Wigan Council delivers 700+ services to over 317,000 residents in the country’s ninth largest metropolitan borough in the UK. Consequently, the fleet department is kept extremely busy supporting these services with vehicles that are safe and compliant. Here, Group Fleet Services Manager, Keith Simpson talks to Fleet Manager about the department and his role at Wigan Council...
Explain how the Fleet Services department set-up works at Wigan Council?
All the main operational services, including fleet services, waste services (cleansing), infrastructure (highways), buildings, business support and school services, merged into one depot back in 2012. The Fleet services function at Wigan Council provides a full range of services from procurement through to maintenance. This also includes plant work and 2000 taxi tests per year.
The “in house” maintenance operation is open to commercial work opportunities where capacity allows. The operation has 23 members of staff including administration support workers, drivers, mechanics and supervisors.
What are the main issues you face in your day-to-day role?
In terms of operation of the fleet much of my time is spent working with my staff on maintaining our high standards that includes our daily interaction with the council’s drivers making sure everyone is safe and compliant. My other responsibilities include overall management of the operations division stores function and the main operational depot. In addition to this I have the responsibility for strategic development of these areas ensuring we are always providing value for money.
How do you make decisions about which vehicles and equipment you source for your fleets?
To ensure we carry out our duties as prescribed within the council’s operating rules and procedures we buy our vehicles through framework agreements from YPO using mini tender exercises. YPO is managed by a committee of elected representatives from 13 public sector member authorities – including Wigan Council. The mini tenders will be written on the basis we would always look to buy the most cost-effective vehicles and they would include some quality and after sales delivery criteria.
All vehicles are purchased through frameworks with all but the RCVs leased back with help from our finance department. What vehicles we choose depends on the tender. For example, our small vans are mainly Fiats, mid-range vans are Peugeots and we also have a number of Iveco Tippers and a couple of DAF specialist vehicles. The RCVs are mainly Mercedes-Benz.
Do you share services with any other organisations?
We currently rent out some office and vehicle parking space to an external organisation.
In the future we will be looking at the possibility of also offering other council services to this organisation. We have an ongoing strategic project with another local council, Bolton, collaborating on service delivery wherever we can too. This joint working helps us to make good savings with better discounts from sub-contractors, for example.
Do Electric vehicles have a presence on your fleet?
In recent procurement exercises electric vehicles have not come out favourably in the cost area. We are undergoing a procurement exercise at present where alternative fuel vehicles are again under consideration because we really want to embrace green vehicle options.
Are you running any other carbon-cutting initiatives?
Approximately 12 months ago we recruited Fleet and Driver Standards Officer, Gary Jones with a view to him helping us save money on our fuel costs. To date, we have saved 79k on fuel with a further 60k saving avoidable costs and an insurance cost reduction of 80k. Its important to understand things before implementing an improvement plan. Now we are trialling five fuel-saving devices and hope to implement one or more once we have looked at costs.
How much does technology affect your role and what initiatives have you rolled out recently –
or plan to roll out – utilising new technology?
We have telematics systems fitted to all vehicles. Additionally, on our latest procurement exercise, we included stop/start technology into the vehicle spec as an add-on to help with fuel savings.
Elsewhere, we are taking a look at our Fleet management IT systems particularly in the area of workshop hours management. We are aware of another council, Fife, who has implemented VDU screens for technicians to use in the workshops and have had great success.
How do you manage driver risk?
Our Fleet and Driver Standards Officer has worked tirelessly in this area since his appointment.
He improved the existing vehicle inspection regime to make it much more robust and it now includes regular vehicle spot checks around the use of seat belts, over loading, speeding, accident monitoring etc. We are also very careful that our CPC and other training courses clearly cover what are seen as areas in need of attention.
How do you manage your grey fleet miles/drivers?
Our grey fleet drivers are managed outside of the fleet operation process by another council department.
How long do you keep vehicles and what happens at their end of life?
We are always looking to maximise the life of our fleet and sweat the asset. It is particularly essential to get the most out of any asset in the current financial climate. We have taken a decision to run our RCV fleet across a nine-year period with other vehicles leased across a six to eight year life. At the end, the RCVs are sold at auction.
What is the most rewarding element of your role?
It is incredibly rewarding to improve efficiency across our fleet operation and offering savings towards the overall council savings requirements.
What is the most frustrating?
In our busy lives these days there never seems to be enough hours in the day.