Ensuring the baggage for more than 63 million people a year departs or arrives with its owner is just one of the many complex tasks faced by the BAA vehicle fleet at Heathrow.
As one of the UK’s leading airport companies, involved in almost every aspect of the day-to-day running of six airports, BAA faces its biggest challenge at Heathrow, the world’s fourth busiest airport. With more than six million terminal passengers in September alone, ensuring a smooth and efficient operation is paramount.
The Heathrow fleet consists of 480 vehicles, a number that has been reducing as the company improves its efficiency by acquiring vehicles that can be used for a multitude of tasks.
“We are always looking for ways our vehicles can multi-task and try to keep bringing down overall costs,” says Steve Cavinder, transport manager at Heathrow.
All of the fleet vehicles at Heathrow are business-need only and are based on site.
The vehicles themselves range from cars, small vans and minibuses to 4x4s and electric vehicles that can transport passengers and cargo around the airport.
The only formal requirements for the 9,000 vehicles registered for operating airside at Heathrow are that they can be clearly identifiable and fitted with a flashing beacon.
Further, if the vehicles are being used on manoeuvring areas, then they also require airfield radios.
The standard cars and small vans, 180 in total, are leased through LeasePlan while the 300 specialist vehicles are purchased outright.
Cavinder will buy from various manufacturers, selected first for price and secondly for their environmental credentials.
BAA (Heathrow) has around 1,300 people licensed to drive the vehicles and Cavinder believes his fleet more closely resembles a pool fleet model than a typical company car fleet.
“The vehicles are effectively pool cars and vans except the fact that they have fitted accessories,” says Cavinder. “Multi-drivers can often raise a number of faults with cars as the driver behaviours vary.”
To rectify this, BAA Heathrow currently runs an in-house driver training programme where drivers are given one-to-one training and complete online risk assessments.
“We do complete risk assessments for all of our activities and we have a dedicated training team who provide training to all of our operators.
"This training is supported by the appropriate training material,” says Cavinder.
Because all of the vehicles are based on site, Cavinder has been able to outsource all of the fleet’s fuel and fuel management to a company called Airport Energy.
All vehicles are fitted with a fuel chip which enables them to fill up in any of the three fuel stations on site at the airports for free.
Cavinder is also sent reports to help him manage the company’s fuel costs.
Because the airport is a confined space, most of the vehicles do not travel many miles and Cavinder has found that using fuel-saving technology has brought very little benefit.
“Because of the short journeys we do, the engines don’t even get a chance to warm up, so we do not see the benefits from new technology including fuel saving technology,” he says.
Mileage across the fleet varies from vehicle to vehicle, some vehicles will run as little as 5,000 miles in one year while others could travel up to 25,000 miles but the majority of the vehicles are low mileage.
Downsizing the fleet
Cavinder has introduced a number of initiatives to reduce vehicles on the fleet and has already successfully cut the leased fleet by 50 vehicles over two years.
The main contributor is becoming smarter at looking for vehicles that can multi-task and utilising other available transport around the airport.
“We are always looking for our vehicles to be able to multi-task – we found too many vehicles sitting idle and not being used to their full potential,” he says.
“There are other ways to travel around the airport – buses can be used for free and we actively promote using cycles, too.”