Technology helps MUS tackle driver safety head-on

Posted: 7/18/2016

Morrison Utility Services’ vision is to be the leading utility service provider delivering a cost effective, quality service to its clients. Safety is its number one business driver. Jeremy Harrison, Director of Plant & Fleet, has over 30 years experience in the industry. Here he talks to Sue Hurst about his role and why the company’s fleet is at the heart of the business…

Describe your role as Director of Plant & Fleet Services at Morrison Utility Services.
I head up our Plant & Fleet Services division which has overall responsibility for ensuring that the provision of plant and fleet, whether owned, leased or hired, is managed with maximum focus on the safety of our employees and the public alike and that will always deliver innovative and costs effective solutions that will increase operational efficiency for the wider business. This includes:
• The overall fleet management activities, such as Occupational Road Risk, vehicle insurance, fuel usage and efficiency; Operator License compliance, policy production and fine management.
• Plant & Vehicle procurement, including the specification and development of innovative products, negotiating plant and fleet supply arrangements with plant hire companies and vehicle  
manufacturers etc.

Morrison Utility Services fleet and why?
In addition to the 14,000 items of plant and equipment we operate, we have a fleet of approximately 2500 vehicles including, over 800 cars, 180 HGVs which are primarily grab lorries and Insulated tippers, some specialist vehicles such as hot boxes, vacuum excavators and Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs), with the remaining all vans of a wide variety with the 3.5T Panel van being the most popular vehicle.

How much does technology affect your role and what initiatives have you rolled out recently – or plan to roll out – utilising new technology?
The development and application of technology has been an intrinsic part of the Morrison Utility Services fleet for many years. A primary aspect of which has always been a focus on the safety of our drivers and the public and how we apply this to vehicle specification and monitoring. 
Within our Compliance Service Centre we use an asset/fleet management system   which is coupled to our job allocation system Job Watch. This allows us to maximise efficiency of our in-house and mobile engineers as well as the supply chain.  Equally, the software ensures that all of our engineers have the required information at their fingertips and are unable to start work until an on-site risk assessment has been completed. 
Telematics has been in place across our fleet for well over 10 years. More recently we have complemented this with ‘in cab’ feedback which has certainly influenced driving styles. However, I have to say that the biggest impact has been to pull all of the data feeds into our dedicated data team. Here they take feeds from telematics,  accident management data, fuel data, customer complaints and licence details from DVLA to produce bespoke reporting for our managers.
We fit on-board camera and vulnerable persons warning systems for HGVs as a standard across all of the HGV fleet we purchase, regardless of where it is working. I certainly cannot differentiate the risk of hitting a cyclist in London or Scotland, hence it is our standard. 
We specify rear cameras on all vans and HGVs and fit on-board weighing systems on all pickups and tippers where loads are often more varied.
We are also in the process of rolling out a couple of new initiatives:
• We have already used tablet/smartphone apps for vehicle inspections on a trial basis, but we are working on a solution that combines this with plant inspections and that will enable our teams to carry out pre-use checks and audits on vehicles and plant, with defects sent electronically to our Service Compliance Centre.
• Dash cams are another area we have trialled on an isolated basis. We are in the process of rolling this out across a whole contract to enable us to more effectively evaluate the results.

How do you manage fuel use within the organisation?
We have a national account with Shell and all commercial vehicles and company cars are issued with a designated card. Fuel card transactions are uploaded and our    dedicated data analysts slice the information up and encompass this into our contract specific dashboards providing visibility of usage including:
• Average MPG and comparison with peers in the same vehicle type.
• Transaction compliance (i.e. vehicle drivers who fail to provide mileage when filling up or who purchase premium fuels).
• Gap analysis of fuel purchased versus fuel used.
• Flags on fuel fills over the tank capacity.
• Fills against wrong registrations.
We support this full data by issuing managers with summary reports that identify the overall saving opportunities and a top 10 of drivers that are:
• Using the greatest volume of fuel.
• Have the lowest MPG in their category of vehicle.
• Have the worst idling statistics.

What other issues and challenges are currently facing your fleet operation?
Occupational Road Risk is always the biggest challenge. As a business, we have a fantastic safety record and culture within our operations; it is our job to ensure that we transfer this safety culture into our everyday driving. We have taken  great strides in this area with some impressive results on frequency and costs, but it remains our greatest challenge.
Reducing payloads on 3.5T vans is having an effect on our business as a whole. The safety improvements and onset of Euro 6 have all been welcome, but the impact that these have had on increased weight of the vans has not. We have spent a great deal of time exploring different manufacturers and areas to reduce the weight of our internal fit outs, but it is ultimately the operation that is having to change how they work and in some cases double up on vehicles to ensure compliance.

Do you operate in-house fleet maintenance and servicing?
We currently carry out the majority of   service and maintenance on our plant and van fleet, with all cars and the majority of HGVs being carried out by leasing companies or main dealers.
Servicing and compliance of our plant and vehicle assets has the highest priority within our Plant and Fleet Services business. As such, we have invested significantly in recent years and built a new Compliance and Service Centre (CSC) that offers a whole life plant and vehicle asset management solution, managing the asset from planning and specification, purchase and commissioning, in service repair, testing, maintenance and calibration, to end of life decommissioning and disposal.
The larger dedicated team maintains and distributes all servicing and repairs utilising our database systems, insphire and Jobwatch. The CSC is supported by a team of UK wide regional based engineers/fitters that maintain the high levels of service which has led to an increase in vehicle service and ancillary equipment compliance statistics.
This department proactively manages our supply chain by receiving weekly service and compliance reports and integrating these with our systems to allow us to monitor their contract performance effectively.

What happens to vehicles when they   come off fleet?
All vehicles are returned to one of our fleet locations for inspection and/or repair. 
We have a multiple of ownership arrangements, with contract hire being the prime procurement model and therefore, most of our vehicles are returned to the leasing company.

Does Morrison Utility Services run any driver training initiatives/driver reward schemes?
Yes, we previously employed two in-house driver trainers to coach high risk drivers. Between 2008 and 2014 they completed 2,500 coaching sessions across the business. A review of the process concluded that two trainers were unable to provide the volume and variety of coaching required which we addressed by appointing a national driver training provider – Cardinus. The wealth of knowledge and geographical coverage provides us with access to over 300 trainers and the flexibility to offer bespoke in-house training sessions tailored to our specific operational requirements. 
As part of our Road Traffic Collision & Fuel reduction program we measure and score driver performance in a number of areas as previously outlined. This identifies drivers who need advice or specific training and has had significant results. However, as well as identifying poor performers, we also run contract league tables with the best drivers receiving recognition of their performance, currently in the form of a “Red Letter” experience day. 

Do Electric Vehicles have a presence on your fleet?
We are continually reviewing the performance of alternative fuel vehicles. Electric vehicles have a presence on our fleet but currently   only in our car fleet alongside a variety of vehicle hybrids which we also have within our HGV fleet. We continue to trial alternative vehicles where specification allows their use and this is in line with our carbon reduction strategies. 

Does Morrison Utility Services have any fleet accreditations and do you see accreditations as an important benchmark in managing risk?
We have a number of fleet accreditations such as Van Excellence and FORS, I see these as important and an effective way of ensuring that our procedures are robust.  
They have other benefits such as demonstrating your commitment as a business, raising standards  and delivering a greater level of understanding across the industry.
However, I am concerned that there are a number of fleet bodies with conflicting standards that appear to be differentiating themselves by changing standards without adequate consultation with member companies. We need to strive for common standards.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your role?
Variety, I am fortunate to have a role that includes a wide variety of construction and utility-based plant and equipment as well as fleet, which makes every day a different one and, as such, I meet and work with some great people across the industry.

. …and the most frustrating?
After 30 years in this industry I rarely get too frustrated but, if I do, it’s usually when someone fails to deliver on what they committed to doing!