Vehicles are arguably the most dangerous piece of equipment an employee will use at work. Therefore, argues Clancy Group national transport manager John Blakeley, it makes sense to train those employees.
At Clancy, staff are trained to drive an excavator and other construction site equipment, he says. They are assessed every three years and the company aims to ensure all commercial vehicle drivers complete a similar programme.
Health and safety is part of the DNA of Clancy Group – it should be for every employer, says Blakeley – so it is no surprise that the company places such an emphasis on the training and assessment of drivers. What’s more, the continual assessment of drivers will become even more robust with the roll-out, from late summer, of an upgrade to the company’s current telematics system that will be fitted into all 140 HGVs and 1,100 car-derived and panel vans. The group also operates a fleet of 350 company cars.
“We want our employees to arrive at work safely and go home safely,” says Blakeley, who has been in the role for five years, having been with Clancy for 17 years working previously as a plant and transport co-ordinator. “If we train them to drive safely then we believe they will use those skills when they drive their own cars.”
Ensuring the upgrade to the telematics system is fitted to all vehicles with minimum downtime is just one of the major challenges he faces over the coming months.
Promoting the right image is, Blakeley explains, important for the family-owned, £250 million turnover business best known for its civil engineering and utilities division Clancy Docwra. The company has developed from a ground works, drainage and road works contractor into a national construction company with a strong base in the water sector, winning contracts with utility companies nationwide as well as a significant presence in the energy, national rail, London Underground and infrastructure sectors.
Subsidiaries include Clancy Developments, which has been building houses for more than 30 years, and Clancy Plant Hire, which provides the Group with all plant, equipment and vehicles.
“The group is continually aiming to improve its profile to clients and that means investing in employees and investing in our vehicles, plant and machinery,” says Blakeley.
Adopting the mantra ‘spend to save’, Clancy Group has an annual fuel spend of around £9 million. All vehicle-related costs are charged out to individual depots, from where contracts are managed. “Saving money, whether in respect of fuel, vehicle downtime or anything else, makes the business more competitive and can be reflected in the competitiveness of contract quotes and in contract profit,” says Blakeley.
Vehicles are typically replaced on a four-to-five-year cycle, with the light commercial vehicle (LCV) fleet comprised exclusively of 700 Ford Transit 350 medium wheelbase vehicles and 400 car-derived vans, of which the vast majority are Ford Transit Connects with a small percentage of Vauxhall Astra and Fiat Doblo vans.
The HGV fleet comprises a mix of vehicles which includes 80 7.5-tonne Cargo units as well as more than 60 Iveco 26-tonne, 32-tonne tipper grabs and 18-tonne beavertail trucks.
Presently an all-diesel fleet, pure electric and hybrid electric vehicles have been investigated but a combination of battery range and payload constraints make them operationally unsuitable for the group at this moment in time. However, trials are ongoing with various manufacturers.
“As a business we are aiming to reduce our carbon emissions by 10% by 2020, so alternatively-fuelled vehicles are of interest and we could use them on contracts in urban areas if they were viable,” says Blakeley.
The Clancy Group, founded almost 60 years ago, has always bought its vehicles outright, preferring, in Blakeley’s words, “to control its own destiny”.
Negotiating the bulk supply of new vehicles – perhaps 150 or more at a time from one of its main suppliers, Ford – the company takes them in batches of 10 or 15 units as they are required to meet the demands of new contracts or replace existing vehicles.
Vehicles due for defleet are disposed of through both auction and private sales. The group has regular customers for its end-of-life vehicles as, says Blakeley, they know that they have been regularly serviced throughout their life.
With driver and other road user safety paramount, car-derived vans are fitted with speed limiters governed to 70mph and other light commercial vehicles limited to 62mph. Speed limiters were introduced almost four years ago and, in the first 12 months, delivered fuel savings of about £300,000.
In a further bid to keep budgets in check, van racking is now recycled, with the group calculating that it will have ‘three lives’ as it is reused when vehicles are defleeted and replaced.
Further underlining how the business prefers to control its own destiny is the fact that, at its Harefield, Middlesex, head office, it has its own vehicle workshops fully fitted out with lifts, Class 7 MOT facilities, an HGV workshop, bodyshop and spraybooth. Similar facilities are replicated at the company’s Dartford depot and smaller workshops are located at sites in Sunderland and Livingstone in Scotland.
The workshops also house a full range of manufacturers’ diagnostic equipment to ensure compliance with their specifications.
What’s more, a 20-strong team of mobile mechanics is employed to undertake vehicle servicing and repairs on sites to keep vehicle operational downtime to a minimum.
A “small fleet” of spare vehicles is also kept at depots, so if a vehicle requires more than a few hours to fix a replacement is taken out of the pool with equipment swapped over.
In addition to HGVs undergoing inspections in accordance with legislation, drivers undertake daily walk-round inspections of LCVs that include a specific focus on tyre wear and pressures and all lights and beacons. Additionally, all vehicles are serviced at 20,000-mile intervals irrespective of manufacturer schedules, or sooner if recommended by suppliers.
Multiple uses of telematics
Telematics is a major part of the fleet management jigsaw for the Clancy Group, as it continues to increase its use of data delivered by the technology to underpin its transport operation.
Initially introduced as a stolen vehicle recovery initiative, telematics is now used to aid journey scheduling and as a driver behaviour management tool. It has recently been linked to the company’s fuel card management system.
A newly updated system is shortly to be introduced. “Telematics has a major role to play within the cost management of Clancy Group’s fleet operation. It is one of the many pieces in our fleet management jigsaw and it is difficult to imagine telematics now not being used,” says Blakeley.
Tracking technology was initially fitted more than a decade ago to all commercial vehicles to provide peace of mind and to crackdown on theft. In more recent years, the technology has been upgraded in several phases with new information streams added to monitor drivers’ hours, journey times and mileage.
The first upgrade embraced vehicle scheduling and that was followed by the monitoring of driver behaviour, including speeding, harsh acceleration and braking and idling times.
Four years ago, the group also introduced ARI Fleet UK’s RiskMaster occupational road risk management system. Drivers are issued with a permit to drive on Clancy Group business after the validity of their driving licence has been checked with the DVLA, they have completed an online assessment, and documentation relating to their driving history – accidents and motoring offences – has been fed into the system.
Clancy Group also employs its own in-house driver trainer for the three-year assessments. All employees who will drive commercial veh-icles must complete an online risk assessment on recruitment and, depending on their score, will undergo an on-road assessment either immediately, within six weeks or within three months.
The upgraded Tracker telematics system will be linked to each vehicle’s engine control unit to deliver improved data, notably in respect of more accurate fuel usage and CO2 emissions information as well as information on driver behaviour including idling and gear changes.
The technology continues to be used to aid journey scheduling and vehicle routing and thus also dovetails with the company’s environmental strategy due to efficiencies gained.
The ultimate aim for Blakeley is to link the telematics data with online information received via RiskMaster into one repository to deliver a comprehensive overview of vehicle performance and driver behaviour with management reports delivered by exception.
The group’s accident record is typically limited to low-speed manoeuvering incidents with the initial introduction of RiskMaster delivering a significant reduction from a peak of almost 1.8 per £1m of turnover in 2009/10, to below 1.2 incidents per £1m of turnover in 2011/12.
The figures for 2013/14 showed an increase to 1.99 per £1m of turnover. However, the company says the rise was essentially down to the introduction of a late reporting fine for all incidents, no matter how small. As a result, following an initial spike a clear downward trend has now been established.
Importance of driver training
Clancy Group’s focus on improving safety within its own business and influencing other operators is further underlined by its membership of the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) Van Excellence initiative and Transport for London’s Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS). Clancy helped developed Van Excellence accreditation and was one of its first members and Blakeley is a member of the Van Governance Group.
“It is important to spread best practice across all commercial vehicle operations,” he says. “FORS is now being rolled out nationally and many contractors are stipulating membership as a tender criteria.”
Commercial vehicle overloading is one of the big safety issues raised by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and with Clancy Group concerned with legislative compliance it has introduced mobile scales nationwide so random vehicle weight checks can be carried out at depots.
All Clancy’s HGVs are equipped as standard with onboard scales, as are Transit Tippers. “It is so easy to overload vehicles,” says Blakeley. “We tell the drivers that they don’t have to fill every space on their vehicle. It is a process of education. Our incident rate is the lowest it has been and over time we would anticipate having data that will show improved fuel efficiency.”
Encouragement for drivers to be safe on the roads is given via a quarterly draw for £200 worth of Red Letter Day vouchers. Drivers are eligible if they have completed a three-month period with no RiskMaster ‘infringements’.
Clancy Group’s joint chairmen, Kevin and Dermot Clancy, continue to play a day-to-day role in the business and remain hugely supportive of new fleet-related initiatives.
For example, they were among the first to register for RiskMaster, thus setting a trend for employees to follow suit.
“The board listens. And being a family-owned business, I think the decision-making is quicker,” says Blakeley.
Over the coming months, the key challenges for Blakeley are to continue to renew the fleet to achieve the maximum four-years-of-age vehicle target, which will see the increasing utilisation of Euro 6-emission compliant vehicles. Additionally, while the Transit and Transit Connect are the mainstays of the fleet, new models from other manufacturers are continually assessed to see if they meet operational requirements.
A further “big challenge” is to oversee the introduction of the new telematics system with all drivers being trained, while ensuring vehicle downtime is kept to a minimum.
“We are focused on changing the concept of driving vehicles,” says Blakeley. “Employees are trained to use construction site equipment and are regularly assessed, so why wouldn’t you go through the same process with driving commercial vehicles?
“I have worked closely with business colleagues and organisations like the FTA and we are making changes for the better.”