On nine separate occasions during our two-hour meeting, Morrison Plant Services director Jeremy Harrison reiterates the company’s number one priority: “Health and safety – it drives everything we do.”
Few fleets profess to safety being their primary focus. Most will point to cost as the central theme that underpins their fleet strategy.
“In our industry and with the clients we have, health and safety is key,” explains Harrison, although he adds that cost and environmental initiatives are still high on Morrison’s agenda.
“Without an excellent safety record, we have no work and, therefore, no fleet.”
Best practice employed in the company’s truck fleet as part of Morrison’s Operator’s Licence, feeds down to the vans.
Daily driver checks, monitored via spot audits, mirror those carried out by the truck drivers, while maintenance and servicing takes place every 8,000 miles, way beyond manufacturers’ 20,000-mile recommended schedules.
“Any failure in a van, whether maintenance or process-driven, has an impact on our O-Licence,” adds Harrison.
The occupational road risk driving policy overrides all aspects of Morrison’s operation – nothing is allowed to take precedence.
It starts as soon as a new member of staff is employed. A one-day induction focusing on driving and how to carry out daily maintenance checks is delivered by a health and safety manager, transport manager and a training assessor.
Driving licences are checked online via Licence Bureau for all staff, including grey fleet drivers. The biggest issues tend to be revoked licences due to changes of address and points not added.
Health and safety managers enable the fleet team to communicate messages across the business while two driver trainers have been employed to improve safety by reducing the risk of accidents.
They investigate every incident and assess each driver to identify future risk and recommend remedial action.
Claims have already fallen by 23%.
Telematics is being installed in all the vans – 950 vehicles so far have the Minorplanet system.
The speeding, harsh braking and cornering reports are linked to incident information to assist accident investigations.
But it also helps Morrison to manage a fleet that is flung wide across many contracts, particularly for job sheets and tracking.
The company will consider any option to improve safety, although not all of them are a success.
Reversing cameras were trialled in a bid to reduce rear end incidents.
However, vans were broken into by people thinking the systems were sat-navs.
The cost of replacing smashed windows exceeded the savings from fewer rear end prangs.
The cameras were taken out; Morrison tackled the issue through driver training and making reversing while towing part of its driver assessment.
While the priority is safety, cost and the environment are still core to the fleet strategy.
However, cost takes a back seat when it comes to selecting the right vans to add to the fleet. It’s important, of course, but only after Morrison has set the specification requirements, ensuring its options are fit for purpose, and taken environmental considerations into account.
Once those parameters are set, the deciding factor comes down to cost. Re-tendering for its manufacturer partners takes place later this year.
Fit for purpose vehicles are crucial because of Morrison’s business contracts with utilities companies.
Many are 10-year contracts with no guarantees on the volume of vehicles required at any one time.
This means its vehicles have to be flexible enough to be switched to other contracts, which might have different requirements, as demand fluctuates.
“Fuel and emissions are key drivers, but they pale into insignificance if the vehicle is not fit for purpose,” explains Harrison.
Morrison’s fleet department handles most services in-house.
The company has its own workshops and schedules maintenance and repairs to coincide with the recalibration and checking of equipment carried in the vans, such as gas monitors and cable detectors.
This minimises vehicle and equipment downtime – neither can operate without the other.
Morrison’s three workshops – Bellshill in Scotland, Castleford, West Yorkshire, and Arlesey, Bedfordshire – are supported by two satellite operations in Maidstone, Kent, and Avonmouth.
Those fixed sites are further supplemented with ‘contract aligned’ workshops.
“We often work on five- or 10-year contracts – that allows us the certainty to go and provide a full workshop in that area. We lease units and put the equipment in,” says Harrison.
“We generally have around 18 in operation at any one time.”
This level of service, which minimises vehicle downtime, helps to differentiate Morrison in its tender negotiations with clients.
It owns as many of its assets as possible – including 12,000 items of construction plant – and keeps services in-house which helps to control costs.