Major vehicle service, maintenance and repair (SMR) cost savings - which are expected to ramp up further following implementation of a robust driver compliance initiative - are being achieved by fast-expanding VPS UK in partnership with Fleet Service Great Britain (FSGB).
Driver influenced costs are the single largest drain on a company’s in-life fleet vehicle expenditure, which is why, following a change in senior management, Manchester-headquartered VPS is working with FSGB to transform its fleet into ‘best in breed’.
Operating 488 light commercial vehicles, 79 company cars, four HGVs and 40 items of plant and machinery, including trailers, from 23 combined service centres across the UK and Ireland, VPS specialise in securing, maintaining and managing more than 50,000 vacant properties across a wide range of customer and industry sectors including retail, pubs, social housing, commercial property and construction sites.
Following a series of business acquisitions resulting in significant fleet expansion and a major restructuring that included the appointment of a new top management team, Steve Mulvaney was appointed VPS head of fleet from his previous role as network operations southern manager at Evander Glazing & Locks, one of the firm’s bought.
That triggered an in-depth fleet review and ultimately an expansion of the business partnership with FSGB with the delivery of a broader range of in-life fleet services that now includes accident and risk management as well as vehicle maintenance and rental management and management services related to vehicle taxation and fine payment.
The cost of most products and services increase year-on-year but, remarkably, the pence per mile vehicle operating costs on the VPS fleet have reduced since FSGB took over management responsibility when the fleet specialist was launched in 2015.
All VPS vehicles have SMR work undertaken through FSGB’s nationwide independent garage network. VPS has a track record of outright purchasing all vehicles, which are typically utilised over a five-year/150,000-mile operating cycle, although replacement is influenced by mileage and SMR costs.
When FSGB took over maintenance management of the fleet the pence per mile operating costs on a sample of 176 vans were 5.12p per vehicle. That figure has now reduced to 5p per vehicle per mile across a sample of 196 vans - a 2.3% cost reduction per vehicle per mile despite a 16% fleet size increase.
What’s more, FSGB’s data analysis highlights that the average age of vans in the sample has reduced by four months to 39 months (down 9.3%), while average annual mileage has increased 3,669 miles to 23,971 (up 18%) with average total mileage up 2,927 miles to 73,264 miles (up 4%).
What the figures reveal is that despite the fleet working harder with average mileage rising, average fleet costs per vehicle are reducing.
Mr Mulvaney said: “It was clear to me that previously VPS did not have a real grip on fleet costs. FSGB was providing data, but it was not being used.”
VPS now employs a data analyst within the company’s fleet department to study the information provided by FSGB.
Mr Mulvaney said: “The data we are provided with is extremely robust and it is highly probable that the cost savings are even higher because at the time FSGB took over maintenance management of the fleet costs were not being recorded as accurately as they are now.
“FSGB is responsible for the day-to-day management of the fleet and all remedial vehicle work is carried out through its own appointed garage network. With service centres nationwide it is important that we have reliable garages that are close to our vehicle locations.
“We are totally satisfied that FSGB is spending our money as though it was its money and is constantly monitoring every penny to ensure we receive value for money. Working with FSGB is great as the company acts as part of our fleet team.”
Meanwhile, Achieve Driver Management, FSGB’s industry-leading and unique ‘driver centric’ differentiator, is at the hub of VPS’s work-related road safety requirements with 100% driver compliance on both driver licence validation and vehicle checks. The programme has been developed to continually measure driver performance, while also ensuring compliance, and by acting on the data and management reports provided, vehicle-related costs will reduce.
The Achieve programme is continually evolving, but the ‘toolbox’ includes a driver app with a wealth of sophisticated cutting-edge features delivering 24/7 support to employees at the wheel of company vehicles including, for example, ensuring every driver undertakes a weekly check on their vehicle which is supported by monthly checks by service centre and depot managers; and driver performance with data fed into the online system from a variety of sources including telematics, details of any fines and crash history.
Mr Mulvaney said: “The driver app benefits VPS by allowing us to carry out full vehicle inspections both scheduled and ad hoc at the touch of a button. This information is seamlessly uploaded into the customer portal for immediate review. We now have a better view of the condition of our fleet at our fingertips. Additionally, drivers can now book service, tyres and glass requests direct on the app. It is excellent technology, seamlessly delivered.
“VPS is now able to manage its driver influenced costs through Achieve. We are receiving some excellent information on all aspects of the fleet. We are taking the raw data and using it in management reports that are sent to the board weekly and monthly.”
What’s more, VPS is using the data relating to cost-influencing factors such as fuel use, tyre wear, the replacement of friction parts and in numerous other areas as the basis for a driver reward scheme.
Mr Mulvaney said: “Improving the safety of all our drivers and the fleet is a key priority for VPS with driver education critical to safety and cost management. We use the data FSGB is generating to show drivers how they can improve and, potentially, introduce new initiatives and targeted interventions where an issue is highlighted.”
Not only that, but there are pockets in the VPS business where vehicle mileage is inconsistent with age. For example, some vans at three-years-old have clocked up 150,000 miles, while others at five-years-old have travelled just 60,000 miles.
Mr Mulvaney said: “The data will enable VPS to relocate vehicles so age and mileage on a per vehicle basis is more consistent. That, in turn, will also help to reduce fleet maintenance costs.”
FSGB head of sales Marcus Bray said: “There is no doubt that the current VPS management working closely with FSGB is continuing to drive out costs. As FSGB builds up its database on each vehicle, we are confident that significant further costs savings will accrue on a per vehicle basis.”
Building up a vehicle operating lifecycle report on every vehicle and the SMR spend associated with the van or car, while also closely managing vehicle mileage, enables FSGB to calculate the pence per mile data.
Mr Bray said: “In my experience companies that genuinely embrace a partnership philosophy will always succeed if they set out achievable objectives and then agree a delivery plan.”