Denbighshire County Council made the headlines last year after becoming the first Welsh fleet to receive a major grant from the Energy Saving Trust (EST).
The local authority put the money to use by fitting 73 council vehicles, focused on lorries, with diesel particulate filters. Following the success of the scheme, which covered buses, school minibuses, dustcarts and gritters, the group’s fleet manager is now looking to roll out a similar scheme across the rest of its fleet.
Fleet News has recognised the authority’s work by awarding Denbighshire County Council Fleet News’ latest Environmental Star Award, sponsored by BP. The award recognises outstanding efforts among fleets to reduce their impact on the climate.
The council’s investment in filters helps achieve an 80% reduction in carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon gas emissions for each vehicle.
Graham Taylor, the council’s fleet manager explained Denbighshire’s future plans. He said: ‘Last year we didn’t focus on vehicles up to 3.5-tonne but we are looking to extend the particulate trap technology across the fleet this year.
‘The technology is ideal for vehicles which have low mileages. Our vehicles operate very much on a stop-start basis, completing work such as re-surfacing.
‘We have 200 vehicles below 3.5-tonnes and we will be looking on our database to see which vehicles require the extra particulate fitments. Then, providing the authority gives us the money, we will fit them straight away.’
Denbighshire has already been awarded £236,000 by the EST’s TransportEnergy programme, through its CleanUP Wales scheme.
The grants run until March 31, 2005 and Taylor will be applying for further subsidies when they expire.
When the authority was awarded the grants, councillor Eryl Williams, Denbighshire’s cabinet member for the environment, said: ‘We are proud to be the first local authority in the UK to do this and we hope that other authorities will follow our lead. ‘It is so important for the health of local people. Pollution from road traffic remains a major cause of poor air quality, which makes health problems such as asthma worse.
‘This is a major step forward and we are delighted that it has been recognised as such by the Welsh Assembly which has chosen to recognise our achievement with the launch of the CleanUP Wales programme here.’
Taylor’s focus on reducing particulates follows a decision to move to an all-diesel fleet over the past five years.
He explained: ‘We took the view in the authority that we had to standardise a few years ago.
‘We moved away from petrol to an all-diesel fleet. This has taken about four to five years to achieve, but having an all-diesel fleet makes life easier for us.’
The fleet operates under a mixed badge model range, which is outright purchased and includes marques such as Citroen, Peugeot, LDV, Ford and Vauxhall. Taylor says he is happy to remain committed to diesel and feels it is unlikely he will follow some other local authorities in introducing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
He said: ‘We have looked at LPG in the past, but as there is very little gas infrastructure in the area we held back from this route.’
However, although LPG may not become a part of Denbighshire’s remit in the future, Taylor has introduced other initiatives to help the fleet become even greener. One example is an in-house driver trainer which has helped the authority’s fleet drivers to become more aware of fuel efficiency.
Taylor explained: ‘We have employed a corporate driving instructor to provide driver training for all our internal staff. Initially we outsourced the training to a company, but after it produced dividends we decided to employee a dedicated trainer.
‘Following the training it appears that drivers are more efficient with their fuel use and there has also been a change in attitude.’
While the council plans for a busy year moving its green plans forward, it is being used as a blueprint for helping the environment.
When the grant was approved, Richard Tarboton, head of EST TransportEnergy, said: ‘By taking the initiative to apply for a CleanUp grant from the Energy Saving Trust, Denbighshire County Council demonstrated its desire to lead the way towards creating a cleaner, greener environment for its residents, schools and local businesses to benefit from.
‘However, it is vital that other companies and authorities are given the opportunity to become greener with Government help.’