What are the main issues you face in your day-to-day role as Fleet Services Manager at Borough of Poole?
The main day-to-day issues include making sure that both vehicles and drivers are legally compliant. From a fleet aspect I ensure the road-worthiness of the vehicles and that they comply to all current legislation and health and safety requirements.
The drivers must be licence checked and managed so that we meet our Duty of Care responsibilities. We follow a programme when it comes to licence checking and are in the process of introducing a weighted system. For example, those drivers who have zero points on their licences will be considered ‘low risk’ and someone with six points, for example. would have more regular checks.
We also have a workshop based at the site so the running of that regarding breakdowns and repairs is also part of my role.
What geographical challenges face your council fleet and what types of vehicle are deployed in order to deliver front line services?
As a result of the hugely diverse environment our fleet at Borough of Poole is extremely varied. We deploy quad bikes for use around the beaches by our ‘beach team’. Sandbanks is a small peninsula crossing the mouth of Poole Harbour on the English Channel coast. It is well known and highly regarded on an international basis so it is essential that the beach is properly looked after – a tractor with beach rake helps to keep the area clean.
Generally speaking for normal council activities, the fleet consists of about 20 accessible buses, plus a number of Refuse Collection Vehicles (RCVs), Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs), hookloaders, skip loaders, sweepers, mopeds (for car park management) and cars. The fleet mainly consists of Ford and Citroen for light vehicles and Dennis and DAF for refuse collection and heavy trucks.
We have recently purchased a traffic management vehicle for use on major highways. Safety of the workforce and public is paramount in today’s traffic management environment so this vehicle has a crash cushion to offer greater protection.
For the winter months we have a good range of gritters, tippers etc to cope with snow and ice. Despite being on the south coast we have been lucky enough to escape much of the recent storm damage and flooding that many of our Dorset neighbours have had to cope with.
Are you running any carbon-cutting initiatives and do Electric Vehicles have a presence on your fleet?
We are constantly looking at ways to cut carbon, indeed six years ago we were one of the first authorities to trial, then add electric powered bin lifts to our recycling trucks.
We run three fully electric cars – Citroen C Zeros – that are used like pool cars for staff to travel between offices.
In the past we have trialled RCVs with vegetable oil, however the quality of fuel was hard to maintain. It worked very well at times but didn’t give us the consistency we needed.
We are currently undergoing an Engery Saving Trust (EST) Green Fleet review and are waiting to evaluate the results and we are also looking to join the EST’s Motorvate scheme. Motorvate is an EST transport members programme offering advice and opportunities to help organisations reduce their carbon emissions and fleet costs.
Is it possible to reduce costs and still run an efficient fleet?
With proper planning it is possible to reduce costs and run an efficient fleet. In particular route planning plays an essential role in this. Quite recently we re-evaluated our collection routes that has helped to save on fuel.
Managing downtime effectively is also essential. It is important to keep utilisation of vehicles as high as possible. A workshop on-site helps.
Finally, training. Ensuring that users/fitters etc are fully aware and understand what they are doing and how the are operating certain vehicles. They must understand the need for the vehicle.
The rising cost of fuel is a major concern for fleet operators, what are you doing to combat this?
First and foremost, we always buy the cleanest and most fuel-efficient vehicles available. A number of years ago staff underwent SAFED training for all vocational driving. We also have bulk fuel on site with a fuel management system in place on the pumps. Fuel is purchased through an OGC framework agreement.
How much does technology affect your role and what initiatives have you rolled out recently – or plan to roll out – utilising new technology?
We rely on technology a great deal and have, for the past five years, had CCTV fitted to vehicles. This helps with driver visibility and also supports drivers’ statements if there has been an incident. The CCTV has helped reduce the number of insurance claims too.
We do have a telematics system, supplied by CMS Supatrak, fitted to part of the fleet but have not yet rolled this out fully. Vehicle tracking and telemetry can help greatly if there’s a road accident or if drivers need to respond to a fly tip, for example.
With the HGVs we will be looking to the system from a fuel saving aspect. As the borough is quite small we do a lot of very short journeys that tend to be not very fuel-efficient.
In the future we hope to roll this out on more vehicles to have a positive impact all-round.
How do you make decisions about which vehicles and equipment you source for your fleets?
In general, we tend to go through purchasing framework agreements, where possible, which saves us on time and money to get the best deals.
We have also tried to reduce the number of manufacturers on the fleet. Certainly Ford and Citroen dominate on the LCV fleet. Drivers and fitters are trained on specific vehicles so they are more familiar with certain ones. It also enables us to keep a good stock of parts. We also have a third party, Adams Morey Ltd., who supplies parts which works very well.
Involving drivers/users in the decision making process over vehicles is also something we engage in and we can obtain demonstrator vehicles to try before we commit.
What is the most rewarding element of your role?
It is hugely rewarding developing members of the team and helping them to reach their potential. We have also taken on a number of apprentices over the past six years or so, which works well. Two of those apprentices are now fully qualified and working for Poole Council.
…and what is the most frustrating?
Lead times. It can be incredibly frustrating waiting for vehicles to come through – especially HGVs and specialist vehicles – sometimes up to a year!
Do you think there is a place for shared services within the public sector?
There is a place for shared services and it is workable. We currently work with a number of schools providing repair and maintenance services. Careful planning is all that is required.
We are also working with Dorset County Council on fleet-related tenders.
From a commercial point of view we have recently opened an MOT station, providing testing for class 4, 5 and 7 vehicles. This will help us develop partners locally and provide an income at the same time.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE...
If money were no object, what would be your ideal car?
If money were no object then it has to be the Aston Martin DB9, however just from an ideal car point of view then a good old-fashioned Land Rover is a great vehicle choice.
If you were stuck in traffic, who would be your ideal passenger?
David Dimbleby would be an interesting passenger. He is very well informed (and he likes Land Rovers!)