Thames Water launched its Branded Fleet Partnership, an initiative to align the operating standards of its alliance partners, at an event in London last month.
The aim was to bring together the fleet departments of partners who operate Thames Water branded vehicles and create a single fleet partnership agreement to be signed by all members, ensuring transparency and consistency across its branded fleet.
Jon Loveday, commercial and transformation director at Thames Water, said: “We have changed significantly in the past three years. Our alliances are now the backdrop of the way we work as a business and we now share commercially how we work and our intelligence.
“When we look at fleet, that’s an area we haven’t touched. There’s a huge amount of opportunity in this space, we still operate in silence.
“Across other parts of Thames Water our teams are really well embedded and work together in a collaborative way.”
To facilitate the initiative, 8Works, a specialist consultancy, was appointed following its assistance with the implementation of Thames Water’s capital programme, last year.
The capital programme was an alliance partnership between Thames Water’s biggest construction partners to carry out £4 billion of capital investment programmes and network and developer services over five years.
8Works applies a ‘non-conventional’ approach, using short, interactive sessions, and promotes an open and inclusive working environment where everybody has a voice.
The 30 participants to the Branded Fleet Partnership, which came from fleets such as Clancy and Murphys, were split into groups and tasked with exploring specific areas of the proposed agreement.
Loveday said: “Some of the things we really want to think about are our attention to standards, how can we share, what are some of the challenges of working in London, how do we benchmark and what commercial opportunities are there.
“Currently there are 3,000 branded vehicles on Thames’s fleet. What we need to establish is if we can work together, get some terms of reference, highlight responsibilities and agree on reporting requirements.
“Road risk is the biggest health and safety consideration every month in our business. We want to change that, change how we behave and change our approach to road risk.”
Before talking through the finer details, four workshops were run to brief delegates on the areas where the partnership can add value. They covered health and safety, the value of the brand, operational requirements and future innovation.
If the partnership goes ahead it could more than double the number of vehicles displaying the Thames Water branding to more than 6,000. This means the company’s reputation is at risk if vehicles are seen to be operating in an anti-social manner.
It is already believed that more than 60 million Thames Water customers see one of its vehicles each year, and with a rise in popularity for social media sharing, a single incident captured and posted online could impact heavily on the brand.
Therefore the company is keen to implement brand awareness among partner fleets and ensure anyone driving a Thames Water branded van is representing the company positively.
One aspect of the partnership which had universal appeal was the prospect of group buying power. This would leverage the discounts available to larger fleets with particular benefit to smaller partners.
With increasing pressures on alliance fleets to have vehicles available at short notice, the partnership is also investigating the feasibility of sharing branded vehicles to reduce the overall fleet size.
The agreement isn’t as straightforward as it may first appear, however. Alliance partners with more than one contract may not be able to afford a dedicated fleet of Thames Water vans, especially if their contract is short or near its renewal date.
Loveday said: “A key message from today is that we must look at aligning our contracts. While some have larger contracts, others don’t. If we want them to make investments then we will need to consider how we will work and engage in the long term.”
The next meeting of the fleet partnership is scheduled for the end of this month, where the final agreement will be presented to the group.