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It's all in the blend

Date: 31 May 2018   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The need for fleets to have a mix of fuels to reduce the impact of CO2 testing changes was one of the key messages from ACFO's Spring Seminar. Sean Keywood reports.

It would not be fair for fleets to face further company car tax rises in the wake of new emissions tests - but managers need to be prepared in case they do.

That was one of the pieces of advice to emerge from fleet operator organisation ACFO's Spring Seminar, which was titled 'Let's Explore: Fleet Management for Today and Tomorrow'.

Craig McNaughton, corporate director for Lex Autolease, told delegates that, according to car manufacturers, the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) could cause official CO2 emissions figures to increase by 20%, with a potential knock-on effect for company car tax and Vehicle Excise Duty bands, which are CO2-based.

The government will not begin basing taxes on WLTP data until 2020 - but currently announced tax bands only run for one year past that point, with bands for subsequent years yet to be revealed, despite pleas from the fleet industry for a prompt announcement.

McNaughton said, "Alongside our competitors, we are lobbying the government to come up with a sensible decision on company car tax post-2021, and think further increases through WLTP would be unfair. 

"There is a risk that lobbying is unsuccessful, and if fleet operators do nothing and remain at 90% diesel policies, then costs will increase and so will noise from drivers.

"We hope the government will listen to the industry and keep company cars on the road, because they are still the best environmental choice for the UK, compared with what cash takers would drive with older vehicles, gas guzzling performance cars, SUVs and the like."

McNaughton said the key for the future of the company car would be flexibility, with single-fuel fleets moving to a blend of fuels.

He said that with the exact impact of WLTP still unknown, Lex had seen managers delaying decisions or extending lease terms to buy themselves more time to work out what the impact of the changes might be.

He added that although the WLTP effect is uncertain, fleets will still have to act ahead of its 2020 tax adoption.

"All the actual CO2 emissions will be the same - the way it's measured won't be," he said. "That will inevitably lead to rises in company car tax, corporation tax and vehicle excise duty.

"It's not an option for fleet operators to do nothing. It's essential that employers start to review company car policies now."

McNaughton also said that, despite negativity surrounding diesel, Lex had seen no reduction in the past 12 months in the number of company cars powered by the fuel and that it remained the only viable current option for high-mileage drivers.

However, he added that fleets need to be preparing to go electric. "There's no doubt we're heading towards an ultra-low-emission future," he said. "My advice is, if anyone is not on that electric journey, you need to start thinking about it.

"We do think company cars will remain important. As tastes change, fleets will need a blended approach to support that change."

Another hot topic at the seminar was the introduction of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), with Alex Matheson of Gordon Dadds Solicitors advising delegates that while it wasn't cause for alarm, they need to be compliant.

"GDPR isn't a scary piece of legislation. It's here to modernise data protection," he said.

"It is something we need to be responsible about. Most telematics data will be personal data as it has the types of data that can identify individuals. 

"When you're telling people you're collecting data, it's very important to be clear why you are doing it and for those reasons to  be linked to a lawful basis."

Thomas Schmidt, managing director of TomTom Telematics, added, "You can have a legitimate interest to identify a driver that doesn't behave well, so you might have the name of the driver. This fits with your interest. What you should not have with that is the address of the driver and his phone number."

Also discussed was the subject of driver training, with Dr Lisa Dorn, associate professor of driver behaviour at Cranfield University, advising delegates that the best approach combined telematics data with regular coaching.

She said, "We have found coaches are incredibly effective at getting drivers to change their behaviour, especially internal coaches.

"In terms of telematics, several studies are showing you can use that information to provide very effective feedback using internal coaches and having that conversation about once a week is really beneficial, because if you aren't keeping that conversation going in your fleet, then very soon that behaviour defaults back to the earlier form. 

"You need to have the coach with the telematics giving that feedback with regular interventions."



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