Transport Manager Graham Davies talks to Utility Fleet Magazine about the diverse fleet he manages at Electricity North West and the challenges it brings...
Describe your role as Transport Manager at Electricity North West Limited (ENWL).
On a day-to-day basis I look after a full range of duties as transport manager including dealing with replacement vehicles, organising licence checks, accident management, managing fuel use and reporting, and vehicle specification to name a few. I manage a team of three administration staff who help with this and also help to collate detailed monthly dashboard reports so that managers can see at-a-glance how staff and contractors are performing when it comes to driver behaviour, accidents, fuel use, avoidable costs etc. Managers can then feed back on this and address any issues highlighted.
What challenges do you face in maintaining a fleet that supports the power infrastructure?
The biggest challenge is having and developing the right vehicle for the right job in a constantly changing environment. We are obliged to keep within the gross vehicle weight of the vehicle which causes its own problems when manufactures reduce the available pay load. This has become an issue on our vans that maintain the underground network where the payload has reduced by 85kg on the new model compared to the outgoing model. We are working with our fit out centre to redesign the racking system to reduce the weight of internal fittings.
We have some remote power lines in the Lakes and Peaks and having a diverse range of vehicles to call on helps us cope with difficult terrain and weather conditions. A number of depots around the North West look after the region from Macclesfield to Workington so it is essential that communication regarding the management of the fleet is a top priority.
For engineers that need to get out to jobs quickly on a daily basis we stick to vehicles that are under 3.5 tonnes so they can be taken home.
How much does technology affect your role and what initiatives have you rolled out recently utilising new technology?
We currently have trackers fitted to all the vehicles and can use this to find people and also find a vehicle if it were stolen.
Arval reports from the All-Star cards help give us readings relating to fuel usage etc.
Looking to the future we hope to bring in a bigger telematics system.
The rising cost of fuel is a major concern for fleet operators, what are you doing to combat this?
We pride ourselves on the detailed fuel highlight reports we produce on a monthly basis and send out to the managers. These really help keep staff aware of costs.
For example, a price comparison of fuel outlets encourages people to use the big supermarkets as the ppl is much lower.
We can also identify how much fuel is used and who is doing the most mileage and filling up the most area by area and feed this back to managers. Highlighting which drivers are overspending keeps a grip on the fuel spend and, when the average company fuel use per annum is 1,612,000 litres, huge savings can be made.
What are the main issues that led you to adopt the FTA’s Van Excellence initiative as your benchmark?
I have been involved with the FTA Utilites and Essential Services Working Group for some time and was there when the initial idea of a benchmark to measure operational standards came up. Volunteers were required to take the idea forward and so ENWL were instrumental in the development of Van Excellence.
It is such a good scheme to sign up to and makes perfect sense for contractors too. We review incidents across all our liveried vans regularly and it was clear our contractors were generating more negative feedback than our own fleet. We feel it’s important we apply the same standards of operation across the whole of our fleet – directly managed or otherwise.
Naturally a few things did come to light that we’ve had to correct since having Van Excellence but all issues have been addressed.
Knowing that our contractors also have the same standards offers peace of mind for the transport function and the company as a whole.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your role?
My role is incredibly varied and, because of this, is hugely rewarding. No two days are the same – you can be ordering a wood chipper one day and then be dealing with a fleet of Unimogs the next!
It is very rewarding when you spend a lot of time putting a complex vehicle spec together and it becomes a reality. For example, I have been working on an order for an 85-tonne metre crane fitted to an eight-wheel DAF chassis. It took over 12 months from the initial idea to delivery and is a very unique for specific applications.
Many people do not realise just how long it takes to specify and procure specialist vehicles – we have a Unimog, ordered in late 2013, which is arriving from Germany early September that will then go to have a MEWP fitted – hopefully we will see this before the end of the year.
For the last six years we have been up-rating the GVW of Toyota Hilux to 3.5 tonne to make it a more usable vehicle for our overhead lines teams.
These are just a few examples of projects I’ve been involved in and, when mixed in with the administrative function, makes for a really interesting role.
And what is the most frustrating?
The most frustrating thing is trying to establish standard internal fit out for the different work streams e.g. underground jointing teams, overhead lines teams and electrical fitting teams. Our engineers are passionate about the job and they have differing views on how the fit out should be. Our aim is to have a standard specification for each different work stream no matter the geographic location.