The heightening of tension surrounding the potential threat from terrorism in the UK is forcing the emergency services and local authorities to turn to the armed forces for support in vehicle selection.
The aftershocks of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States continue to be felt. They have been intensified by security scares at airports and the uncovering of potential terrorist plots in the UK and abroad, which have led to urgent reappraisals by the civil authorities as to how prepared they are in the event of an attack – and whether they have the equipment to cope.
There are few organisations that can match the ability of the armed forces to meet any challenge they face, anywhere in the world.
Combine this with the intense focus placed on the services to keep costs to the minimum and the result is a great example to any industry sector, not least of all fleet.
At the forefront of the services' fleet management is the Combat Support Vehicles Light (CSVL) Integrated Projects Team. It is a part of the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA), responsible for purchasing and supplying vehicles to the services and Government agencies.
Each year it brings together the industry, in particular vehicle manufacturers and customers, at the Defence Vehicle Dynamics (DVD) show, this year held at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.
The Combat Support Vehicles Light section of the DPA is responsible for purchasing vehicles for the Ministry of Defence and Government departments including the Northern Ireland Office, Department for the Environment, the Government Car and Despatch Agency, National Probation Service and the Medical Research Council. They are known as demanders in military-speak.
The section has an annual budget of about £50 million and includes among its suppliers – called enablers – all the big manufacturers, led in budget spend by Ford. Many were showing off their latest models at the DVD show.
Nick Fox, a member of the CSVL planning cell, said: 'We are the front-end acquisition team that allows different and disparate departments to acquire vehicles with the minimum amount of hassle.
'We can act as a single point of contact between the enabler and the demander when vehicles are required, speeding up the supply process because there is not the need to put a contract out to tender each time. A Government department can explain its needs to us and we can find the best enabler to meet them.'
The process can be as simple as publishing an advert asking companies to submit a list of products. At the moment there are 30 contracts out for 75 demanders. The past 12 months has seen a concerted effort to expand the use of these 'enabling' contracts.
Fox added: 'We're getting a lot more interest from police forces and emergency services interested in using our enablers and using us to supply equipment to them that we may already be buying for the military.
'They like the process because it makes business sense, but also because of the new focus on homeland defence and the realisation that we could already have experience of running the type of vehicle they are after.'
One police force, which he declined to name, has been in touch because its area includes an airport that is considered to be a potential target for a hijacking.
'We've acted as consultants in the supply of an armoured car,' said Fox.
But the majority of those vehicles ordered are cars used for more everyday purposes. And the CSVL does not always need to be included in the purchasing process. 'If demanders know exactly what they want they can go direct to the enabler,' added Fox.
The CSVL has understandably developed a close relationship with vehicle manufacturers. One of the quirks of the position it occupies in the mix of commercial and military is ensuring vehicles meet whatever purpose they are needed for.
He said: 'We are very strict on following legislation regarding vehicle use, in particular the Euro III and Euro IV emission regulations. But this presents unique problems when it comes to operating vehicles in places like Iraq where fuel quality isn't the same as in this country. In the past you could run vehicles on kerosene, but the sophistication of engines now means we can't do that anymore.
'We work closely with manufacturers to ensure we get the best we can for operating abroad and in the UK, where the vehicles spend most of the time being used.'
Lex Defence improves its service after MoD survey
A NEW focus on IT and e-commerce for invoicing and communication with customers is the result of wide-ranging research carried out by Lex Defence with the Ministry of Defence.
Lex Defence is responsible for £1 billion of defence contracts, managing more than 14,000 vehicles in a contract running until 2011. Lex Defence White Fleet, a joint Lex Transfleet and Lex Vehicle Leasing company, supplies and manages the three armed services' 14,000-vehicle fleet, including cars, commercial and specialist vehicles.
Nearly two years after the contract came into effect, the company carried out a customer research project which highlighted a number of areas of improvement in the white fleet management and, in particular, the periodic hire service.
Brian Grant, managing director of Lex Defence, said: 'We learned very quickly during the implementation of the contract that we weren't close enough to the end user because we were concentrating heavily on putting vehicles in place.
'The need to find out what our users wanted resulted in the survey. While there were teething problems, the survey has shown that after one full year of running the contract 82% of respondents are satisfied with what we're doing.'
However, Lex Defence is acting on the areas identified as needing improvement. It has developed links with its suppliers to receive and process electronic invoices; from April 2003 at least 85% of invoicing is done within six weeks of completion of the hire and 100% within 10 weeks. There are financial penalties if these deadlines are not met.
Lex Defence has developed a system allowing online vehicle booking, known as Vision, which is being tested in a pilot scheme. We also plan to improve and develop our electronic links with major sub-contractors to improve the speed and accuracy of the booking process for the customer and supplier,' said Grant.
Other changes are a little more straightforward. Grant explained how the military was trying to adopt more structured commercial processes. An example is the provision of standard vehicles rather than individually-specced models. There was, he said, some resentment that customers were being told what they would drive. 'It died away very quickly because they realise it means better value', he added.
Land Rover helps cut costs for fire brigade
A MEETING of minds between the fire brigade and Land Rover more than a year ago is today helping the emergency service meet the demands of the Government for a more versatile and cost-effective force.
Eighteen months ago a fire brigade came to Land Rover with a dilemma. It was trying to modify a Defender so that while it could have a fire fighting capability it would also double up as a pick-up. Land Rover was already working on such a vehicle.
Today, two are in service with East Sussex Fire Brigade, with another four on order. Another brigade is using three more. Sally Withers, Land Rover specialist vehicles business development manager, said: 'Up until now if a fire station received a shout, they could send out a Dennis fire engine to fight the fire, a second as back-up and the third as a people carrier.
'Each Dennis costs up to £250,000 per unit and is used whatever size job it is called out on. This is not an economical use of resources. The modified Defender, with a price tag of about £50,000, is much more versatile and is more suited to meeting a specific need.'
The Defender is designed to either carry a 375-litre or 700-litre water tank. Either can be removed using an on-board crane to convert the vehicle into a standard drop side. It is also available as a chassis cab variant, cable of carrying three fire fighters, or a crew cab which carries five people plus fire fighting equipment. The Defender can carry three types of fire fighting equipment: a water system, fogging system (spraying a high pressure mist) and a compressed air foam system. The next generation could include cutting equipment.
Withers said: 'We do not expect this to replace the Dennis, but it is ideal as a first response vehicle that has excellent four-wheel drive capability and with the Department for Transport considering using motorway hard shoulders as traffic lanes, we have a vehicle that can get to incidents a Dennis tender would struggle to reach. 'We are helping the fire brigade to meet the demands placed on it in the most efficient way.'
Police play green card with Honda hybrid cars
HONDA is winning the confidence of UK police forces with its latest hybrid technology vehicle.
A demonstration fleet of its new Civic IMA SE Executive saloon, featuring an advanced petrol-electric engine system, is being put to the test by a number of forces, according to Mark Jones, Honda's government and emergency vehicles sales consultant.
The Civic IMA was launched on May 1 in the UK. Merseyside Police has bought six and Wiltshire Police five. Both forces run Honda Accords, Civics, CR-Vs, Streams and Jazz.
At the heart of the Civic IMA is the 1.3-litre i-DSi petrol engine coupled with a lightweight electric motor which acts as a generator during deceleration and braking, automatically recharging the car's battery pack. The combined fuel consumption is 58mpg and carbon dioxide emissions 116g/km.
Jankel fits up vehicles for when the going gets tough
RISK management is taking on a whole new meaning as far as international fleets are concerned.
The traditional roles of crash prevention and managing drivers' hours has expanded into the realms of protection against the AK47 rifle and fragmentation grenade for international companies that have to consider the dangers of international terrorism. And they are turning to companies such as Jankel Armouring, a UK family-run business that has been reinforcing cars with steel plates and thickened glass since the mid-1980s.
Lorne Stoddart, Jankel sales and marketing director, said: 'Around the world companies and police forces are looking at security and asking, what happens if we have people working in, say, Nigeria and someone gets shot at or killed?
'Have we done enough to ensure their security? For example Virgin Atlantic fly to Lagos at 11pm. The hotel its staff are staying at is 15 miles from the airport. This is not a good time or place to be travelling.'
Customers include the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, aviation companies and news agencies such as ABC and Associated Press Television News, which has bought a Jankel Aigis vehicle fitted with the highest optical quality glass allowing broadcast footage to be shot from inside.
The armoured vehicles are being used in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe. A courier firm has also placed an order for use in Baghdad.
'A lot of fleet and transport managers we are talking to have never had to buy armoured vehicles. Up until now their main purchasing concern has been a few hundred Ford Focus cars,' said Stoddart.
One of Jankel's most recent customers is the Metropolitan Police, which has awarded the Surrey company a five-year contract, initially for 13 Guardian armoured vehicles, a variant of the Aigis already in service with the Ministry of Defence.
An initial batch of three was supplied to the Met for use at Heathrow Airport in July 2002. The Guardian will replace a fleet of armoured Land Rovers and will be managed through fleet outsourcing firm Venson.
The Guardian is based on a 4x4 Ford F-450 Super Duty truck that can carry eight crew and equipment. It is equipped with a 6.0-litre V8 turbodiesel engine developing 325bhp at 3,300 rpm and 560lb-ft of torque. It weighs 6,804kg. A Scorpion tank weighs 7,938kg.
The level of protection afforded by the Met's vehicles has not been disclosed, but the Guardian's base vehicle specification includes fragmentation grenade and 7.62 calibre bullet protection.
Another vehicle Jankel offers with armoured protection finding its way on to UK fleets is the Toyota Land Cruiser. Whereas the base vehicle costs about £24,000, the Jankel version, with its armour protection, 129bhp 4,164cc diesel engine, costs £60,000. Stoddart said Jankel has supplied about six of these to UK companies this year.
Models from Mercedes-Benz, Bentley and Rolls-Royce are also modified by Jankel. The process can take from between five weeks to 15 months. The vehicle is supplied from the manufacturer and once the client has specified protection requirements, Jankel begins by removing the interior and installing 6mm thick steel. Ballistic glass is put into the window and door apertures.
Stoddart said: 'Once complete we put the interior back. The internal dimensions of the car are slightly less because of the armour so the A, B and C pillars have to be cut down to the new dimensions by hand.'
The increase in weight can be up to 1,500kgs. Suspension and brake modifications are then made to ensure the 'new' vehicle's handling characteristics match as closely as possible that of the original vehicle.
Military looks at Signum for staff car use
THE Vauxhall Signum is being evaluated by the military as a potential staff car. The DVD show was part of the trial proces, with a number of models available to drive.
While Lex Defence is concerned whether the car's wholelife costs fit within the MoD's requirements, other more personal issues come into play. For example, many of the military staff who could use the car will be chauffeur-driven, so will the senior staff officers be able to get in and sit comfortably in the back seat and have enough room to work? A decision on whether the Signum will be bought as a staff car is expected in the next few weeks.