Tag Archive | "Fleets"

FLEET MANAGEMENT WITH A MODERN TOUCH

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FLEET MANAGEMENT WITH A MODERN TOUCH


Hot industry news earlier this year was an £85 million cash injection from auto giants Hyundai and Kia into London-based Arrival, an electric vehicle start-up whose cubist Gen2.0-EV van is tipped for adoption by a raft of huge logistics firms including Royal Mail and UPS.

It’s a significant breakthrough for commercial vehicles, which have lagged somewhat behind their passenger counterparts in terms of electrification and autonomous capability development. The high-profile tie-up could also be a promising sign of things to come for smaller fleet operators – particularly factors – in the UK, who are engaged in a constant battle with rising fuel costs, wage allowances and insurance premiums, as well as ever-stricter emissions regulations and MOT requirements.

Take Euro Car Parts as an example. As of August 2019, the Tamworth-based distributor has around 2750 cars and vans running between its 16 distribution centres, and making around 60,000 parts deliveries daily from its 200-plus branches. It’s quite an operation, and the man in charge of coordinating it, Ted Sakyi, said the key to things running smoothly is that “suppliers and their customers continue to talk to each other ”. It would have to be – the demand for ultra-fast delivery, which I call the ‘Amazonisation’ of today’s e-commerce sector, means customers (including garages) aren’t as willing to twiddle their thumbs for days on end while crucial components are delivered, and communication issues are less excusable than they were in the pre-smartphone era.

JUST IN TIME

Darren Wykes, Managing Director of nationwide supplier Motor Parts Direct (MPD), concurred: “The simple question of ‘when is it needed?’ is now a priority to avoid over-servicing customers.” MPD’s fleet consists of a mixture of vehicle makes and sizes and serves 128 stores across England and Wales, but is equally dependent on the justin-time business model that ensures no fuel or time is wasted by its delivery drivers. “Each branch carefully manages its own logistics, bearing in mind customer demands as regards arranging each delivery schedule,” Wykes added, ‘ensuring van runs are done in the most efficient manner’. Unnecessary delays brought about by garages returning parts or calling the factor out multiple times in short succession can threaten the firm’s ability to meet its quotas.

So how long does a factor of this size allow for each call-out? Wykes considers a case-by-case approach to be best practice: “At present, in line with competitors, there are no hard and fast rules. It is down to the branch team to apply a common sense approach.” It’s unlikely that a factor would consider sending a van and driver out for an hour just to deliver a £10 part to a remote workshop, but would more likely incorporate that delivery into a larger route with multiple stops.

ECP’s Sakyi elaborated: “Ultimately, we want to help independent garages deliver top quality repairs for their customers with the shortest possible wait-times. This means both parties need to communicate effectively – us asking whether they need anything and, if so, what time they need it, and them letting us know what they need, where possible, ahead of time.” The message is that efficiency is a two-way street, and factors can’t be held accountable for disorganisation on the customer’s part. 

ELECTRIFICATION

But just as important as timing deliveries right is considering which vans to use for them. ECP recently bought 300 diesel-fuelled Peugeot Partner vans, showing a commitment – at least in the medium term – to combustion power. Currently, there are only a couple of alternatively fuelled commercial vehicles on sale suited to the firm’s needs, which offer usable ranges and relatively low purchase costs, but would entail such significant investment in supporting infrastructure that they are presently an unrealistic option for any large distribution firm. Sakyi said: “While battery technology and charging infrastructure are still developing and improving, higher-mileage job roles will be best-served by the newest, cleanest diesel and petrol options.” He added, however, that ‘electric vans are already suitable for relatively low-mileage job roles, provided there is access to adequate charging facilities’. As electric commercial vehicles become more accessible and their ranges increase, it’s likely that factors will start to explore their suitability for use in urban areas, particularly where low-emission zones restrict the use of combustion engines.

For now, though, MPD’s Wykes said that “no suitable electric vans are available bearing in mind range and re-charge times,” adding that the Essex-based company is currently trialling a Nissan e-NV200, and looking forward to an electric version of Citroen’s Berlingo arriving next year. ‘Van choice is decided based on various criteria, such as fuel efficiency, overall running costs and initial purchase price,’ he said.

Amanda Brandon, Director of Fleet Services for the British Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, acknowledged the issues. “The lack of availability of suitable electric vehicles, inadequate charging infrastructure and significant up-front cost differential are all factors affecting the uptake of electric in the CV sector,” she said, echoing industry bosses who bemoan the slow roll-out of chargers and tax incentives. “In the van sector, the consensus of opinion is that the future is electric, but this transition will not happen overnight until the issues of availability, affordability and access to charging facilities are resolved.”

It remains to be seen how firms like EPC and MPD will be affected by the expansion of London’s ULEZ and the creation of low-emission zones in cities like Bristol and Oxford. One thing’s for sure, though – it’s unlikely the commercial vehicle parc will look the same in 10 years time.

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DRIVING CHANGE: HOW COMPLACENCY CAN KILL

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DRIVING CHANGE: HOW COMPLACENCY CAN KILL


Driving for work is a ‘work activity’ like any other. However, our familiarity and, in some cases complacency, with the activity can make it difficult to manage despite it being one of the greatest risks we face. With the trade running fleets of delivery vehicles, the issue of road safety should be high up on the agenda. Indeed, it’s not hard to find web-hits such as ‘Van driver hurt in crash’ or ‘Truck, lorry and van driver injury compensation claims’.

THE LAW
There is a raft of criminal offences that capture individual drivers who decide to break the law. These include death by dangerous driving, careless driving and driving without a valid licence or insurance. The law recognises that properly licensed drivers have a personal obligation to take care of themselves and others on the road.

However, organisations, managers and colleagues could also be implicated if they are considered to have “aided and abetted” that criminal behaviour. A potential example of this would be where a manager
knew that a driver’s insurance had expired but did not alert anyone within the business or prevent that individual from driving. Organisations often collect vast swathes of information that are relevant to managing driving, but are not used as such. Working time details, health information and job descriptions are all good examples.

Prosecutions for ‘aiding and abetting’ offences remain rare, but a fatal road death may result in a Coroner’s Inquest and the organisation having to answer some difficult and probing questions on behalf of the deceased’s family.

Within the more typical health and safety arena, prosecutions could arise where the culture of the organisation is such that driving for work is not managed properly and individuals are put at risk.

In fatal incidents, under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, an organisation can be held liable if “working regimes, dangerous or illegal practices or negligence have contributed to the death”. The police will investigate for the offence of corporate manslaughter and will want to establish the attitude of senior management towards managing driving for work. Were policies in place and enforced, and was there real and visible leadership from the top?

Further, the Health and Safety at WorkAct 1974 states that organisations have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees while at work, and that others are not put at risk by work-related driving activities.

Beyond the broad 1974 Act there are various other health and safety regulations that apply to work activities such as driving. The key action point is to appreciate driving for work as a work activity and treat it as you would any other, providing suitable instructions, information and equipment based on a sound risk assessment process.

CONSEQUENCES
The most obvious consequence of getting it wrong is that an employee or members of the public is seriously injured or killed as a result of your organisation’s driving activities. Organisations recognise the moral reasons for keeping people safe.

In addition, there is the risk of a subsequent prosecution for individual criminal offences or for organisational or management failures.

The potential consequences of getting health and safety management wrong have become all the more severe since February 1 2016, which saw the introduction of a Sentencing Guideline for health and safety offences and corporate manslaughter (among others) and creates the potential for higher fines and prison sentences than we have seen historically. The guideline uses ‘potential harm’ as one of the determinants when deciding upon a sentence; the potential harm associated with driving is obvious.

In addition to a criminal prosecution, you may have to deal with any civil claims brought against the business by individuals who have been involved in an incident. Insurance may be in place for organisations and those that use company cars, but what about those who use their own vehicles? Everyone ‘driving for work’ needs to have ‘business use’ insurance. Without it, insurance policies can be revoked and the individual or organisation is left to pay.

Aside from financial implications, incidents and prosecutions can attract significant negative publicity, which in turn could affect an organisation’s brand and reputation. Many vehicles now bear corporate logos and branding which can have unwanted consequences in the event of a serious incident. The impact of an investigation can also create significant business interruption, with the seizure of vehicles, computers and other records, even if a prosecution does not result.

Driving for work can be a risky business and should be taken seriously by the whole organisation; not just the driver.

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