All in a day’s work at Balfour Beatty

Posted: 7/14/2014
Adrian Wanford, Group Transport Manager at Balfour Beatty Plant & Fleet Services talks about his role and the company’s fleet operation

Name: Adrian Wanford
Job Title: Group Transport Manager
Organisation: Balfour Beatty Plant& Fleet Services Ltd
Time in role: Three months
Previous job: Leaving school in the early 80s I studied vehicle engineering and management at Chesterfield College of Technology. After graduating in 1985, armed with a raft of C&G, IRTE, CPC & IMI qualifications, but no experience, I served on the workshop floor as a fitter for a local haulier, and then for a Volkswagen Audi dealer in Derby before moving to British Road Services (BRS) in 1990. Starting as a fitter at BRS I quickly progressed through various roles before moving on to Northgate Motor holdings in 1997 as a Commercial Vehicle Workshop Manager. I started with Balfour Beatty in Jan 2000 as Area Transport Engineer for East Anglia and the home counties. Since then I have progressed through various roles in vehicle engineering, specification and procurement to business unit fleet management up to my recent appointment as Group Transport Manager. Looking back on my career so far it was my time a BRS that really set the standards and principles that I employ today.

LCVs: 3200
HGVs: 1000 (including O License exempt vehicles)
Cars:  3500
EVs:  3

What is your remit as Group Transport Manager at Balfour Beatty?

I have Operator licence and compliance responsibilities for the Balfour Beatty Commercial vehicle fleet and drivers across all areas of the UK,  this includes gas and water, power, rail, highways and construction projects.

Including myself, I  have 22 staff, six of whom are office based at Derby HQ, the rest are field based on the front line with the contracts.

My team and I manage and get involved with all aspects of fleet/driver compliance including policy, maintenance planning and scheduling, document validation and storage, drivers hours, PCN  admin, driver briefings, licence checks together with fleet specification, utilisation, and replacement.

I have five field compliance engineers who are my internal enforcement team, they are tasked with carrying out random vehicle roadworthiness checks, driver documentation checks and vehicle weighs in a similar way to DVSA officers. We analyse the output from these “gate checks” to give an indication of how effective our training, controls and maintenance regimes are. This enables me to intelligently focus our efforts to drive continuous improvement.

To support us in operating a safe, efficient and compliant fleet, Balfour Beatty Plant & Fleet Services has a driver risk department who manage and monitor Telematics data, they are also accredited and deliver driver CPC training. There are seven internal workshops supported by a maintenance control function who manage external workshops and suppliers.

The rising cost of fuel is a major concern for fleet operators, what are you doing to combat this?

I dare say that like most fleet operators in the Utility/Construction sector, fuel is a huge cost to us and there is a big prize to be had in savings. Over recent years we have invested heavily in driver behaviour telematics and training. I believe this has brought us fuel savings because safe driving is inherently linked to fuel-efficient driving, but, it has been difficult to put a pounds, shillings and pence figure to it.

Last year we changed Vehicle Telematics suppliers. When going to tender, one of the key system specification requirements was fuel used/MPG data. The system we have procured takes a feed from the vehicle engine management and gives MPG figures to two decimal places, this is giving me the information I have struggled to get for years. As we have rolled out the new system to the fleet we are starting to investigate data and understand fuel usage better. There are several simple areas for saving where we are putting in interventions such as excessive idling time. As we build up data on “real” fuel consumption on Balfour Beatty operations where we are operating near maximum GVW and very often towing a mini digger (rather than manufacturer’s published MPG) we will use the information during vehicle whole life costing and procurement processes.

What other issues and challenges are currently facing your fleet operation?

One of the big challenges we face is driver training and inductions, it’s like painting the Forth Road Bridge! This has been helped somewhat with the DCPC scheme covering the HGV driver population, but requires a lot of resources to ensure the light commercial drivers are trained in their responsibilities and requirements, e.g. pre-use checks, loading and load security etc. One of the issues is that as staff move jobs within the utility industry, internal training isn’t recognised across the different organisations, so we have to retrain drivers when they come to work for us, as do other organisations when they employ former Balfour Beatty drivers – but whichever organisation the basics don’t change.

The FTA has taken up the challenge on this and has started to develop a Van Driver Passport scheme. This is basically a non-regulated van driver DCPC that would be NVQ accredited and transferable between organisations. I have been involved with this project, along with other FTA members, and hope when it comes to fruition it will ease some of the cost and burden.

Is it possible to reduce costs and still offer an efficient service?

In a nutshell, yes, whilst it brings its own challenges, I have the luxury of been involved in a large fleet operation which means there is a wealth of data available from telematics, fleet management systems, online driver licence checking reports, outputs from gate checks, etc. The key is analysing and understanding that data then targeting and measuring improvements in the correct areas rather than spending time, money and effort working wholly on perception and hunches.

Do Electric Vehicles have a presence on the fleet and are you running any other carbon-cutting initiatives to fit in with Balfour Beatty’s environmental ethos?

We run a modern fleet in line with Euro standards. We also invest in driver training and behaviour systems which often, through simple interventions, results in less fuel burnt.

Balfour Beatty has trialled various electric vehicles over recent years and has a couple on the fleet but the big limiting factor for their use is always the range. Given the geographics of our operation finding applications that lend themselves to electric vehicles is difficult. Looking to the future there are a number of Balfour Beatty offices where electric vehicle charging points are installed. Two new charging posts have been recently installed as part of a refurbishment project at the Balfour Beatty Plant & Fleet Services HQ in Derby. 

I am sure electric vehicle technology will rapidly progress to give more power and range from smaller batteries and shorter charge times. You only have to look at other areas of technology to see how quickly advances are made, take the mobile phones of the 1980s where the user needed a car battery-sized unit to power the phone!

How much does technology affect your role and what initiatives have you rolled out recently – or plan to roll out – utilising new technology?

Technology plays a big part in the fleet operation, the big project over recent months has been the new telematics system roll-out, we have also developed an app to record gate check roadworthiness results. 

Using iPads the engineers will be able to examine vehicles and record the check including photos of any defects identified, the data can be sent immediately and drop straight in the summery dashboard report that I use to monitor trends & KPIs. It’s real time and removes the need for manual input into spreadsheets at the end of the day. This will improve the efficiency of the Field Compliance engineers.

How do you make decisions about which vehicles and equipment you source for your fleets (including specialist vehicles)?

When making decisions we take in to account the whole-life cost but also historical information and knowledge we have on downtime, parts supply, support infrastructure both locally and nationally. In the case of specialist vehicles, there is also specification to consider, certain manufacturers may not be able to supply a required specification item.

How do you manage contractors to ensure their vehicle, driver, and road safety standards match your own?

I have recently had input into our subcontractor engagement contracts and added contractual details to include vehicle and driver operational requirements. This includes recommending the accreditation to the FTA Van excellence scheme. Accreditation and audits by impartial FTA staff helps demonstrate our Duty of Care to our subcontractors and improves standards.

In addition to this my Field Compliance team carry out roadworthiness and weight checks on subcontractor vehicles when on site applying the same standards that they do to the Balfour Beatty fleet, also the business unit Transport Managers have taken the time to deliver driver briefings to subcontractor drivers, this ensures they are getting the same message as our own drivers.

What is your involvement with the FTA’s utility contractor and construction members’ forum?

I have been involved with the Utilities & Essential Services Working Group (ESWG) pretty well from the start, for the last two years I have been on the steering group. It has been a great forum to network and gets legislative updates that affect the sector together with knowledge sharing and benchmarking. It gives our sector a voice to lobby our views and issues that affect our industry sector.

What are the most rewarding elements and frustrating elements of your role?

Balfour Beatty operates a quite diverse range of vehicles, one of the most rewarding elements is being involved in new vehicle requirements from initial conversations through the order and build process to waving a shiny new specialist truck out of the gates on its maiden journey! 

The most frustrating part of the role is keeping abreast of, and reacting to, the ever-changing and complex legislation that covers the transport industry.