Whilst NWAS has recently become the first ambulance service in the UK to be awarded Investors in People (IiP) Gold), Mick and his fleet team were also shortlisted for the ‘Team of the Year’ award at this year’s Staff Awards Ceremony. The nomination came following the dedication, professionalism and excellent team work shown by the whole fleet team in dealing with a serious problem identified on some A&E vehicles – without which, frontline service would have been affected.
The Fleet Interview
Q: What are the main issues you face in your day-to-day role as Head of Fleet Engineering at NWAS?
A: The main areas dealt with on a daily basis are vehicle resource availability, providing safe, legal and reliable vehicles to service delivery operations, managing fleet maintenance operations and support services such as fleet insurance and RTC management.
Q: The rising cost of fuel is a major concern for fleet operators, what are you doing to combat this?
A: As a Trust, we utilise national frameworks to obtain cost efficiencies and this was done when the Trust moved to a singular fuel card provider. Alongside the use of fuel cards we encourage our road crews to refuel fleet vehicles using supermarket outlets where the fuel is normally a couple of pence per litre cheaper. We identified that we could save in excess of £110k per annum by being selective in our choice of fuel outlets. This is against annual spend of around £9M per annum.
Another major part is the daily vehicle check to ensure tyre condition and pressures are at a premium to assist with overall fuel economy and encouraging good driving style and technique.
Q: What other issues and challenges are currently facing emergency fleet operators?
A: The main issues and challenges are ensuring a cost effective fleet operation, when budgets are being monitored and reduced across the board. Cost control and efficiencies are high on the agenda and there is always a need to improve overall vehicle downtimes and fully utilise the vehicle fleet assets at our disposal. The national operational activity levels are increasing year on year and we all need to be lean and efficient in how we deliver our service to the public and patients.
Q: Is it possible to reduce costs and still offer an efficient emergency service?
A: Yes, the art of fleet management is ensuring that costs are controlled and vehicles are utilised to their full extent. In the public sector, the government procurement service framework contracts are utilised to best effect. As an organisation we engage with tender contracts for the provision of Original Equipment Manufacture parts supply, procurement of consumable items, maintenance of workshop tools and equipment where we gain the advantages of volume savings, rather than having several “local” arrangements. The advent of technology and telematics is now becoming more and more common and this allows for better planning for preventative maintenance as vehicle usage data is more readily available.
Q: Do electric vehicles have a presence on the NWAS fleet and are you running any other carbon-cutting initiatives?
A: Yes, within our fleet we currently operate 15 Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles on our Patient Transport Service operation. As a Trust we fully engage with NHS and National carbon reduction schemes.
Q: How much does technology affect your role and what initiatives have you looked at utilising new technology?
A: We are constantly looking towards technology to assist our fleet operations across the board. Our new fleet vehicles are now being fitted with vehicle tracker devices and CCTV systems on our emergency ambulance and response car fleets. These are vital for improving our overall road traffic collision management and insurance claims responses with our insurers. The Ministry of Justice 15 day period is now a key performance indicator in claims management. We are keen to manage and reduce our carbon footprint, which is a challenge when activity levels and mileages are on the increase.
Q: How do you make decisions about vehicles and equipment you source for your fleets?
A: As an organisation, we fully engage with all end users of both vehicles and equipment in the decision making process.
The Trust has a Vehicle and Equipment Design Group which includes membership from operations, union staff side, fleet, risk and finance which looks at ways of improving the vehicle design but also ensuring that the vehicles fully conform to relevant legislation and are of course, affordable!
Key factors are vehicle reliability, aftermarket parts supply and support services and ensuring the base vehicle manufacturer is part of the overall process. Whole life vehicle costs are an important factor and basics such as MPG, CO2 emissions and overall affordability are key considerations.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your role?
A: Working in a high profile NHS organisation and knowing that my contribution to the overall patient care helps people that I may never meet!
Q: Do you think there is a place for shared services within the public sector?
A: Yes, there are many opportunities for shared services and pooling of innovation and ideas. As a Trust we meet with our counterparts in neighboring fire, police and local authorities to review joint initiatives and opportunities for co-location.
On a lighter note…
Q: If money were no object, what would be your ideal car?
A: Being young at heart and an 80s teenager, I would still opt for the classic Ford Escort Mk1 – RS200 or RS Mexico as my ideal car. My children, on the other hand, would prefer a Ferrari or similar supercar...especially if it’s been on Top Gear!
Q: If you were stuck in traffic, who would be your ideal passenger?
A: Being an engineer, most of my heros have passed on. I have admiration for the innovation and vision of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Fred Dibnah. Good company!
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