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SPOTLIGHT: Peter Eldridge, director at ICFM

There are few people in the fleet sector who need as little introduction as industry guru Peter Eldridge, director at ICFM (Institute of Car Fleet Management), who started his career as an apprentice at Fiat (England) Ltd in 1963.

From then, Eldridge progressed into the Fiat dealer network before taking on his first spell as a fleet manager of a large blue-chip fleet operation in 1979.

“Following that, I held senior management positions within the franchised motor trade and major contract hire, leasing and accident management companies,” adds Eldridge.

His current position as director at ICFM began when he joined the institute in 1993, and was appointed to the Board in 1997.

The line-up of cars in Eldridge’s garage over the year is equally interesting, having transitioned from a classic Austin A35 Van to now running around in an almost equally diminutive Fiat 500 Convertible, as well as his pride and joy; a Harley Davidson Road King. However, were money no object, Eldridge’s head says he should buy a Jaguar I-Pace, but his heart lusts for a Ferrari F8 Tributo. He comments: “It’s so pretty and it would be rude not to!”

While driving, Eldridge listens to a variety of bands, including none other than music by his son’s band, Towers of London, as well as the WHO’s Quadrophenia, AC/DC and the Foo Fighters.

A self-confessed gadget man, Eldridge has embraced the technology revolution and reckons he owns just about every gadget ever made. However, he adds, “Would I miss them? – well yes, but could I live without all these electronic gizmos? – absolutely! And my two most essential items are therefore a decent pen and a writing pad – key factors for ongoing communication.”

What’s ICFM’s focus for the coming year?

The ICFM will continue to focus on the further development of our online training programmes and to assist our members to become more strategic as they face the 21st century technological, environmental and operational fleet challenges.

How much have you found the fleet sector has changed?

The world of fleet management is now evolving at a pace never previously experienced and it is being driven by two key dynamics. Firstly, fleet and travel management are now being wedded at an alarming rate, driven by technology and ‘big data’ that will underpin Business Mobility-as-a-Service (BMaaS) and the move to a total cost of mobility concept.

This coincides with the shift away from fossil-fuelled vehicles and the inevitable move towards a zero-emission future, and both initiatives are presenting fleet operators with significant challenges at the present time.

The ICFM will continue to assist their members with respect to embracing the shift in their role from traditional fleet manager to mobility manager and will provide best practice advice regarding government policy regarding taxation and the environment, ‘balancing’ new vehicle fleet policy and requirements, helping fleets to make informed decisions regarding extending replacement of the current fleet and considering tangible alternatives.

What’s keeping today’s fleet manager awake at night?

If fleet managers are losing sleep, it will mainly due to the level of uncertainty that they face at the current time regarding elements that are changing the face of fleet as we know it. These include – globalisation; ‘mega cities’; big data; connected and autonomous vehicle technology; Business Mobility-as-a-Service and if you add into the mix the challenges of urbanisation; environmental pressure; powertrain selection; traffic congestion; politics; legislation and taxation, the end result is that fleet managers are presently swamped in a muddy pool of developing policies and wading through unchartered waters.

How do you see that continuing over the next five to 10 years?

Five to 10 years will see significant changes in the fleet industry, driven largely by the fact that by 2030 the Government expects 50-70% of new car sales to be ultra-low emission vehicles (less than 75g/km of CO2) and up to 40% of vans and by 2040 to end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans. This requires that fleet managers must now take a pragmatic approach and build a case for the vehicle acquisition policy running up to 2030/2040 that is less likely to be affected by any radical change in Government policy, as was demonstrated previously with the ‘demonisation’ of diesel vehicles.

The options can be developed in an informed and systematic way with particular attention paid to the uncertainty that presently exists, specifically relating to vehicle taxation.

The simple truth is that the availability of ultra-low emission vehicles is playing catch-up with those targets, the first of which, for many fleet operators, is only three vehicle replacement cycles away!

What sort of challenges and opportunities could this present?

In real terms, this is probably one of the most exciting periods that fleet managers have faced since fleets first started to appears back in the early 80s and the first thing to acknowledge is that if managed properly, this could be one of the most rewarding opportunities for fleet managers and their businesses. However, that will only be achieved if the following principles are applied:

Step 1: Build a considered and detailed case for change – obtaining ‘buy in’ is the first step in any change management programme.

Step 2: Share vision and values – don’t ‘go it alone’ always involve other fleet stakeholders in the business.

Step 3: Scope out a plan that will identify the resources and information required. Change management programmes only succeed if adequately resourced and well detailed.

Step 4: Review the management and leadership capabilities of the stakeholders involved.

At the heart of all this is education, knowledge and experience and if fleet managers are going to succeed, they will need to ensure that they have the right credentials for what could be a most rewarding experience, both personally and professionally. The ICFM can of course help with this!

What would you like to see change in that time?

This is quite straightforward and can be summarised as follows:

1. Fleet managers need to accept that their role will almost certainly ‘morph’ into the role of travel managers and that they must take a more strategic approach to the management of business travel as a whole.

2. The Government has not been in the habit of providing a long-term taxation policy and the most recent update does not go further than 2023/24 and beyond, with the caveat that these “remain under review”. In order for fleets to effectively plan ahead, as a bare minimum, the Government must stick to their pledge that they will “aim to announce appropriate percentages at least two years ahead of implementation to provide certainty for employers, employees and fleet operators”.

3. Businesses must avoid making ‘knee jerk’ decisions that result in a spiral of poor long-term business mobility policy. This has been the main cause of the migration away from the company car as we know it,, with many encouraging the increased use of grey fleet vehicles off the back of providing what they see as the simple option to offer cash for car. This is already fuelling an increase in CO2 levels, due to drivers using the cash to purchase ‘cheaper’ vehicles that suit their personal needs, rather than promote an improved environmental position.

What’s in the pipeline from ICFM this year?

Watch this space for our soon- to- be-launched ICFM Intermediate Level Online Distance Learning Module.

Written by Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.

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