LCVs (owned/leased): 300, which are a mix of small, medium, large panel vans and flat back and tipper vehicles
Other: 2 4x4 pick up trucks
Guinness Property are experts in social housing repairs, maintenance and improvement. The fleet department supports affordable housing provider The Guinness Partnership through the provision of vehicles for responsive repairs, void repairs, planned works and major works. Fleet Manager, Ryan Mills, talks about his role and how a rebrand of the whole fleet is underway...
Describe your role and objectives as fleet manager at Guinness Property
I joined the company in May 2015 as Fleet Manager, which was a new role for the organisation. Previously various departments would look after different aspects of the fleet as part of their responsibilities. However, as the fleet started to grow in size (and continues to) it became apparent that there was a requirement for someone to fulfil the role full time.
My initial objectives are to review the fleet procurement policies to make sure they’re in line with business requirements. I’m fortunate that the staff who have been looking after the fleet prior to me starting have done a great job – so it’s important I maintain that. I’m also looking to use my experience and knowledge from previous cycles to keep developing it.
I’ve been establishing myself as the key contact between fleet suppliers and the business, and reviewing the various internal and third party systems in place to see how we use the vehicle information we capture and how each system associates with each other. I’m keen for Guinness Property to gain accreditation, such as Van Excellence, as I believe this reflects the standards to which we look to operate the fleet.
What are the biggest issues and challenges currently facing your department?
Vehicle off road (VOR) time, whilst inevitable, impacts our business. Most of our ‘responsive’ repairs are carried out by operatives working to scheduled appointments weeks in advance or, even more importantly, responding 24/7 to call outs for emergency repairs.
Our planned maintenance teams also work to deadlines to enable us to deliver a quality service and maintain high customer satisfaction with their homes, so it’s important that we manage VOR with suppliers to mitigate as much as possible.
A planned rebrand of the whole fleet will require some VOR time and is my main focus over the next few months but my day-to-day challenges are the safety, compliance and efficiency of the fleet operations.
From my experience working in fleet within this sector you have to engage with pretty much every department (Finance, H&S, Operations, Marketing etc.) so gaining a good understanding on what impact the fleet has on their daily functions, finding a solution that meets all departments’ expectations and my own as a fleet manager can bring its challenges.
How much does technology affect your role and what initiatives have you rolled out recently – or plan to roll out – utilising new technology?
Although it’s not new technology, vehicle tracking plays a big part in the management information that we use and we are just at the final phase of a full roll out of installs to a CANBus system which is the new part to us. This enables us to report on driver and vehicle behaviour and identify areas that require improvement. We are now receiving data from the engine management as opposed to calculations based on GPS so there is much more confidence in presenting this to drivers and within the business.
There has also been a roll out of iPhones and iPads to operatives over the last 12 months so I’ll be considering how we can further improve the use of these to support the fleet function and streamline processes that currently involve transfer of paperwork such as accident reporting and vehicle audits.
What types of vehicles are you running on the fleet and why?
Guinness Property operates an entirely LCV fleet consisting predominantly of Citroen’s range of small, medium and large vans which we match to the trade specific requirement. Information from our contract hire providers supports our decision to run Citroen as their maintenance spend data puts Citroen among those with the lowest average cost per vehicle, in addition to competitive manufacturer terms we receive.
We contract hire and typically run our vehicles for 48 months/80,000 miles with mid-term amendments if necessary, and these are quite staggered due to the steady growth of the company and requirement for more vehicles.
We will introduce new replacement and additional vehicles onto the fleet quarterly or at least bi-annually so we are able to frequently review the capabilities of the vehicles and, through the targets placed on manufacturers, reduce our CO2.
Do you use any framework agreements when procuring vehicles?
Yes we currently have contracts in place which have been procured via framework consortia. Using suitable framework agreements provides a simple and OJEU compliant procurement process for the organisation.
Do you have or are you looking to implement EVs or any other ‘green’ technologies?
I have reviewed the option of introducing an electric van into the fleet but at present, with our geographic spread and the responsive element to our work, it doesn’t fit in with our operations enough for us to commit. However, this is an area that will be reviewed regularly as the infrastructure and capabilities of running electric and alternate fuelled vehicles is continually improving.
How do you use services from other companies to help run a smooth fleet operation?
We don’t have any in-house maintenance facility so our vehicles are taken fully maintained through our provider network of maintenance suppliers. As mentioned earlier the smooth operation of this is key to minimise VOR.
What happens to vehicles when they reach the end of their working life on the fleet?
All vehicles are sourced through a leasing provider and are disposed of via their in-house processes. In most if not all cases vehicles are collected from our sites and driven direct to an auction house to be sold on.
Do you implement any schemes to improve driver behaviour?
Every member of staff who drives a company vehicle goes through a driver assessment in the vehicle that they’ll be driving daily. We look at accident reporting, any complaints we receive and the driver behaviour data from our tracking provider to see if a particular driver needs to revisit the assessment training.
We are also looking to implement a ‘league table’ so we can track and benchmark improvements and also any lapses. I think if done correctly this can create healthy competition between staff resulting in overall improvements and savings – as opposed to just shaming those at the wrong end of the table. Hopefully staff will engage with this and it will highlight areas for development.
What is the most rewarding element of your role?
I find that working in fleet gives me the opportunity to really get involved and contribute towards the company’s success – although fleet isn’t the core business here, it’s absolutely key in making sure we get the job done.
. …and what is the most frustrating?
Although on a whole I see our operatives taking good care of the vans, and this is further strengthened by our internal policies, it’s always a bone of contention when a vehicle is returned and a dilapidation charge follows. I appreciate the BVRLA ‘industry fair wear and tear standard’ is what most leasing companies work to on what a used commercial vehicles condition is at the end of a lease but rarely find myself in agreement with it.