Fleet News

Fleet in focus: Moon and back – 66 times a year

Clocking up an amazing 32 million miles a year, way above the 240,000 miles to the moon, Tesco.com’s commercial van fleet delivers shopping ordered on the internet to customers throughout the UK.

Everything about Tesco is done on an unimaginably massive scale. Sales this year alone have surged to almost £30 billion. The firm employs more than 326,000 staff across the globe and has more than 2,300 worldwide stores, 1,878 of which are here in the UK.

‘Every Little Helps’ is the supermarket giant’s slogan and with a 27.3% share of the UK grocery market (its closest competitor is Asda with 16.6%) ‘every little’ seems to be helping a lot.

It is the world’s largest online supermarket delivering to more than 120,000 customers a week through its internet shopping portal Tesco.com contributing to a share of the group’s profits.

In its latest quarterly results for the 24 weeks to August 14, Tesco.com announced sales were up 27% to £307 million with profit climbing 95% to £15 million.

The average customer spend has increased by nearly 7% over the past three years. A huge 1,300-strong commercial van fleet is needed for delivering weekly web shopping, each vehicle covering more than 25,000 miles a year. So it’s surprising that a team of just five staff including a fleet manager, fleet engineer, operations director and a couple of admin staff manage the fleet from Tesco.com’s headquarters in Welwyn Garden City.

It’s an operation that works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The vans must be ready for action for 14 hours of each delivery day and for just the five to keep it running smoothly requires meticulous planning and organisation.

Grocery delivery proves a hugely complex business

FROM a consumer’s point of view the intricate workings of an online ordering and delivery service barely register.

It takes a huge amount of work and computing power to offer the service. Roy Perticucci, Tesco.com’s operations director, explained how keyboard orders arrive at a customer’s doorstep.

He said: ‘Orders are collected on a central database. ‘At several points throughout the day the orders are sent to individual stores using postcode information gained when the order is placed.

‘A base computer at each store then collects the information. A Tesco staff member is then tasked with ‘picking the order’.

At any one time there can be up to 10 staff members walking around a store picking items for internet orders. They are easily recognisable with large square trolleys filled with green trays to collect each order.

‘Once the order has been picked, it is assigned to a delivery van and delivered to the customer.’

The group uses technology to keep track of drivers. Each time a driver calls the central depot, the registration and vehicle location is logged, enabling Tesco.com to keep track of where vehicles are.

A similar system is used to log driver accidents or incidents. Perticucci said: ‘We track and measure any problems using a reporting system which shows how many defects happen at each store.

‘It shows how much it will cost to repair and we review incidents in stores after they happen, looking at the type of accident and the region it happened in.’

Tesco has had to review the overall design of its fleet (see below) following a spate of prangs caused by drivers unused to manoeuvring high or wide vehicles.

‘It is a relatively new business and we only had a couple of hundred vehicles at the start so we didn’t realise how many prangs we were having,’ Perticucci said.

‘Accidents or incidents are reviewed on a daily basis as we are trying to find patterns but we have tightened up on last year.’

To minimise the number of accidents on the fleet, Tesco has introduced a training programme for drivers covering issues ranging from dealing with customers to loading the vans correctly.

Perticucci said: ‘Drivers are trained how to collect orders, how to load and unload, set up the van, complete inspections, road skills and customer service skills.

‘They also need to complete a Living Service Programme which teaches them about the products they are serving.’

Every driver is also instructed to complete a pre-standard check.

Drivers have to log all vehicle details including any cosmetic changes. This is done at the start of every shift.

Managing 1,300 vans proves a huge challenge

THE group’s fleet of 1,300 Mercedes Benz, Ford and Volkswagen vans operate from just under 300 Tesco stores.

Operated on a five-year contract with ING Car Lease, the vehicles are fully liveried with Tesco branding before they reach the stores.

One of the main problems facing Tesco’s fleet manager is the extent to which the vehicles are used.

Perticucci explained: ‘Managing the fleet is a big challenge. The vans are used intensely all week which can be much more than the average car fleet. Stores always need vans available or they cannot deliver the goods and the vehicles need to be available from 9am until 11pm.’

Each driver is issued with an AllStar fuel card and is urged to fill up at Tesco’s filling stations where possible.

The fleet runs on diesel, but Tesco has not ruled out switching to alternative fuels in the future.

Perticucci said: ‘We are looking at alternative fuel sources such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and at some point we may change.’

Following a series of accidents the group has had to redesign the dimensions of the vans.

Perticucci explained: ‘We have had a radical overhaul of the van design. In a delivery-orientated business there are always things that you can do to make the delivery process easier.

‘We have lowered the overall height of the vans as a result of driver accidents. Most of our drivers hold standard driving licences and are not used to driving high vehicles.

We found we were having a lot of accidents resulting in roof damage to vans. Drivers were passing under low bridges forgetting the height of the vehicle.

‘We have also reduced the width of the vehicles for similar reasons. Many deliveries are on tight, city roads or country roads which can sometimes be difficult to navigate.

We worked on the new design for six months up until February and have been rolling out the new vans since.’

Tesco has also introduced reversing cameras which help drivers when reversing or parking. This was in direct response to its accident management programme which showed a large number of reversing accidents.

The group decided not to introduce satellite navigation as it felt there was not a need for it.

Perticucci said: ‘New drivers may get lost for a short period of time, but the catchment area around stores is usually quite small so they get to know the area very quickly.’

Listening to its drivers is one attribute Tesco claims has helped it improve its fleet management. ‘We are still learning about how to run a large fleet of commercial vehicles but we are continually listening to drivers and suppliers.

‘A lot of our success has been down to collecting information, tracking performance and looking for data patterns.’

As for the future, Perticucci still has a list of ways he wants to improve the day-to-day running of the fleet.

He said: ‘The job is never done. We want to continue to increase the capacity of the vans without increasing the weight. We want to get better. This includes encouraging the drivers to take more care of the vans and working with suppliers to shorten turnaround repair times on out-of-service vehicles.’

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