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Chauffeurs – The driving force

The Executive Reward Survey, published last October by employment consultants Woodrow Wyatt, revealed that less than one chief executive in four has sole use of a chauffeur. This is down on five years ago, when 33% enjoyed exclusive use of the service. Shared use of a chauffeur at chief executive level is also down, from 26% to 22%.

However, sole use of a chauffeur by all board directors has seen a marked increase – 13% against just 7% five years ago – while shared use is down, from 30% to 16%.

Today’s chauffeur-driven vehicles come equipped with laptop connectivity and fax machines, allowing a full range of business activities to be carried out on board. They act as extensions of the office. As such, a chauffeur must be the silent part of the arrangement, but his discretion and powers of observation are essential to his job.

David Cabrera, vice president of British Chauffeurs Guild, set up the guild 20 years ago when he realised that chauffeurs were not aware what their job entailed. “There is a big difference between being a driver and a chauffeur,” he says. “The latter should be security-aware. Taking security measures means a chauffeur always closes the door for the passenger, watches carefully in the mirrors and puts tape over the doors when he leaves the vehicle.” A chauffeur is an integral part of the company, not a luxury, claims Cabrera.

Beauchamp Bureaux supplies chauffeurs to a range of clients, from top executives to royal families. According to director Caroline Condon, “Most chauffeurs are members of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and are ex-Met police officers. They know how to assess and control risk.”

Nonetheless, there is a strong argument for ad hoc hiring of chauffeur-driven cars. Arval PHH provides a chauffeur-drive daily rental service. Vincent St Claire, managing director of the company’s fleet division, says: “This service is popular for many reasons. A chauffeur allows (the passenger) to travel without concern over driver tiredness, or drinking and driving. In addition, a company may want to impress a new client, or may want cars with drivers for airport transfers, or as a substitute for staying overnight at functions, especially when the alternative is paying for an expensive hotel,” says St Claire.

According to Roger Down, a senior consultant at Woodrow Wyatt, “In anticipation of the Higgs Report, many permanent non-executive directors of companies were quoted as saying there was some positive value in companies providing a chauffeur-driven car as an office, but when an organisation is laying off thousands of people in the City, it does not look good when the chief executive’s new chauffeur-driven Jaguar rolls up in the car park.”

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