Anglian Water is the largest water and water recycling company in England and Wales by geographic area – with that comes the challenges of operating a fleet that is both diverse and fit-for-purpose. Following an interview last year with Stewart Lightbody, Head of Fleet Operations, Utility Fleet magazine catches up with David Leggett, Fleet Operations Manager, about his role and how the fleet team is embracing changes made within department to become more operationally efficient, environmentally friendly and customer-focused…
Describe your role as Fleet Operations Manager at Anglian Water.
My role is to look after our 27 mechanics who work across seven workshops. Our primary aim is to provide the best value, compliant and customer-focused service to our van and car drivers. Anglian Water is proud of its brand and it is important to reflect this in every part of the business.
Anglian Water’s fleet is hugely diverse. Are there any particular vehicles in use specific to your industry that you may not find used elsewhere?
We purchase standard, off-the-production line, vans which are then fitted out accordingly. This could include adding Bott work benches and racking, Penny Hydraulics Miniloaders, Rioned Jetters and generally the tools and equipment the staff need to maintain our water and sewage network and works.
For example, the company has its own Groundwater Engineering Unit. Staff here manage the borehole pumps and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. When they needed a new truck we engaged with them early on to specify the vehicle and fit-out, taking ideas that had worked well on their current vehicle and making improvements to their working environment.
How challenging is the procurement process in making sure that vehicles are fit for purpose and at the same time financially efficient?
When we select vehicles we set out what criteria we are looking for which covers a number of factors. From my perspective, it’s essential that the vehicles are safe, and can be operated with minimal downtime – so the majority of the fleet is Vauxhall as we have a good relationship with the manufacturer which is important.
Our workshops need a prompt supply of parts and a quick response when we call for dealer or manufacturer expertise and support. All of our guys have had GM Academy Bronze or Silver technician training and are familiar with product which certainly benefits our drivers.
During the procurement process do you feel under increased pressure to reduce the purchase / lease of diesel powered vehicles particularly with the issues surrounding NOx emissions?
This is something Anglian Water is conscious of. The business, as a whole, has targeted itself with reducing its operational carbon output by 7% in real terms from a 2015 baseline. So the CO2 emissions of a vehicle has always played a part in our vehicle choice to help the company achieve this aim.
In the early days we did suffer with EGR and DPF blockages and the downtime that created but over the last five or so years the technology and software that manages these has improved to cater for wider driving profiles and we see very few downtime incidents related to this.
I personally think the whole NOX discussion is going to get big, very big. The work that the Mayors of London and Paris have commissioned measuring real world NOX emissions I think will provide a catalyst for this discussion. I think there may be some surprises too.
How do you address the huge issue of vehicle security, in particular with respect to break-ins – is it an issue only for drivers who take vehicles home in the evening?
Theft and break-ins are relatively rare for us. That doesn’t mean we are complacent however, and we regularly review the security of our vehicles and assets.
Have your trials of alternatively fuelled vehicles led to any being incorporated into the fleet?
Our recreation teams are currently using Mitsubishi PHEV Outlander commercials around our water parks and we have identified areas where the work technicians, who run the sites, could easily convert to full electric vehicles. We have been looking into charging infrastructure to support this, especially where these sites generate electricity from sewage gas.
Has the use of telematics across your fleet encouraged or changed general driver behaviour or do you think it is a combination this and further driver training?
Yes, there is certainly a change in driving behaviour and attitudes since we originally started to install a telematics system from CTrack back in 2013. There’s even a bit of healthy competition between drivers and, as a result, we have seen savings in fuel and tyre spend that demonstrate and support the decision to invest. To continue this inertia my colleague Richard Green, Risk and Performance Manager, is developing a ‘Permit to Drive’, an output from this will of course be some sort of coaching and training.
In conjunction with technology, how does Anglian Water manage risk, maximise performance and promote safety?
Health and Safety is a top priority at Anglian Water. The new appointment of a Risk and Performance Manager is one of our responses and shows how we are continually developing ways of how we manage driving at work. It is the most dangerous thing the average worker will do.
Of course our fleet is managed to manufacturer standards, legal standards and our work is all about preventative maintenance but there is also great care for the driver. Their van is their workspace as we are reviewing fit out design to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, we don’t want people climbing or stretching into vans to reach a far shelf and hurting themselves.
The wellbeing of all staff is important here. Having a healthy diet, regular exercise and being active reduces risk all round and that includes driving. The company is doing great work on challenging the stigma of talking about mental health too joining the time to talk campaign. To me both physical and mental health can reduce your risk on the road.
Have you fitted your vehicles with any additional technology to help reduce the amount of low level incidents / insurance claims e.g. sensors / reversing aids?
All of our new vehicles come with reversing sensors. We do have a few teams trialling dashcams and some using reversing cameras too, especially where this is operationally beneficial and in urban operations.
Are your vehicles mainly purchased outright or leased?
On the whole we purchase outright. However, we do have a small lease element for user chooser cars.
How important is communication – with drivers, other departments and management – when managing and implementing changes?
Communication is very important. There is no point being in a silo, issuing edicts. Engagement is the key and the business as a whole is championing this.
Stewart Lightbody, Head of Fleet Services at the company, has been with us over three years now and has completely rebranded our department. This has allowed us to shout about the great work we do rather than quietly getting on with it. Our profile and value to the business as well as the way we engage means change can be managed well.
Does your fleet have any accreditations?
As part of the wider business we hold ISO9001 for quality and ISO18001 for safety. You’ll see us a bit more in the future hopefully scooping up prizes for the great work our department does too.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?
For me it is the feedback I get about my team. Hearing about them dropping everything to get a driver back on the road as soon as possible so they can attend to a customer in need is great. It’s that ability for them to manage priorities and give 100% attention to our customer that provides a massive benefit to the business.
What is the most frustrating?
The words ‘I’ll get back to you on that’ are easy to say but very frustrating when no one does. I have to make sure I make notes and review them regularly to make sure I’ve not forgotten to feedback on something I’d promised to. I’m not perfect but am getting there.