Energy giant SSE is involved in producing, distributing and supplying electricity and gas along with other energy-related services in a reliable and sustainable way. Presently, it invests £1.5bn a year and employs 20,000 people in order to develop and maintain the UK’s energy infrastructure so it’s important that the company has a reliable fleet that is run efficiently and safely. Gemma Trew, Fleet Manager (Van & Truck) speaks to Utility Fleet magazine about new vehicles that are currently arriving for the smart meter installation teams and other matters…
THERE’S never a dull moment when it comes to looking after a large fleet of vans and trucks – especially when it’s for one of the ‘big six’ energy suppliers. Gemma Trew, Fleet Manager (Van & Truck) for SSE has been kept incredibly busy recently with the implementation of a new fleet of vans for the organisation’s smart meter installers.
Gemma has headed up the energy supplier’s switch to the Ford Transit Custom as the preferred workhorse, with 507 specially equipped examples joining SSE’s fleet.
“We chose the Ford Transit Custom for this role for a number of reasons,” said Gemma. “It was not simply a question of economics – although the Transit does offer excellent whole-life costs – driver comfort and load area convenience were significant factors too. The Transit’s load space shape is ideal for the job.”
SSE’s Transit Customs are equipped with the powerful yet economical 2.0-litre 130PS Ford EcoBlue TDCi engine with Auto-Stop-Start technology. The first vehicles, in their striking livery, have already hitting the road as part of SSE’s nationwide smart meter roll-out programme. Their arrival on the SSE fleet will increase Ford’s share of the company’s 6,000-vehicle light commercial fleet to nearly 30%.
This was a big order for Ford and one which helped to underline the competitiveness and desirability of the Transit Custom for major companies seeking a reliable and cost-effective solution.
Of course, it’s not just the type vehicle that needs to be taken into consideration when purchasing for a specific job. Ensuring that the vehicles are fitted out correctly with internal storage and racking by a trusted converter is essential.
Gemma continued: “When it came to organising conversions for the vehicles to create mobile workshop facilities for the installation teams we turned to Qi Van Systems of Telford, Shropshire. They are experts within the industry and their Order Management Tracking System (OMTS) gave us a holistic view of the conversion process. Everyone involved (from vehicle suppliers to the livery company) had access to be able to keep information up-to-date and give the usaccurate timelines for the project.”
When it came to vehicle livery Gemma turned to Mediafleet, based in Whitney – a company that she’d worked with before when she had the task of rolling out SSE’s new identity across the fleet between 2014 and 2016 when some 3,500 vehicles, that included both new vehicles and in-fleet re-brands, were comissioned.
“At the time, my challenge was to ensure the highest quality of service and brand visibility in rolling out our new identity across the SSE vehicle fleet. I recognised early on that I would need a responsive, innovative and most of all reliable organisation to do this,” said Gemma.
“Working with an external branding team can sometimes lead to conflict; but I felt confident in my decision to engage with Mediafleet. Their listening and learning approach and no-nonsense attitude has been refreshing and I now know that my intuition was spot on.”
The decision to work so closely with Mediafleet through this process reinforced SSE’s brand – the vehicles are striking, smart and recognisable around the country.
Delivery of the 507 Transit Customs will be completed this month (November) when the vans will be in service across the UK.
FLEET COMPLIANCE & RISK
When it comes to compliance and driver risk, SSE has a very proactive approach. It targets road safety issues through advanced driver analysis and action planning. Its Permit to Drive Scheme provides temporary or full authorisation to operate a car or van on work business and engaging with line managers encourages them to take responsibility for the performance of drivers.
The company has recognised that employees are most at risk whilst out on the road, and many accidents occur as a result of drivers failing to adequately risk assess their journey.
Possibly one of the biggest challenges with a fleet such as that of SSE, is the variety of vehicles across the light commercial fleet, heavy goods vehicles, and specialist plant. Bringing about consistency in procedures can be hard to achieve. One example is the potential issue of wheel detachment and the SSE fleet team took the approach that prevention was better than cure by adopting Wheel Sentry® from ATE.
Gemma said: “Wheel safety is important to SSE. With a large fleet of LCVs, HGVs and plant trailers that cover a huge number of miles, we know that wheel safety issues are inevitable. Wheel Sentry® was a bit of a revelation - it allowed us to fit one product in a standard way across our entire fleet.
“In addition, Wheel Sentry provided the extra security of retaining the wheel nut even if it had loosened, which the previous product we were using did not.”
Running a variety of vehicles also means that vehicle payloads vary considerably and need to be adhered to in order to protect drivers from accidents, fines and convictions.
In 2015 Gemma contacted Stuart Richardson, Senior Sales Engineer at Red Forge, to help review the vehicles and available payloads for their divisions.
Richard was asked to attend one of the SSE sites and complete some weight checks on what were then SSE’s current vehicles, to start the process of specification for the next fleet.
Stuarts’ findings were supplied to SSE and Lex Autolease (who procured the vehicles), with recommendations of layouts and weights of vehicle. The procurement process was then set in motion.
Red Forge were then contacted when the first vehicle was ready for installation. On completion of the installation of the system it was calibrated to the vehicle’s plated weights and this information was then sent through to Lex Autolease for the vehicle records.
To complete the process, driver training is offered to all users of the Red Forge system, with a train the trainer course also available. SSE Drivers, and depots, have the ability to contact the Red Forge office directly if they so wish, to check details or ask any questions they may have.