Network Rail’s road fleet team is based in Milton Keynes within the newly built centralised location known as Quadrant MK. The team consists of 17 people and the management arm consists of a Business Manager, who has complete control, two Business Support Managers and one Road Fleet Engineer. Steve Duffy, Business Support Manager, talks to Utility Fleet Magazine about the operation...
How is Network Rail’s fleet team made up in terms of roles and responsibilities?
The two Business Support Managers in the team have varied roles and responsibilities. My role is more operationally based and this looks after vehicle acquisitions, vehicle design, internal vehicle construction with approved converters, build plan, delivery to the end customers, dealing with manufacturers in regards to warranty claims and faults, financial payments to all of the supply chain under my remit, Operator Licensing, Audits (FORS, FTA, Van Excellence), consultation with external bodies such as the DVSA.
Describe your role as Business Support Manager (Operations) at Network Rail.
The role of the Business Support Manager is to provide support to the Business Manager, this can vary and cover many facets within the department, currently I look after the vehicle and its conversion content within the team.
The department looks after and manages in excess of 7500 assets, this varies from a simple car-derived van, through to our work horse vehicles – these are the ones that transport the maintenance staff from their depots to their place of works, included within this conversion element is the carrying of tools and transient welfare facilities.
What type of vehicles do you run on the Network rail fleet and why?
The majority of our vehicle fleet is commercial and these are the backbone of our transport composition. We have awarded contracts to all of the major manufacturers, such as Ford, Vauxhall, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen (both cars and commercials), Fiat and Peugeot. These vehicles vary from small two-people carrying vans to the big vans which are people carrying vehicles and also transport tools and equipment to site.
How does the fleet department go about making decisions on specialist vehicles required for the fleet?
This done in two parts; the first part is to talk to the end users with the requirement and make notes on what they deem as “Essential”. Once this has been agreed we then interact with our colleagues in Contracts and Procurement as they are all done on a Tender basis.
We then issue a tender with specific issues that we class as an ‘essential’ item which is a pass and from there we also split down to a ‘desirable’ which can be a pass or fail. This is then issued to the manufacturers for them to comment and return their submission form back to our Contracts and Procurement department. Then we analyse the commercial returns aspect of their submission and Financial issues are done through the Contracts team, these are then verified with the questions that we had asked in the first instance, these are then scored and awarded marks which Contracts and Procurement then put all of the other aspects of the tender together and a final mark is acheived.
What happens to vehicles when they come off fleet?
We used to have a leased fleet, and these we de-badged and returned to the leasing company. However, we now have an owned fleet and we are still awaiting for the first ones to come up for replacement, but the thought is that they will be sold at auction houses. It is our job within the business to identify the best route for these to be disposed and monies returned to the company, the disposal section is one where we have to take advice on the best time to sell and when it is not viable to sell.
How much does technology affect your role and what initiatives have you rolled out recently – or plan to roll out – utilising new technology?
We are always looking at where we can embrace technology and bring this into the vehicles. In the last two years we have started to specify more aids which can demonstrate a saving to the company – speed limiters, campaigns within specific depots informing them of the local garages and where to purchase fuel competitively, for example.
What other issues and challenges are currently facing your fleet operation?
The main challenge is, as always, remaining competitive within our sector, providing safe, efficient and reliable vehicles to transport staff, being compliant on our requirements in regards to legislation.
Do you operate in-house fleet maintenance and servicing?
All of our maintenance and servicing is undertaken by BT Fleet and they are co-located in MK with us, this has been since March 2013, we have started to see benefits to this. As we are co-located within the same building, we can have more face-to-face conversations and work out solutions to problems in order to ensure any down time is minimal and cost-effective.
We see BT Fleet as a partner within our business, not a service provider, and this attitude has paid benefits to both our team and to the service level that they deliver to the staff on the ground.
Does Network Rail run any driver training initiatives?
We have recently awarded a framework contract with a driver training company, who will be managing our driver risk programme, this commenced in January 2015 and they can offer a whole suite of driver-accredited courses to Network Rail staff.
Do Electric Vehicles have a presence on the fleet and are you running any other carbon-cutting initiatives to fit in with Network Rail’s environmental ethos?
We have two fully electric vehicles on our fleet, these are based at our management training centre (Westwood) in Coventry. These vehicles have been operational since 2013, with a dedicated charging stations and a fully-maintained lease with Mercedes-Benz. The vehicles are used as a shuttle service between Westwood and the nearest train station to transport delegates there and back when they arrive for training courses. They have been a great success and we have invested in staff training to drive these vehicles efficiently.
Does Network Rail have any fleet accreditations and do you see accreditations as an important benchmark in managing risk?
We are an active member of the FTA (Freight Transport Association) a member of Van Excellence and recently awarded Silver status on FORS. These companies do play a major part on what we do and how we can do it, we also attend any of the training days that they offer and this is where we try to use our presence and start to network with other companies in order to find out what is a hot topic at the time.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your role?
It is great spending so much time developing a transport solution, then seeing it go from a tender stage to actually being converted from a drawing to our agreed specification and then the finished product being delivered to an end user, all badged up and ready to start operating.
…and the most frustrating?
Two things: People that say “we can do this better than you” and “why does it take so long to get a vehicle?”...If only they knew the process that goes into buying, converting and entering a vehicle into use, making it safe and ensuring compliance.