The University of Birmingham is a global research institution based in Edgbaston that contributes to the economy by employing 8,000 members of staff. Monica Guise is sustainable logistics manager, whose job it is to manage the movement of people and the university’s fleet. One of the key challenges within her department is making travel and logistics across, campus, Birmingham and worldwide as sustainable as possible. Here, she talks to Fleet Manager Magazine about her role…
Explain your role and responsibilities as Sustainable Logistics Manager at Birmingham University.
My role is incredibly diverse because I manage four departments. In essence, I look after anything that moves within the university. From worldwide business travel and booking external hires to encouraging staff and students to travel sustainably and ensuring that the organisation’s fleet is compliant. All imports and exports globally (that’s 1,000,000 items of mail per year) and logistics on campus, such as office moves also come under my remit. The transport team includes three transport assistants, who are all advanced drivers.
What are Birmingham University’s fleet requirements in terms of commercial vehicles and vehicles for staff?
The vehicle requirements of the university are very diverse and provide big challenges to the transport team. We do have an O Licence because we previously ran a 7.5-tonne refrigerated lorry however, this has since been replaced by two 3.5-tonne refrigerated vehicles. There are also a variety of different LCVs used by the on-site electricians, carpenters, grounds maintenance and postal services teams. We have four minibuses on-site too.
What commitment has the organisation made to reducing CO2 within its fleet?
Funding for the University is partly reliant on its commitment to reducing CO2 through its carbon reduction strategy and back in 2005 it made a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by 20%. Students will often look at sustainability before choosing a university and the league tables have a
Following a travel survey conducted in 2013 the university identified and implemented a Sustainable Travel Action Plan to support the overall Carbon Reduction Strategy. We have increased awareness of local travel options by producing a bespoke travel guide and created a ‘Smartmover’ logo that is recognisable to both students and staff. The Action Plan focuses on increasing cycling initiatives including providing cycle hire for students, increased cycle parking, lockers and improved shower facilities. It also promotes walking through initiatives such as Walk to Work week and increasing safe walking pathways.
We’ve also successfully decreased carbon emissions from our vehicles too. Fleet is just part of the university’s sustainable strategy which is why we have chosen to be proactive when it comes to adopting electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. We also offer the opportunity for our staff to try out the EVs and see what they are like for themselves. The research and data that we collect can then be used and information shared globally, which is good for students to see too.
Explain the benefits of giving staff access to a salary sacrifice scheme.
Introducing a fuel efficient Salary Sacrifice Scheme has been very effective in encouraging our staff to look at alternative ways to travel. It is another important element of the University’s Sustainable Travel Action Plan. The scheme targets Low and Ultra Low emission vehicles and gives staff an additional salary benefit. In October 2014, the university partnered with sgfleet to launch the Novalease scheme which is still working very well today with approximately 3% of staff taking part.
The scheme allows staff to exchange a portion of their gross salary in return for a car of their choice with CO2 emissions that come in below 120g/km CO2. This creates tax and national insurance savings and means a new car can be driven for significantly less than before. The staff have also benefitted from an ‘Electric Vehicle’ event which in-turn has increased EVs as many employees’ personal choice of vehicle.
What kind of infrastructure has been put in place to support the use of hydrogen and electric vehicles?
The university has installed vehicle charging points across its campus to manage the demand from both fleet vehicles and EVs owned or leased by staff and students.
We are proud that the university was home to one of the first hydrogen fuelling stations in the UK, especially designed to meet the fuelling needs of the first hydrogen vehicles to appear on the roads. Research has taken place in the past comparing different types of fuel to determine how vehicles need to be adapted to make hydrogen an attractive and cost-effective option as a more commonplace future fuel.
Are the vehicles leased or owned?
As early adopters of EV technology, the university purchased its first EV in 2007, now we have 15 EVs on the fleet bringing the percentage to 20% and are on target of achieving our pledge to make 40% of our fleet either electric of hydrogen by 2020.
Purchasing our first EV meant that we had to take the hit when there are any maintenance problems and additional costs relating to battery replacement.
We have found that is it much better to lease our vehicles and have developed a good relationship with Lex Autolease. I truly believe that in the last six months, leasing companies have really helped EVs become a much more viable option for organisations. The industry is changing and with manufacturers offering up to eight years warranty, the leasing companies are more comfortable with this approach.
Have the drivers had any specialist training?
Each fleet driver has 1.5 hours training but not specifically for driving electric vehicles. We do provide minibus training to drivers every two years in line with our Section 19 permit.
What is the most rewarding element of your role?
The diversity and working for a globally recognised university – each day is completely different and diverse. The university creates a fantastic environment to work within where research and business come together.