Fleet file: Miele
03 November 2023
| author: Rachel Boogie
Having recently taken over the fleet role at Millie, James Walkington has updated Rachel Boage on his plans to make the fleet safer and greener.
Although James Walkington has only worked at Millie for 20 years, he has only recently stepped into the fleet seat, replacing long-standing and now retired fleet manager Mandy Vanstone.
To prepare for a smooth transition, Walkington worked closely with Vanstone for seven months before her retirement.
Vanstone’s tenure as fleet coordinator left a significant legacy, with initiatives that improve safety and compliance, reduce cost and efficiency, and lay the foundation for electrification.
The company is headquartered in Abingdon, near Walkington Home, which he explains adds a touch of irony to his role as a fleet manager who doesn’t drive to work.
Given his experience as a fleet driver and years of sales experience at Miele, Walkington is well equipped for this role. He applies a hands-on approach and leverages transferable skills from his previous sales experience, resulting in a strong start managing the 44 cars and 160 vans in the fleet while beginning to achieve his goals.
Despite his previous structured days in sales, Walkton now faces the unpredictability of the fleet manager role, where unexpected challenges can quickly change his daily routine.
Walkton quickly recognized the importance of managing driver emotions, emphasizing the need to handle situations with a human resources-focused approach to ensure driver satisfaction.
Interestingly, Walkington believes that although he excels at improving fleet operations, he expects his biggest challenge will be the fleet drivers and their different personalities.
“You have to work with the head of HR to make sure the drivers are as happy as possible,” he explains. “There will be some people who will buy if they see a benefit to them, but on the other side, you’ll find people who have always done things the way they’ve done them.”
In his first few months at Millie, Walkington has wasted no time in tackling what he considers his “top priorities.”
First and foremost, its strategic focus is to strengthen the existing fleet through a comprehensive fleet policy review. This mission particularly resonated with him due to his proficiency in improving processes and ensuring compliance. “Although I acknowledge the need to pace myself and not try to do everything at once, one of my primary areas of focus has been the drive for action policy, which Vanstone previously formulated.”
He stresses that improving this policy will significantly reduce any ambiguity for fleet drivers, ensuring clarity, comprehensiveness and strict compliance. “It is imperative that our drivers not only read and understand our Driving for Work policies and Driver’s Manual, but also embrace them wholeheartedly. Our goal is to achieve 100 percent compliance from all of our drivers in this regard.”
Currently, the majority of fleet car drivers are gray fleet drivers, with 30 company cars managed internally. If a driver drives more than 5,000 business miles per year, they should become a company car driver, Walkington explains. “This is so we can make sure high-mileage drivers get their cars serviced regularly, and we also enhance visibility,” Walkington points out.
It is actively introducing a salary sacrifice scheme with the aim of encouraging current gray fleet drivers to allocate their car allowance towards a salary sacrifice car. This not only saves taxes for drivers, but also enhances the environmental credentials of the fleet
Furthermore, in cooperation with its partner, Independent Fleet Consultants (IFC), Miele systematically uploads all driver information to the licensing office’s website, with the aim of achieving full compliance across the entire fleet. “This process ensures that driving license details remain up to date, are subject to comprehensive license checks and, in cases of six or more penalty points, quarterly checks as an extra precaution,” explains Walkton.
In addition to being fully involved in fleet management, Walkington has also turned his head towards the introduction of dash cameras. “I was a car driver at one time. There are a lot of gray areas, but at least from the dash cam footage, you can clearly say it wasn’t our fault, or it wasn’t anyone else’s fault,” he says. “I’m minimizing the amount of time I have to “I will spend it analyzing reports, as I will have footage ready if necessary.”
He tells us that one of his concerns about introducing CCTV is the perception of intrusion into drivers’ privacy, “but fleet safety and liability mitigation will ultimately outweigh any of these concerns,” he says.
“I plan to work closely with the drivers to figure out the best option. While I want to keep everyone safe, I also want their acceptance and belief that ultimately we are looking out for them and hopefully that will generate a good environment.”
Walkton is also keen to overhaul the way the fleet handles accident reviews and incidents on the road. His motivation stems from his participation in National Highway Safety Conferences, where he learned the importance of treating every accident as a critical event. “Whether it’s a simple collision in a parking lot or a major collision between multiple vehicles, every accident warrants a comprehensive examination to reduce the likelihood of similar accidents occurring in the future,” he says.
Walkington details his ongoing discussions with dashcam companies, each of which offers unique solutions. “I have engaged these companies and commissioned training sessions to help our drivers learn about the benefits these technologies bring to their roles. My goal is to organize workshops or information sessions to ensure that our drivers are not only comfortable with the technology, but also clearly understand its benefits even before it is installed in “Their cars.”
Once driver safety policies are in place, Walkton’s other priority is to install more electric vehicle charging points at the company’s headquarters along with a new facilities manager and building services.
Currently, the number of chargers is limited as the company’s headquarters site was built in the 1980s. “Our challenge was installing enough power for the electric chargers, but we got there.
“We now have some charging points but they are not enough for the number of electric cars we are running, and drivers are becoming upset. Installing more will help their perception of the technology as well as reduce overall charging costs, which is what we are covering business miles for,” Walkington explains.
Although Miele doesn’t offer fleet drivers free installations at their homes, it does work with Annexus EV, a company under the IFC Fleet Services umbrella, to offer drivers good installation prices at around £1,000 per charging point and 12-month interest-free credit , which means that the BIK savings seen by the motorist cover the work.
Walkton has so far been careful not to push drivers into using electric vehicles. “We left it open to their choice and highlighted the pros and cons of both diesel and EVs. Of course, the biggest draw is the tax cost savings and the biggest stumbling block for drivers is range and moving into the unknown, but we’re lucky that our CFO has been driving an electric vehicle for 10 years; So he was an early proponent and commutes from Bristol every day, so this is a really good example of when electric vehicles can be successful.
The fleet is also exploring introducing new manufacturers to meet the wants and needs of its drivers. “We are already on our journey towards fleet transformation but more choice is never a bad thing, especially for drivers who are not fully on board with electric vehicle driving yet,” notes Walkington.
“It is a huge benefit for our drivers to have the option of free charging at work, which not only alleviates their concerns but also encourages the transition from an established mode of transportation to a relatively newer one. Expanding the green initiative to our fleet is a key focus initiative for me in the coming year ,” Confirms.
The fleet consists of internal combustion engines and electric vehicles. By the end of the year, more than half of its 44-vehicle fleet will be fully electric. Last year, the fleet welcomed the Volkswagen ID Buzz electric truck, facilitated by Miele’s head office in Germany. The UK operation is considering adding ten more electric vans in the coming months, to be integrated into the truck fleet in 2024.
Walkington is satisfied with the performance and suitability of the electric vehicles in its fleet. He tells how one of his sales representatives, based in Scotland, recently visited headquarters and only stopped twice to charge along the way. “I think the requirement to charge actually contributes to driver health and safety, because it forces them to take breaks that they might not get in a diesel car,” he says.
To boost driver confidence and enthusiasm for electric vehicles, the fleet has created a Microsoft Teams channel where drivers can discuss and share tips about their electric vehicles.
Despite incentives and a looming 2030 deadline (since postponed until 2035) to halt production of new internal combustion engines, Walkington maintains an open approach. He aims to see a significant portion of the fleet transition to electric vehicles but acknowledges the need to explore other emerging technologies, such as hydrogen cell technology, which he notes are advancing rapidly.
The decision to lease all of its electric vehicles provides Walkton with flexibility, enabling it to focus on alternative technology. “Traditionally, Miele has adhered to the ‘if you can’t afford it, don’t do it’ philosophy. However, with electric vehicles, uncertainties surround future residual values and maintenance costs, so we have built a four-year safety net.”
Going forward, Walkington says he’s excited about the potential to green the fleet and improve the overall visibility and safety of its drivers. He concludes: “Our journey towards a greener and safer fleet is not only about adopting new technologies but also promoting a culture of environmental awareness and responsibility among our drivers. Together, we are moving towards a brighter and more sustainable future.”