when required.

Van Leasing

It sounded all right. Perhaps you still follow this strategy. If that is the case then frankly you are not following the trends in modern fleet management practice. You should really consider getting those vehicles off your balance sheet and moving towards a system of van contract hire and leasing.

It may be nice to look at the assets that your purchased vans are all parked up in a row but think of the hassle they cause. You are responsible for keeping them taxed, insured, roadworthy, and, if you care at all about the impression your business makes, clean and freshly painted. Also they represent a lot of capital tied up, capital that could probably be better invested elsewhere in the business.

Now imagine if you hire your LCV fleet. All those maintenance chores become at once the responsibility of the Van Lease Company. The time you spend supervising repairs and all the rest can now be more profitably spent on your core business activities. The money you realise from disposing of your fleet can go where it is most needed in your company. In fact you may find that your vehicle fleet management company will buy the vans from you. They may even have a buy and lease back option.

Making Financial Sense

In fact you will probably find it makes financial sense to buy a whole package in from the vehicle management company with which you do business. As well as supplying the vehicles you need for your core business they will be able to find any specialist vehicles you might need from time to time. They will certainly offer you a maintenance package which will include breakdown cover and perhaps a driver helpline. They will also, if they operate at the cutting edge of fleet management, offer a financial modelling service, which will allow you to predict the future performance of the vehicles you hire, which will also inevitably help you to make the right choice of van lease arrangements.

Why tie up your money and time in a fleet of vans when you could move into van contract hire? A specialist hire company could well be the way forward. It’s certainly worth thinking about the option.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Starting out as an LGV Driver

If the various freight transport industry publications are to be believed there is a shortage of around 20,000 drivers. Look on the Job centre website and there are hundreds of trasnport jobs being shown.

Truck Drivers on the Move
Look again and look carefully. Are these jobs or just vehicle driver agencies trying to get names onto their books? The jobs are mostly on-going contracts which means the agency has the contract to provide drivers as and when they are needed; there is no full time job. There may be the odd day or two day or a short term contract of about ten weeks. This should not put any one off who wants to get into the freight transport industry as agencies are a good means of gaining experience and contacts that may lead to a full time job. Be prepared to be messed about though.
A LGV C or the old class two first is needed before the C&E or the old class one.
The driver shortages refer to Class 1 drivers who are expected to work for £7 per hour, drive the maximum of hours, work a fifteen hour working day, be away from home all week and weekends and adjust sleeping to start at all times of the day. It is a long lonely working week that may suite some as they enjoy the freedom. There is a risk of going “cab crazy”. Start talking about anything and everything, topics with no depth or substance just for the sake of interacting with someone. Picking up and then passing on gossip heard through a third person. It is a result of simply being alone for too long.

Getting Trained as a Truck Driver.

A medical is needed, a theory test now with a CPC element and a hazard perception test.

Who is going to do the training?

There are hundreds of companies out there charging £750 to £12,000. It is a minefield.
Some would provide a fixed course of around twenty hours which includes a test, some may include an assessment. This is not a bad thing, it allows the opportunity to get a feel of the wagon, the clutch and gearbox but make sure it is going to be the one to be used. Some like clients to drive something tidy then change for the training with that has a clunky gearbox or a clutch that judders. Get some assurances. If not, walk away. The will be nothing lost by going to three companies at a charge of £20 for an hour you will the experience and some tuition. Check first how much they are charging.
Shop around. When you do start talking to these people have a check list, don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you see fit. You may not get an answer or you may get a load of bull. You will know who to cross off your list. Here we go.

How many driving hours?  Not instruction but actual time spent driving a truck. There are some that will tell you that the course is twenty hours long, from that deduct talk time, assessment time, admin time, the midmorning break time, lunch break and getting back to the yard early time all under the umbrella of “ Instruction Time”. There will be time set aside for practising reversing and stopping you may do well and only need a small amount of time but it is a consideration
What is the pass rate? Some may give exaggerated figures, ask to see evidence.
What qualifications do the trainers have?  There is no legal requirement to be trained; there is a voluntary scheme where they can register with the DSA. Some may claim they were trained in the military, good ask to see some certificates.

What if you feel that twenty hours is not enough? You will be told that that is the standard length, you want to get through this course and as you are applying it is got to fit your needs. There are longer courses out there it will cost you more but do you want to get through it?
What if you fail? Are there facilities to do a short course to address you training needs and to retake the test? If you have to do another 20 hour course, walk away.
Payment. If credit is offered check the rates, a credit card may offer some protection if the company goes bust.
Get a Notebook. A lined and margined note book, record all your activities, i.e., time you started the day, instruction and driving times. Make a record of all breaks and finishing times. Make no secret to the instructor and the company that you are doing this. This will ensure that you will get the correct amount of driving you agreed.
In this notebook make notes of what you feel you need to know, make sure you have a morning briefing, he need to know what you are to do that day and what is expected from you. Each time you take a break seek feedback make a note of what he tells you agree a course of action on how to put any faults right. At the end of the day debrief on the whole day's performance, take this home with you and try and go through the whole day in your head, do not do it straightaway wait until you feel calm. It may help to discuss this issue with someone. Be open and honest accept feedback. USE THE INTRUCTOR'S SKILLS.

The Dreaded Four over Four gearbox.  Crack this and the rest will fall in place. Here is how it works…………..
It is a four speed box with a high and low ratio, to get the ratios you may have to flick a switch on the side of the gear stick or move the sick to the side when changing through neutral. Whatever the system expect to get the wrong gear or great them, take your time. Practise going through the whole range while the vehicle is stationary and engine switched off. Go up and down at every opportunity until you know where all the gears are.

It is no long a requirement to go from 1st to 8th gears but an understanding of eco driving has to be demonstrated, this means show the ability to skip gears. For that knowledge of how the vehicle copes in each gear, this can be achieved by initially going through all the gears. Avoid rushing.
1st and 2nd gears are not required for an unlaiden vehicle, you may find that it will pull away from standing on a level in 4th but a slight incline will need 5th. Left corners or small traffic island may be ok in 5th. You can miss 5th go into the higher range into 6th or 7th Look to missing the first two then every other gear. Try the odd gears, and then the even gears listen to the engine noting what the engines likes best at different speeds and different task like traffic island, big and small, higher gear for the larger traffic islands.

When travelling long distances downhill, demonstrate the use of an inhibitor. 
Keep the vehicle's revs low. This can be done by keeping the revs within the green are on the rev counter. When overtaking consider the gear, speed and the road. Consider the max speed of the vehicle, is it governed at 55mph or 60mph, the max speed limit or is the hill (up or down) to negotiate. It will take a lot longer to overtake that a car so plan ahead enough room ahead to make the maneouvre especially on dual carriageway or enough room for other vehicles coming up on the other lanes

Before you consider making any adjustments to speed gears or direction remember to use the mirrors. The offside when considering the manoeuvre closely followed by the nearside but in any event use the nearside when considering moving to the nearside. Mirrors are big for safety being used as much as when viewing front and sides. The instructor will constantly reminding the driver of this. In the meantime practice when driving other vehicles.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Vehicle Fleet Management and Holidays

It is soon time for my holidays. Even a busy vehicle fleet manager requires a summer break. I will heading to France for a break. I will driving via the Channel Tunnel so will have plenty of opportunities to observe the behaviour of a range vehicle fleets.

France is a big market for transport. I will find time to update the website and may even find time to put down my observations about how things are done in the trasnport industry in France.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Vehicle Tracking and Human Rights Law

There is a lot of talk as to whether vehicle tracking systems are legal as so far as the Human Rights Act is concerned.
Human Rights Lawyers will be the people to properly advise. Human rights law generally addresses the citizen's relationship with the state and what it can and cannot do. Some public sector workers are protected but in the main those working for a private company are not.
This will only relate areas such as intrusive surveillance i.e. where there is a camera in the cab covering the sleeping compartment.
Consider these principles, is the action proposed lawful, is it necessary and is it proportionate?
A vehicle tracking system does not take images of the driver. However, it does have an influence on where and when the vehicle is driven.
These systems are designed to ensure the safety of the employers most valued assets namely: the driver, the vehicle and the load.
Employers have a duty of care for their employees.
Consider these principles, is the action proposed lawful, is it necessary and is it proportionate?
Wagons and their loads are worth thousands of pounds to the owners and contractors. Unfortunately there people who by whatever means are actively involved in the theft of vehicles, units and loads. It should come as no surprise that transport companies are employing technology to combat these thefts.
With all the communication technology at our disposal it would be a waist not to use it indeed some companies can now track an individual
A driver could be away for a week going to the far side of Europe staying overnight in all sorts of isolated places that has a potential to wagon and load theft.
Transportation cost is ever increasing, the cost of fuel and interest rates to name just two. Any system that can provide a safe and efficient route will only help to reduce cost. When bidding for work the company will be in a better position when it comes to pricing and the gaurentee of load security and delivery dates.
The employer has a responsibility of the duty of care for his employees, the safe keeping of the vehicle and load, it will hard to argue against the rationale.
The employer will have a contract that may contain the use of the tracking system and the driver’s obligation to the use of it.
How can someone who is operating within the law, has the route planned including stops and the progress monitored object? 

Overall, it seems to me, as a fleet manager, that vehicle tracking systems are a good thing.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Obtaining a Fleet Operator's Licence

Before anyone can carry on a business of running goods vehicles they must obtain an operator’s licence from the Traffic Commissioner of that particular area. Unless the vehicles used are exempt or are classified as a small vehicle which, if plated, has a weight not exceeding 3.5 tonnes or if not plated unaided weight does not exceed 1.525 tonnes. If either is drawing trailers it is the combination of the two only if the trailer weight exceeds 1.02 tonnes. Also applies to small articulated type vehicles.

This is ensuring the quality of performance and safety standards are maintained.
There is a list of exemptions and the uses which they can be exempt.
There are three types of licences:

1. Restricted
 Used in connection of the holders business is collecting and delivering their own goods within the UK and abroad, hired, bought, sold or processed in connection with that business.
The type of licence does not require a CPC Transport managers licence but merely needs a responsible nominated person usually a director but can be devolved to another responsible person.

2. Standard
This allows goods to be carried for higher and reward in the UK and allows trailers to be collected from ports.

3.Standard International
This allows goods to be carried in the UK and abroad for hire and reward.

To hold a licence the applicant must be a person of good repute and must disclose convictions in the last five years, have proof of appropriate financial standing, capital reserves for each and subsequent vehicles of £8,100 and £4,500 respectively for a restricted licence £3,100 and £1,700. Must be professionally competent. At least one transport manager or more if the traffic commissioner decides where that person for whatever reason cannot continue commissioner to be informed and may allow continuing to operate for up to twelve months.

There are eight traffic areas in the UK licence required for each area in where the business operates.
A CPC holder remains the holder of that licence but not an operator’s licence when changing employment. Where good repute is questioned the holder must be given the opportunity to defend their interests
Any application must be shown in local newspaper once within twenty one days. This will allow local land owners and occupiers to lodge objections.

The applicant must adhere to strict conditions environmentally and where vehicles are concerned there use and maintenance. If objections are raised after the twenty one days and after the granting of the Operator’s licence they will be kept for five years for when the renewal is due.

The licence if all the criteria are met and bearing in mind that the commissioner has the final say on how many vehicles are to be included on the licence, will grant the licence. This will also be subject to a large body including police transport bodies, local authority and unions who are able to object.
An operator cannot change vehicles or increase the size of the fleet without first notifying the traffic commission for the area, there bare provision for temporary changes to cover for break downs.
Where a licence is no longer required it must be returned. Where there is a death of the holder or the holder becomes bankrupt the licence can be retained by the new operator for up to eighteen months.
The operators licence can be revoked for any of the following;
  • Contravening the conditions,
  • Making false statements or expectations of development of the business
  • Bankruptcy or liquidation
  • Change of circumstances material to the business,
  • Convictions such as speeding, maintenance, weights and loading of the vehicles, licences relating to drivers employed driver’s hours and records, unlawful use of fuel and oils and traffic offences.     
The provision of the road traffic act and the compliance by driver’s operators and managers are strictly policed by the authorities.
The CPC holder referred to has to be trained and hold the licence which is only available after the completion of an approved course and passing of an exam.
This is by no means a fully comprehensive illustration of what is required but it is hoped it will give the reader and insight of what is required and the financial cost of just setting up a vehicle fleet transport business.
The next article will include Maintenance Arrangements. What is required? The powers of the Traffic Commissioner. Operator Financing, Running cost and they are calculated, Penalties that could lead to suspension or revocation.    

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Vehicle Fleet Manager

This is the first entry for the Vehicle Fleet Manager website. We will add more material over time.
I am employed in the road transport industry. This website will contain material that relates to road trasnport and managing fleets of trucks, vans and large goods vehicles in general.