Fleet News

ENVIRONMENTAL STAR AWARD: Flaming success for Suffolk fire service

AFTER becoming the first fleet of its kind to secure a four-star rating from Motorvate, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is now the latest BP-sponsored Fleet News Environmental Star award winner.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service became an industry first when it achieved a four-star rating in the Energy Saving Trust’s (EST) Transport Energy Best Practice Motorvate programme earlier this year.

With a continuing environmental policy that has seen a steady switch to Dualfuel vehicles and a reducing fuel spend, the group’s fleet engineer Philip Dillon is on a constant crusade for a greener fleet.

These are just some of the reasons why the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is the winner of the latest Fleet News Environmental Star Award, sponsored by BP, which recognises outstanding efforts among fleets to reduce their impact on the climate. Suffolk Fire and Rescue has introduced numerous changes which have helped improve its environmental offering.

Its green policy has seen a doubling of the use of dual- fuel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cars and vans, the introduction of fully synthetic lubricants into the main fire appliance fleet and the introduction of a controlled workshop waste disposal programme.

Dillon said: ‘Our main fire fighting fleet now uses only ultra low sulphur diesel and the support fleet is moving over to LPG wherever possible. Our increasing use of LPG as a vehicle fuel is producing savings of between £500 to £700 per month.’

The brigade has reduced its overall fleet mileage by an average of 34,000 miles per year over the past three years and by increasing the use of LPG it has managed to make savings of more than £20,000 per year in its support fleet fuel budget. Suffolk Fire and Rescue’s dual-fuel fleet is backed by an alternative fuel fleet policy and its latest addition has seen four of its petrol Corsas switched for Dualfuel Astra alternatives.

The group first developed a green fleet policy in 1998, the first phase being implemented in 1999 with the introduction of 10 LPG dual fuel cars and the installation of an LPG refuelling facility. This has now grown to more than 50 dual-fuel vehicles.

The type of van used on the fleet has also changed. Dillon said: ‘We used to have small station vans but are now using Vauxhall Combo crew vans as they are five seaters and fit more crew into the same vehicle.’

Dillon is also planning to dispose of its diesel 14-seater minibus and replace it with two dual-fuel Vauxhall Zafiras.

‘This is mainly because of a change in licensing which means people with ordinary driving licences can no longer drive minibuses,’ he said.

It is not just changes to the fleet which make Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service an example to other vehicle operators.

Small changes have helped ease fuel consumption. Dillon explained: ‘We have switched from using blue lights on the top of vehicles to LEDs which helps save on fuel consumption. We also looked at the 10 fire safety officers who were running 10 vehicles and have put people together so they no longer go out as individuals.’

Following new Government policies on fire, the service is trying to educate people in a bid to prevent fires from happening in the first place. This in turn helps with fuel consumption.

Dillon said: ‘We are now trying to send support vehicles to educate people such as in schools about fires. This prevents them from happening and helps reduce fuel use as the larger fire engines which do six miles per gallon are needed less often.’

The brigade has also linked its two main operating sites by video link. The link helps to reduce the amount of vehicle movements by cutting the need to travel to its headquarters for fire safety meetings.

Members of Motorvate, which the brigade is part of, commit to achieving a 12% reduction in fuel use, which includes a 3% reduction in mileage over a three-year period. The Motorvate programme recognises the ‘significant improvements’ the service has made in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from its fleet and reducing fuel consumption.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service has seen its workload increase by almost 2,500 safety inspection visits and call-outs. Despite this, its overall fleet mileage has increased by just 7%.

More importantly, its fleet CO2 emissions have only increased by 2%.

Dillon said: ‘We started out with a strong focus on the efficiency and environmental performance of our whole fleet and our workload has increased significantly over the past months, which has made the Motorvate targets that bit more challenging to achieve.

‘However, the programme has provided us with invaluable objectives and professional support, which has helped us to further reduce fleet operating costs and minimise the environmental impact of our fleet operations.

‘We are determined to continue working with Motorvate experts to make progress towards gaining our fifth star.’

Richard Tarboton, head of EST TransportEnergy, said: ‘Reducing vehicle emissions is not just about clean vehicle technology, the way that we drive our vehicles also has a huge impact. We are working with industry to provide advice and support to fleet managers in the day-to-day running of their fleet to help them increase efficiency. I am pleased that public service fleets like Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is taking its environmental responsibilities seriously and hope that other organisations follow their lead.’

The next project on the cards for Dillon is to install satellite navigation systems on the fire fleet.

He said: ‘This would enable fire fighters to operate more efficiently in unknown areas and improve fuel use even further.’


Motorvate’s certificates are awarded on a five-star system. Suffolk Fire and Rescue achieved a four star rating. (Source: Motorvate)

Year=Criteria for award= Stars awarded

0 Participant has signed up to Motorvate and provided the necessary data to be assessed. 1 star

1 Participant has established its baseline and has made demonstrable progress towards achieving savings 2 stars

2 Participant continues to make demonstrable progress towards their target 3 stars

3 Participant meets its target 4 stars

4 Participant exceeds its target, for example:

  • CO2 savings exceed the 12% reduction target
  • Mileage savings exceed the 3% reduction target
  • At least 10% of the fleet consists of cleaner fuel vehicles (for example, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, electric or hybrids) 5 stars
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