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Fleets in focus: Croydon Council and Zipcar

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Croydon Council has saved £500,000 and nearly halved its business mileage by replacing grey fleet use with an employee car club.

The car club is run by the council’s facilities management department, in partnership with Zipcar, and launched last year after a two-year pilot scheme and a full tender through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

The results of the pilot scheme led to the council winning an Energy Saving Trust Fleet Hero Award for ‘business mileage management’ and it finished runner-up in the ‘innovation in fleet management’ category (behind Commercial Group) last year.

The council first looked at the idea of introducing a car club in 2010 after a review of its grey fleet found employees were travelling more than a million business miles a year in their own vehicles. Many of them were social workers who had to travel at short notice and received a car allowance to run their own vehicles.

The council decided to remove car allowances for a number of employees after a review of staff benefits and consultation with employees and unions.

Rather than simply taking car allowances away, grey fleet drivers were offered use of a pool car through the pilot scheme with Zipcar. The council also introduced a number of initiatives to encourage staff to travel in a more environmentally-friendly way, in line with its aim of reducing energy use and emissions across council buildings and schools by 25% over a five-year period (2010-2015).

The car club pilot scheme was supported by a grant from Transport for London, which helped to get stakeholders to buy in. “It was invaluable to do the pilot to get the stats and the trends, to raise employee awareness and to check that it was going to be successful before we committed,” says Amanda Riggall, head of facilities at Croydon Council.

The facilities department manages 300 buildings throughout the borough and although fleet is not its core role, the Zipcar scheme was a “natural fit” with the department, according to Riggall. The council’s other vehicles (such as its Careline service vehicles) are currently managed separately by individual depots.

There are 24 car club vehicles at six locations in the borough, close to where staff are based. The vehicles are all less than 18 months old and are mainly Volkswagen Golfs. There is one range-extender electric vehicle (the Vauxhall Ampera), which has proved to be one of the most popular vehicles and is booked out 99% of the time.

The council hopes to replace the majority of the pool car fleet with electric or hybrid vehicles, having recently secured a grant to install electric vehicle charging points throughout the borough. The vehicles are available to staff between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, and can be booked out for an hour or the whole day.

Outside these hours, the vehicles are available to the public. Rather than paying a monthly contract hire charge per vehicle, Croydon Council pays a fixed fee per vehicle per day.

The fee is two-and-a-half times cheaper than it would have been if the council did not make the vehicles available to the public, as the profits from public use go to Zipcar. If members of the public don’t book the vehicles during the evenings and the weekends, the council still receives its reduced rate.

“The responsibility, rightly in my opinion, is with Zipcar to market and manage public use of the vehicles,” says Riggall.

Since the pilot scheme began, membership has consistently increased each year by about 100 staff and 365 members of the public, and now stands at 400 and 1,800 respectively.

Staff can join as private members for a reduced rate and the vehicles are available to council partners for council business at rates significantly below those for private hire vehicles. Before the scheme started, Zipcar ran an advertising campaign aimed at the residents and users in the borough, so that when it went live there were immediate bookings.

The council and Zipcar also held a number of briefings and open events for staff, along with a poster campaign, intranet updates and personalised emails. Getting key people involved at the beginning has been an important part of the scheme’s success.

“It’s word of mouth,” says Ruth Morley, service performance manager at Croydon Council, who was heavily involved in the pilot scheme. “A lot of staff have joined through their colleagues telling them ‘it’s great’.”

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