Features & Interviews

Fleet focus: spotlight on vehicle management specialists

16 June 2022 #Features & Interviews

For many firms, owning and operating a fleet is not their main business, such as those who make or build products and need to get their goods to their customers.

By allowing a fleet management specialist to take over the management of their entire delivery operation, these companies can feel secure that not only are their vehicles being deployed with maximum efficiency, they are also going to be safe and compliant.

National Grid has had a fleet management contract with Rivus since 2006 and the deal covers its 2,000-plus fleet of LCVs, HGVs, trailers and plant.

A renewed contract, which runs to 2030, will add in accident management and vehicle build for the first time and will also see Rivus mobile technicians deliver in-house service, repair and maintenance (SMR), rather than using a third party, cutting vehicle offroad time while providing greater flexibility and choice of how vehicles are maintained.

This will also provide National Grid with a single contact for its fleet management needs.

Rivus SMR runs across 78 sites nationwide through its LCV and HGV specialist combined garage network, but it also has more than 500 Approved Garage Partners and a UK-wide team of mobile technicians equipped to support fleet managers with the transition to electric vehicles.

Lorna McAtear, fleet manager at National Grid, said: “It is important for us to partner with a fleet management provider that can help us achieve National Grid’s ambition to move to an all-electric fleet.

“As Rivus can service and maintain our fleet through its in-house network, of which 70% already has capacity for EV, that’s real added value for us to support achieving our aims.”

Specialist Fleet Services (SFS) was established nearly 30 years ago and runs a network of workshops across the UK as well as operating its own vehicle hire division, CTS Hire, catering for local authorities across the UK.

The company was recently awarded two new seven-year contract hire agreements from Somerset West and Taunton Council, and North Devon Council, which together involve the management of nearly 200 vehicles including LCVs and HGVs, including refuse and recycling vehicles and kerbside collection vehicles.

It is running the fleets separately although there is some sharing of council-owned workshop facilities.

Somerset West and Taunton Council’s fleet is made up of about 120 vehicles, mainly LCVs.

Stuart Noyce, Assistant Director, Commercial Services, Somerset West and Taunton Council said: “Decarbonisation is a major focus for us going forward and they (SFS) will be helping us in the transition to electric vehicles, both in terms of advising regarding suitable vehicle technology and helping us to develop the appropriate charging infrastructure.

“We used to have a number of different maintenance providers, which wasn’t very efficient. Now we have one provider for the vehicle provision and maintenance as well as a fixed price, which is much better for budgeting and provides us with a long-term view regarding our fleet costs.”

Derbyshire-based independent commercial vehicle repairers Sapphire Vehicle Services recently launched a fleet management division after it was approached by an existing customer that provides traffic management services to utility contractors.

The company says it can take over responsibility for maintaining trucks or vans of any size, configuration or brand, including all service planning and MoT scheduling, vehicle inspections and DVSA tests.

Other areas of expertise include looking after account management, reporting of key performance indicators, road fund licence renewals, and even taking on existing drivers and support staff via TUPE regulations.

Sapphire operates 19 vehicle maintenance units across Britain and through its parent company, Ballyvesey Holdings, it can also provide customers with vehicles on contract hire, lease or spot rental and vehicle disposal services.

Paul West, Sapphire’s head of fleet services, said: “We were already looking after the repair and maintenance of the vehicles, but the customer asked whether we would consider taking over management of its fleet.

“With our expertise, experience and national network of facilities, it was clear we were ideally positioned to offer a high-quality, cost-effective and hassle-free solution not just to this business but to others too.”

Fleet management services often go hand in hand with contract hire agreements.

Glasgow-based operator Bullet Express recently ordered 11 new Iveco and DAF trucks from Asset Alliance Group on a three-year contract hire and fleet management agreement to keep up with increasing customer demand in storage, express pallets, and special services

Asset Alliance retains ownership of the trucks as part of the deal, which includes all associated operational costs, including tyre replacements, full servicing, maintenance and repair requirements, safety inspections, road fund licensing and breakdown cover.

John McKail, Managing Director at Bullet Express, said: “We’ve worked with Asset Alliance Group for several years now, and we see them as an extension of our business.

“The team is always very responsive, and we know we will always be supported. We always feel very well looked after.”

Meanwhile, fleet management specialist Fraikin is able to offer customers access to a full telematics suite from its partner Samsara.

This can collect a wealth of data, including distance travelled, average speed, fuel efficiency, diagnostic fault codes and distracted driving indicators from each vehicle, which can be used to help the customer transform fleet efficiency, reduce vehicle downtime and prevent accidents.

Sterling Furniture, based in Scotland, recently signed a six-year, full-service contract hire agreement with Fraikin for 12 new DAF LF rigids with Luton bodies – fitted with a full suite of connected technologies from Samsara.

Craig Wilson, Head of Distribution at Sterling Furniture, said: “Contract hiring our trucks brings huge benefits to the business.

“We have consistent control of our costs, while Fraikin delivers a proactive approach to maintenance and servicing that works around our operational timetable, enabling us to maximise fleet uptime and efficiency.

“With each new deal, Fraikin is able to keep our fleet up-to-date, installing the latest technology to help further improve our operation and, in turn, deliver a continued high level of service to our customers.”

Ultimately it will be the strength of the relationship as well as open communication between the two parties that will determine the success of any fleet management partnership.

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