Eric Wright Group focuses on its fleet plans for the future

Posted: 7/5/2017
The Eric Wright Group is an established leader within the building industry and offers a wide range of services from construction and civil engineering, to property development and facilities management. The Group encompasses a number of individual companies and subsidiaries, each with its own specific focus, and therefore requires a reliable and robust fleet and plant function to meet the demanding needs of the sector. Group Plant and Transport Manager Steve Openshaw and Fleet Manager Sue McGuigan speak to Utility Fleet magazine about the operation…


Explain your roles and how you work together.
As Plant Manager Steve Openshaw manages the Site Support department which encompasses fleet, plant, mobile telecoms and material purchase. Sue McGuigan is the Fleet Manager within this section. Sue takes care of all the day-to-day management for the fleet and mobile telecoms.
Steve and Sue work together in close partnership to pro-actively manage the fleet which ensures the running of an efficient operation, this includes keeping up-to-date with legislation and keeping the policies fresh to ensure driver safety and reduced risk.
What is the fleet make up and what function does each part of the fleet have?
Our fleet is predominantly cars of which are banded according to job specifics, we mainly have diesel engines with a nominal number being hybrid and full electric.  Commercial vehicles are tailored bespoke to suit the requirements of the section of work they are required for taking in to account payload/racking requirements to best suit the business requirements and allow for reallocation when needed.
Safety is a huge priority, what challenges do you face in managing safety and risk?
The biggest issues we face have always been surrounding car allowances and grey fleet.  In order to highlight some of our concerns in this area we carried out a thorough review of our Group Vehicle and Road Safety Policy. A large portion of this policy involved updating the car allowance/grey fleet criteria and compliance with required information relating to proof of insurance, MOTs, service history, vehicle age, and emissions. The Group Board Directors all bought into the new policy and have given the fleet department full backing.
What technology do you use across your fleet and plant?
We have part of the commercial fleet fitted with trackers to assist in service delivery to our clients and we are currently trialling dash cams for the commercial and car fleet.
How challenging is the procurement process in making sure that vehicles and plant are fit for purpose?
Dealing with changes in legislation and being able to deliver a fleet policy which is desirable for the drivers, aids retention and recruitment while at the same time keeping a check on cost both visible and hidden is the most challenging aspect for the department.
How far have you gone in utilising alternative fuels/greening your fleet to fit in with the company’s environmental ethos?
There has been a consistent drive within the Group to lower our CO2 footprint. The Fleet and Plant department have assisted in this goal by exploring and adopting relevant technologies for the group’s fleet and plant requirements. For example, we have been working in partnership with some of our accommodation suppliers on the development of solar powered low energy welfare units.
We have also been reducing CO2 emissions year on year in the vehicle fleet, though actively encouraging adoption of electric, RELEV and hybrid vehicles. Steve Openshaw was an early adopter of this type of vehicle and has been driving a Vauxhall Ampera for the last four years. He has recently ordered a BMW i3 as his next car to be able to show drivers that electric range anxiety is not an issue and electric vehicle can be a                  viable alternative
What are the most recent additions to your fleet and what will be the role of the vehicles/plant?
There is a rolling programme of vehicle replacement throughout the business. We recently added two Mercedes Hybrid C Class cars to the fleet. A BMWi3 is due anytime soon and an executive electric vehicle is being considered as a replacement for a Senior Director.
How do you manage fuel use within the organisation?
Fuel use is monitored on the commercial fleet by reports from our fuel card suppliers to identify unsatisfactory fuel use.  The car fleet fuel is on a pay and reclaim basis using HMRC’s AFR rates this  encourages drivers to adopt fuel efficient vehicles and also to drive in a safe and fuel efficient manner to reduce their  fuel cost.
What are the biggest challenges currently facing your fleet operation?
One of the biggest challenges facing the fleet operation is managing the volume of vehicles on fleet by keeping the ratio of short-term hire versus long-term contract hire balanced to ensure we don’t have any vehicles stood for long periods therefore aiding full utilisation of the fleet at all times.
What key issues will affect the management of your fleet and plant assets in the future?
Future changes to congestion charges and proposed roll-outs in more cities around the country will have an impact on the way we manage things. It’s important that we consider and plan for the inevitable introduction of ‘no diesel’ zones as this will have an effect on the type of vehicles we source in the future. 
Increasing BIK taxation and the far reaching implications of forthcoming changes in salary sacrifice taxation is pushing the company car drivers and cash for car drivers focus on low emission vehicles/alternative fuelled vehicles. We have to address this to ensure the choices are suitable for the company and for the driver.