Mears buys a chunk of vehicles for each contract so it has some flexibility for extending or reducing cycles outside of the standard four-year policy.
Consequently, some vans are kept for just 12 months, but most can be slotted elsewhere within the fleet – the company replaces around 100 vehicles a month.
The benefit of a solus partnership in leasing is clearly rubbing off in other areas, as Hammonds has also opted to go solus for his van fleet.
Ford was selected, based on quality and robustness of each vehicle and the breadth of range from Fiestavan to Transit, chassis and 4x4s models. Reliability was also an important consideration.
“The ability to keep our vans on the road is key,” he says.
“The price might not ultimately be the cheapest, but it serves the purpose in keeping vans on the road .
"Ford has also looked after us well – we’ve never had supply problems.”
As part of the deal, Hammonds negotiated reversing sensors which has reduced the repair bill by tens of thousands of pounds.
“We did a trial at one branch to assess the benefits and we saved between £50,000 and £75,000 over a three-year period,” he says.
Speed limiters, initially retro-fitted at the cost of £50 per van, are now also included as standard. As Hammonds says: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get
"If you don’t get to the point where they say ‘that’s enough’, there’s still probably more to go.”
Originally set at 70mph, but quickly reduced to 60mph, a communications plan explained to drivers the reasons why – principally safety and fuel efficiency. They accepted the change.
Fuel consumption is expected to improve by around 5-10%. On an annual bill of £8 million, that’s a significant saving.
Further fuel savings are being achieved via a programme of van downsizing which started a couple of years ago.
The strategy involves selecting vans that are best suited to the job rather than automatically going for the Transit option.
Consequently, Mears now has around 200 Fiestavans on the fleet; two years ago it had none.
Hammonds predicts the number will further increase.
“Some contracts would’ve been 80% Transit,” he says. “Now that will be 50%.”
This is where his regional team makes a difference by meeting managers to match the van to the services being delivered.
In addition to the savings on lower lease prices, less damage and cheaper maintenance, the Fiestavans are achieving 50-60mpg compared to Connects at 30-35mpg and Transits at 25-30mpg.