Anglian Water is the largest water and water recycling company in England and Wales by geographic area. Its huge region stretches from the Humber north of Grimsby, to the Thames estuary and then from Buckinghamshire to Lowestoft on the east coast. The company owns 112,833 km of water and sewer pipes that supplies and transports water across an area of 27,500 square km. Head of Fleet Services, Stewart Lightbody, talks to Sue Hurst about his role and vision for the department’s future…
What are the main issues you face in your day-to-day role as Head of Fleet Services at Anglian Water?
Coming from an outsourcing background to Anglian Water just over two years ago was a real culture change as the ethos within this company is totally different. This is a highly regulated business with strict budgets – assets are purchased outright and part of the challenge initially was getting used to a totally different operating model. The vast region we cover means that the dynamics are quite different from place to place geographically and so the vehicle requirement need is different too – one-size doesn’t necessarily fit all.
What type of vehicles do you run on the fleet and why?
We have a large fleet consisting of just under 2,500 vehicles, not to mention a vast array of plant and agricultural machinery. Approximately 90% of the car fleet is Vauxhall including Corsas, Astras and Insignias. Vauxhall commercial vehicles make up more than 95% of the van fleet, including Corsavan, Combo, Vivaro and Movano models.
We chose Vauxhall after an extensive tender and selection process as they offered the best overall value proposition..
There are lots of bespoke vehicles on the fleet too including cranes, jetters, tower lifts and tippers. We also have approx. 150 Mitsubishi Outlander 4x4s that have superb capability and can get to hard-to-reach places.
Do you use an external fleet management provider or is everything managed/maintained in-house?
We have 28 people in total on the fleet team including myself, a Fleet Operations Manager, six admin assistants and 20 members of staff spread over seven workshops. Despite this relatively small team we run an effective, virtually stand-alone, operation. It’s good to be in control of our own destiny. Having said that, we do utilise an independent network of bodyshops locally and we also outsource our licence checking.
How much does technology affect your role and what initiatives have you rolled out recently – or plan to roll out – utilising new technology?
Some time ago the business decided to bring in a telematics system to approximately 50% of the fleet and a contract was signed with CTrack at the end of 2013. At this time we committed to using the data that the system provided us with effectively, to really make a difference. Anglian Water is proud of its brand and it was essential to reflect this in all areas.
The way drivers behave is important to us – increasing safety and efficient driving go hand-in-hand. Since then we have been really impressed with the positive impact installing telematics has had. The drivers have embraced it and there have also been tangible fuel savings. In 2015 we completed ‘phase 2’ and installed another 400 vehicles with the system. Phase 3 will commence soon where we’ll fit out another 400 units to the smaller elements of the fleet.
We’ve created a driver scorecard so individuals can monitor and see their driving styles – the drivers manage this themselves and we coach them thorough their line managers to address any key issues on driving styles. Our insurers have also rewarded us with lower premiums because of the strong, credible results from the telematics system.
Another area we are looking at is the possibility of engine remapping. We’re currently doing a feasibility study to make sure the idea fits within the business and doesn’t affect our Vauxhall warranties. A vehicle remap replaces default software on the Engine Control Unit, overwriting it with new software which can be programmed to optimize the vehicle’s overall performance to, hopefully, achieve best balance of fuel efficiency, CO2 emissions and power output.
Given the broad scope of vehicles and the number of drivers we have to look after we are in the market for a fleet management system to bolt everything together. This is currently out as a mini tender.
Are you running any other carbon-cutting initiatives – for example, using fuel saving devices, driver training, purchasing EVs?
Now that we have more information on the utilisation of the van fleet we are now able to genuinely look at the feasibility of plug-in hybrid vehicles. There are some good opportunities for zero emission vehicles especially now that we are able to target exactly where they’ll be most useful. For example, we have a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV on a long-term demo (nine months) being used at Grafham Reservoir near Huntingdon. It fits well with our strategy, which we refer to as ‘Love Every Drop’,
The strategy is underpinned by our ambition to have less impact on the world around us - so why shouldn’t this include fuel as well? However, it needs to be able to perform too and be a capable vehicle to assist with recreational-type activity around the site. Feedback so far is really positive and it’s currently ticking all the boxes.
Driver training will be our next key area of focus. Telematics will help us identify problem areas so we can deliver the right types of solution.
How long do you keep vehicles for and what happens at their end of life?
We purchase and run all our own vehicles so we can be in control of how long they are in operation. In some respects we do run some for too long as we have got some six, seven and eight year-old vehicles out there because they might not do many miles, for example. Generally though we keep cars for five years and vans for six. I am looking to reduce this now we have a better understanding of the impact on the business.
We sell all vehicles through auction across the whole of the UK so we don’t swamp one area of the market.
What other issues and challenges are currently facing your fleet operation?
Now that we’ve committed to telematics and our drivers are more aware of their habits out on the road its frustrating to learn that some are being intimidated by other motorists just because they are going at the correct speed limit and driving sensibly. Its about managing society’s expectations too, which doesn’t make sense!
As a department I would like the team to start to think differently about the customer – to be totally customer-centric. It’s about moving on culturally to look after the customer from receiving a complaint over the phone to being face-to-face.
What is the most rewarding element of your role?
I love what I do. The diverse nature of the business makes it really interesting. Dealing with people, vehicles and processes to legal issues, HR and finance on a daily basis – it’s never certain what will come through the door!
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