Gary Condon says he has successfully overcome key challenges in his three years as plant and fleet director at PJ Carey Plant Hire, and seized opportunities to instigate change to put the company on the road to improvement.
PJ Carey Plant Hire is the in-house division of the Carey Group, an independent family-owned construction and resource recovery company, with responsibility for all vehicle and plant assets hired out across all the organisation’s operations.
Condon, a chartered member of both the Institute of Transport and Logistics and the Engineering Council, with around 30 years’ experience in the plant and fleet sector, says: “The company wanted to improve what it was doing and has empowered me to introduce new ideas.”
The catalogue of innovation and change is large and includes achieving Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme gold accreditation, building on the bronze standard achieved prior to Condon’s recruitment, becoming a Transport for London-backed CLOCS (Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety) champion and joining the Freight Transport Association’s Van Excellence scheme.
Initiatives have focused around fleet safety – the group has a behavioural safety culture, called Safe Home Every Day (SHED) – and sustainability, and have resulted in the Wembley-based business winning the commercial fleet of the year – construction and building title at the Commercial Fleet Awards 2015.
It was one of the first industry awards the company entered.
“It was fantastic to win and it has been recognised as a great achievement both internally and by our customers,” says Condon. “The company has enabled me and my team to introduce initiatives and the award is independent recognition that we know what we are doing.
“FORS and CLOCS standards are asked for by our customers and, if we did not have those accreditations, then it would undoubtedly limit the work we could tender for as a business.”
Not for the first time, those companies, particularly in the construction sector, have highlighted the critical importance of operating to FORS and CLOCS standards and now, says Condon, Carey’s suppliers are asking for the company’s help and advice to meet similar levels of compliance.
The awards judges said: “PJ Carey Plant Hire is doing all the right things. We were impressed that it has achieved FORS Gold, a standard over and above where it needs to be, showing that the company is pushing the boundaries in terms of quality standards.
“Everything it is doing is right and proper. The company has applied a lot of its truck-related standards into vans.
“It has a clear focus on safety and compliance and is making good use of vehicle design technology.”
The Carey Group was founded in 1969 by current chairman John Carey and his two brothers, Tom and Pat. Members of the family hold positions across the business, which has expanded to employ more than 1,300 people. Offices in London, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Livingston and Dublin offer clients complete coverage of the UK and Ireland. Its vision is to be the “national construction and resource recovery group of choice to premium construction clients”.
The fleet now numbers 300 light commercial vehicles and around 30 HGVs and has expanded rapidly in recent months due to new contract wins. It also operates 150 company cars.
All vehicles are outright purchase as, says Condon: “It enables the company to control and sweat the asset without being tied to any specific contract terms.”
Vehicles are typically defleeted via the auction network.
The van fleet is being standardised around Ford and Vauxhall vehicles due to their competitive price, specification and a national franchised dealer network that can cater for the requirements of a nationwide fleet. However, the company also uses Halfords for service maintenance and repair (SMR) work.
Warranty work is typically undertaken through the franchise network with other SMR work undertaken on an “either or basis” depending on convenience, with a focus on keeping vehicle downtime to a minimum and a watchful eye on the company’s carbon footprint.
Carey’s has its own workshop at its Wembley headquarters and puts as much SMR work as possible through the site, but the practicality of operating nationwide means that other service agents are required.
Vans are typically replaced at around 160,000 miles having been operated for four-to-six years.
The HGV fleet is centred on DAF and Volvo models and includes a wide cross-section of vehicles including low-loaders, tippers, roll-on roll-off, beaver tails fitted with cranes and flatbeds, all typically operated over eight-year cycles and clocking up 500,000 miles.
“When deciding to standardise the fleet around certain manufacturers we engaged with the drivers so they were part of the decision-making process,” says Condon. “That encourages them to take ownership of the vehicles and helps ensure they are maintained in a good condition.”
Carey’s fleet has increased around 30% in the past 12 months due to new contract wins. So to meet the vehicle demands required of new contracts, the company has turned to spot hire due to lengthy waiting lists for new vans.
Currently, it has 50 spot hire vehicles on the fleet, which plug the gap until newly purchased vans arrive. But HGVs fitted with the company’s required safety features are not available on short-term rental so, rather than expose itself to risk, it “juggles” vehicles on the fleet to meet specific contract requirements until ordered new models arrive.
Operating as an internal business, PJ Carey Plant Hire charges out vehicles and plant to sister companies at a weekly rate accompanied by strict service level agreements with any damage costs charged to the hirer. Hire charges are “below market rates” but take account of maintenance and depreciation.
Carey’s operates an all-diesel fleet, but Condon says the company “is not blinkered to the introduction of new technology” – it has hybrid cars on the fleet. However, alternatively fuelled commercial vehicles currently available do not meet operational demands.
CLOCS is a united response by the construction industry to improve road safety and protect vulnerable road users, such as cyclists. As a result, Carey’s standard specification includes the fitment of side radar, side alarms and forward-facing cameras on trucks as well as van speed limited to 70mph and solid bulkheads fitted on LCVs to prevent tools and equipment carried in the load area intruding into the driver and passenger section.
Condon’s work with CLOCS, which he champions internally and externally, sees Carey working closely with key stakeholders such as construction and civil engineering companies Mace and Skanska.
“The companies regularly request the support of one of our vehicles, and a driver, at their cyclist safety events promoting, for example, blind spot awareness and associated hazards,” he says. “This is good for the general awareness of the public and for the publicity for us.”
In response to achieving FORS Gold, Condon says: “I am sure that this level of accreditation has contributed to business won, especially through the tendering. Our involvement in CLOCS and the FORS Gold accreditation are both advertised through email signatures to trade professionals.”
Building on Carey’s achieving FORS bronze, Condon says: “My fellow directors and I saw the real potential for the standard in helping us stand out amongst our competitors. The robust systems we already had in place, particularly for measuring fuel use and analysing road traffic incidents and penalties has, I feel, shown our commitment to the practice and spirit of FORS and the gold achievement served to demonstrate this further.
“Across our senior management team the standard has always been seen as evidence of quality as well as a means of securing competitive advantage.”
Safety is in the DNA of the company and that sees a robust occupational road risk strategy underpinned by tool box talks, driver licence checks, a driver training plan and Roadsense’s telematics system, including a driver behaviour monitoring solution giving employees instant feedback when making any manoeuvres deemed unsafe.
What’s more, all managers have an app on their mobile phones enabling them to access telematics report information on the move.
Driver training with AA DriveTech is being rolled out – 50 drivers have been through the programme to-date, including new recruits, young drivers and drivers of passenger-carrying vehicles – with an internal points system taking account of fines and feedback from the telematics system helping to identify initially higher risk employees.
The safety focus has triggered an accident frequency reduction of a third against 2014 on a growing fleet. “That’s an excellent result,” says Condon. “We have particularly seen the number of own fault accidents decline.”
Safety is obviously critical in the construction industry so Condon argues that “selling” the increased focus on work-related road risk was not too difficult.
“The culture of the business is clear to all employees and safety is absolutely paramount whether travelling to and from sites or on construction projects,” he says. “There is a clear commercial as well as a safety advantage to the innovations and developments we have made. The drivers understand that and the company can demonstrate that as it is expanding as a result of winning new contracts.”
A further initiative has seen the company change the emphasis of its fuel management regime from one linked directly to cost to one focused on analysing distances travelled by measuring fuel usage and mileage. As a result, fuel cards are now linked to vehicle registrations and not individual drivers.
Condon admits that historically linking fuel cards to drivers was so any private use of vehicles could be monitored.
However, the company’s annual fuel spend has increased to almost £3 million as the fleet has expanded and Condon wanted greater insight into actual fuel use per vehicle. Coupled with the introduction of telematics, the vehicle replacement programme sees the company operating the most fuel-efficient vehicles.
“We have visibility of the exact fuel economy of every vehicle and we can link that to drivers’ schedules,” says Condon.
“We send managers weekly reports highlighting any excessive mileage and that enables improved journey scheduling and improved driver management.”
Condon heads a 30-strong team at PJ Carey Plant Hire.
These are split into four distinct areas: fleet management that includes workshop fitters, fleet hire, fleet accounts and fleet administration that deals with issues such as mobile telephones, Dart Charge and the London Congestion Charge.
Condon says FORS and CLOCS helped the team “greatly in knowing, understanding and analysing data in a professional way”, with driver training undertaken “giving us real driver focus and helping our operatives become more involved in ensuring fleet operation is professional and competent”.
“Our aim is to continue with the promotion of quality and safety of our transport operation through further engagement with partners and stakeholders while continuing to take full advantage of the benefits that the standards undoubtedly provide,” he says.
Company: PJ Carey Plant Hire (Oval)
Headquarters: Wembley, London
Plant and fleet director: Gary Condon
Fleet size: Vans – 300; HGVs – 30; cars – 150
Replacement cycle: 160,000 miles (vans); 50,000 miles (HGVs)
Success comes from listening to professionals
Evidence would suggest that the Carey Group has one of the best run commercial vehicle fleets in the UK but, says Gary Condon, there is no magic wand.
CLOCS, FORS and Van Excellence are all about commercial vehicle operators helping each other to implement and promote best practice standards.
That is becoming ever-more critical with fleet operating standards – specifically those pertaining to occupational road risk and environmental management – becoming increasingly important when responding to procurement tenders.
Therefore, says Condon, it is vital that commercial fleet managers listen to colleagues with a professional background, understand all legislation, are absolutely clear in their own mind what they want to achieve and then engage with people, internally and externally, to deliver.
Critically, he says: “People engaged in commercial fleet management must acknowledge and understand that they almost certainly do not have all the answers. They must open their eyes and ears to what is happening around them and the resources available to help them.
“It is also vital to engage suppliers. Not just about what they can deliver today, but what they can do tomorrow in helping to shape strategy. The devil is in the detail.”