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Reducing grey fleet miles

Source: Public Sector Executive Nov/Dec 2012

Fleet services manager Andrew Saxton explains the award-winning work behind a new approach to grey fleet management at Wiltshire Council.

Wiltshire Council won the award for Grey Fleet Management at the recent Energy Saving Trust ‘Fleet Heroes’ awards 2012, for its innovative strategy to cut the risk presented by its drivers.

PSE spoke to Andrew Saxton, fleet services manager for Wiltshire Council, about the new approach.

Following a systems thinking review, the council found that the risk of continuing with the fleet status quo was unacceptably high. This risk was far greater than previously thought, and a review even found a couple of drivers who were not legally able to drive to work.

Future system requirements were identified and tested through a pilot in 2010, before roll-out across the whole organisation.

Approximately 3,000 staff were using their own vehicles for work purposes, which equated to 5,725,000 unmanaged grey fleet miles and a CO2 emissions level of 1,868.7 tonnes.

The council set a target of a 20% reduction in grey fleet miles travelled for 2012/13: a reduction of 600 vehicles, 1,145,000 fewer grey fleet miles and CO2 savings of 373.74 tonnes.

Saxton described how the review allowed lean ways of working to be implemented. He said: “We wrote a corporate ‘driving at work’ policy, which led onto a drivers’ handbook and a managers’ guide.”

The risk for all the districts is now controlled centrally by Wiltshire Council through a software package, as well as a team of ‘Fleet Champions’ who conduct extra duties, such as checking driving licences and documentation.

Reducing grey fleet miles will be achieved in a number of ways, Saxton explained: “We’re going to be doing that through measures like introducing shuttle buses, and we’ve also got some electric vehicles.

“We’re looking at encouraging managers to use technology rather than driving to meetings, so they’re going to be doing video conferencing and using Skype.”

A Grey Fleet Module developed by Tranman was used to assist staff in using other transport through these initiatives and will collect data on fleet and drivers. The system can highlight when checks are due and reduce unnecessary vehicle usage, resulting in a smaller council fleet.

One of the biggest challenges was securing corporate level buy-in to the whole area of risk because, as Saxton put it, “it’s a lot bigger than people understand”.

He said: “We’ve now done that. We’ve created a fleet strategy and the grey fleet strategy sits within a 10 year plan to control all things to do with vehicles and fleet.”

The ideal is not to completely move away from grey fleet, he explained, but to “greatly reduce the number of unnecessary high risks” that grey fleet can present.

The risks include drivers who are not legally able to drive and a number without the correct level of insurance, as well as behaviour which is dangerous or expensive.

“We’re doing a programme of driver training, looking at driver habits and if anybody within the grey fleet area has more than six points [on their licence], we look at that as an individual case and decide whether we need to do corrective training.

“We’ll also look at eco-type training, so we can try to reduce the carbon footprint their personal cars are making on the world.”

Despite the usual negativity to be expected with any kind of change in working practice, Saxton highlighted a “surprising” amount of support.

The main challenge in getting staff onboard concerned the level of data necessary on employees and their driving. Work with the HR department has been “quite an arduous task” to get this right, he said – but now standards are in place to keep only the correct level of data.

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