Fleets discussed ways in which they could reduce operating costs at the round table sponsored by Euro Shell Card.
Telematics systems used while engaging drivers in the process proved popular, while different methods of controlling costs and best practice were investigated.
End-of-contract charges by leasing companies are still something of an issue for many fleets, particularly with commercial vehicles where lifecycles have been extended.
What initiatives have you introduced that have reduced costs?
Adam Davies: We have recently introduced in-cab technology with Lightfoot. We managed to sell it within our organisation with more fuel-efficient and safer driving, and anything that saves money on fuel is popular. There are audible warnings, but once people change their driving style the warnings stop. We get a report every week and drivers see improving as in their interests. Drivers get three warnings before it’s flagged up with us, so really it only alerts us to consistent bad driving. We’ve noticed incidents are dropping on the LCVs, but we haven’t found a product suitable for the heavier vehicles yet. One driver has the audible warning turned off because he said it was too much of a distraction but the warning lights still prompt.
Steve Smith: Do you make a point of sitting down with all the drivers to talk about their performance?
Adam Davies: Only for those that we need to have discussions with. We let the managers know to tell drivers they’re doing well. The USP to the driver is that they get a chance to improve before we find out about it. We had it on trial for three months but will now roll out to around 200-250 vans.
Glenn Ewen: Have you tried incentivising drivers? We’ve got telematics. It’s blind at the moment on trial. What we’re looking to do is put anyone that’s in the green zone into a prize draw every month.
Chris Evans: With our system every driver starts on maximum points and throughout the day they lose points. We tried it blind. Each service centre was briefed on reporting. When the reporting stops, we lose the good work we’ve achieved. As the trial goes on, drivers accept it and they begin to compete to be the best driver.
Jerry Ward: For our drivers we were getting good performance, so we had to ask the supplier to make it more difficult and change the parameters for reporting.
Jo Hammonds: We’ve always backed away from tracking because we don’t think it helped us that much. In terms of behaviour, I think the biggest thing we’ll see is the fuel saving. Before that, we’ve limited vans to 60mph for many years. We get very few complaints .
Chris Evans: Our vans are restricted to 68mph and some complain it’s unsafe. Many drivers don’t seem to be aware that the speed limit on dual carriageways is 60mph unless it’s a motorway.
What other measures have you undertaken to reduce costs?
Jo Hammonds: We introduced reversing sensors on vans. Since then, I’ve barely had a reversing accident to deal with.
Julie King: We introduced them around 18 months ago on all new vans. We had quite a few incidents. Supermarket car parks with pedestrians and moving vehicles were hazardous.
Chris Evans: We’ve tried reversing sensors. We’ve now dropped them and gone to a camera system. Cameras are great but you are taking your eyes off the mirrors.
Glenn Ewen: With so many sensors on vehicles now, alerts can be distracting when a driver is stopped waiting to turn at junctions.
Chris Evans: We’re also trialling forward-facing cameras. We get a lot of fraudulent claims, but half the time you can bang them to rights. It is more difficult to fit them with company car drivers.
Glenn Ewen: It’s a witness for people driving on their own. Just recently we’ve had some 50:50 incidents that cost us a substantial amount of money when they shouldn’t have cost us anything.
Jerry Ward: We’re finding drivers often buy cameras off their own back. Whereas in the past they were buying their own sat-nav, they now buy cameras too.
Glenn Ewen: We’ve gone from four to five years on cars as well as vans. Lease costs came down by more than we were expecting the maintenance to go up. The only issue we’ve had for drivers is with BIK tax. For some, they’re out of pocket by something like £70 a year compared with if they were able to choose a new, lower-CO2 car.
How do you know you’re getting best value from suppliers?
Patrick McDermott: We look at other trusts to benchmark – we capture lots of data regarding fleet size, reimbursement, etc.
Jerry Ward: It’s difficult to get hold of that data for a fleet like ours. We went out to tender last year. Suppliers can give us an idea of what other customers are saving with certain choices, although we’re never really sure how accurate that might be. We make sure we benchmark internally with cost centres and branches.
Glenn Ewen: The only way to do it is to tender. You can squeeze a bit more out of the incumbent suppliers too.
With longer vehicle lifecycles and service intervals, what can you do to ensure maintenance costs are kept in check?
Maurice Elford: With some vans working in London we might carry out a safety check at 12 months rather than waiting for a two-year service.
Chris Evans: We always ensure vehicles in London are serviced annually, and undergo safety inspections at 16-week intervals. Preventative maintenance like this is included in the monthly rental and minimises downtime.
Jo Hammonds: Our telematics provides a brake warning so we can pre-empt maintenance.
What are you doing regarding end-of-contract charges?
Chris Evans: We must watch out for the return condition of vehicles. They have to be road legal, and we set agreements to pay for each vehicle going back. Some people looked after their vans, but others didn’t. We’re not quite sure who won, but we felt we were controlling the cost.
Adam Davies: Leasing companies have a different view of wear and tear from the rest of us. Although the lease agreement was with us, more often than not they would liaise with the driver, who would sign off without checking.
Jo Hammonds: The BVRLA wear and tear guide seems more geared toward daily rental vehicles than lease cars. The commercial vehicle guide is out of kilter for four and five-year-old vans.
Glenn Ewen: People expect five-year-old vans to have higher levels of wear and tear. We get queries about lower mileage and good condition vehicles.
Jo Hammonds - group asset manager, Mears Group
700 cars, 4,300 vans
Steve Smith - regional transport manager, Oxfam
125 vehicles (mainly cars)
Glenn Ewen - fleet manager, Clear Channel
Patrick McDermott transport and telecoms manager, Dorset Healthcare
Chris Evans - fleet operations manager, DHL International (UK)
1,000 vans, 400 cars
Maurice Elford - fleet manager, L&Q Group
80 vans 20 cars,
350 grey fleet
Adam Davies - fleet technical team leader, Wiltshire Council
4,000 grey fleet
Julie King - fleet manager, Emcor Facilities Services
200 grey fleet
Jerry Ward - manager legal operations, John Lewis
1,500-plus cars, 2,500 commercials and trailers